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Continuing Judicial Harassment against Founders of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre

Thursday 7 July 2011


See online : FIDH

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Iran.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the continuing judicial harassment against members and founders of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), in particular Messrs. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah and Abdolfattah Soltani, both lawyers and founding members of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC).

According to the information received, on July 3, 2011, Mr. Dadkhah was informed that he had been sentenced to nine years in prison and a 10-year ban on practising law or teaching at university, on charges of alleged “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime”, pursuant to Article 698 of the Islamic Criminal Code, in relation to the foundation of DHRC and being its spokesperson; as well as his representation in a case against Isfahan’s Metro for endangering national heritage monuments. The trial was held on May 21, 2011 and related to a criminal case initiated in 2009. Mr. Dadkhah has 20 days to lodge an appeal against the sentence. As of issuing this Urgent Appeal he remained free on bail.

On July 5, 2011, Ms. Massumeh Dehghan, Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani’s wife, was summoned and detained by the Islamic Revolution Court branch in Evin Prison. Mr. Soltani, who is also her lawyer, was not allowed to accompany her before the court. No other information was provided about the existence of charges or the reason of the detention. On the date of publication of this Urgent Appeal Ms. Massumeh Dehghan remained in detention. The Observatory fears that Ms. Massumeh Dehghan was summoned and is being detained in relation to her husband’s human rights activities.

The Observatory strongly condemns these acts of harassment and intimidation against founding members of DHRC, which seem to merely aim at sanctioning their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

Background information

In 2008, the DHRC, established by five lawyers including the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, was closed down. Moreover, on August 1, 2009, the Vice-Prosecutor of Tehran publicly accused Ms. Shirin Ebadi and DHRC of having established relations with foreign forces to organise a “velvet revolution” in Iran. To date, the DHRC offices remain closed. Since then, a wave of arrests and harassment has been launched against human rights lawyers and in particular against the founders of the DHRC.

On June 16, 2009, Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani was arrested by four plain-clothes officers. His whereabouts remained unknown until July 7, 2009, when he was located in section 209 of Evin prison. On August 26, 2009, he was released on payment of a USD 100,000 bail, following 70 days of arbitrary detention, including 17 days in solitary confinement. However, since then, he remained accused of “having acted against national security” and has not yet faced trial. Furthermore, on October 2, 2009, his passport was seized by the authorities in order to prevent him from leaving Iran for Germany to receive the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award.

On July 8, 2009, Mr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah was arrested together with three of his colleagues as well as his daughter, by three plain-clothes persons, without any warrant. His law firm was subsequently closed and doors were sealed with lead. Mr. Dadkhah, who was accused of “keeping weapons, opium as well as documents” evidencing links with foreign “enemies”, was released on a bail of around 700,000 US dollars on September 13, 2009.

In addition, Mr. Mohammad Seifzadeh, also founder of DHRC, was sentenced on October 29, 2010, was sentenced to nine years imprisonment and to a ten years ban to practice as lawyer by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, on charges of “acting against national security” through founding the DHRC, and “propaganda against the regime” through interviews with foreign media. He is detained since April 11, 2011 and has appealed his sentence. In June 2011, Mr. Seifzadeh’s family was told that the appeal court had reduced his prison sentence to two years.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Iranian authorities and ask them to:

Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Abdolfattah Soltani, Mohammad Seifzadeh and Ms. Shirin Ebadi and their families, as well as all human rights defenders and their families in Iran;

Put an end to any kind of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Messrs. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Abdolfattah Soltani, Mohammad Seifzadeh and Ms. Shirin Ebadi and their families, and more generally against all human rights defenders in Iran.

Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:

its article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

its article 5.b, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels, (…) to form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups”;

its article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Iran.

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