Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Iran

Release after completing sentence37

In December 2002, a court of appeal confirmed the sentencing of Mr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah to five months' imprisonment, but cancelled the ruling forbidding him to exercise his profession as a lawyer for ten years. Mr. Dadkah was released in May 2003 after having completed his sentence, but is still forbidden to leave the country. A member of the Teheran bar, Mr. Dadkah had been prosecuted owing to his pleading in court in defence of several journalists and political prisoners, in November 2001.

The four months' prison sentence against Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, handed down on 9th July 2002, was confirmed by the court of appeal, while the ruling depriving him of the right to exercise his profession was reversed. Mr. Soltani served his prison sentence and was released in June 2003. He had been convicted for having, in his defence pleadings, stressed the fact that his clients had been subjected to ill-treatment during their interrogation.

Prosecution and detention of Mr. Zarafchan38

Mr. Nasser Zarafchan is still in prison, and several requests that his sentence be suspended for medical reasons have been ignored. On 25th November 2003 the High Court rejected his appeal. Mr. Zarafchan is Mrs. Sima Pouhandeh's lawyer; she is the widow of Mohammed Djafar Pouhandeh (writer and Human Rights defender, assassinated in 1998). Mr. Zarafchan was sentenced to three years' imprisonment by the Teheran military court in November 2001 for "possession of firearms and alcohol". He was also sentenced to two further years' imprisonment and fifty whiplashes on account of statements he had made during a press interview on the assassination of Iranian intellectuals.

Mr. Zarafchan lodged an appeal. On 15th July 2002 the Teheran military court confirmed the initial verdict. As the appeal to the Supreme Court is not suspensive, Mr. Nasser Zarafchan was arrested on 7th August 2002, and is presently detained in the Evin prison. His lawyer has in vain called for the suspension of his sentence owing to his worrying medical condition. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal in November 2003.

As the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention indicated in the report it drew up following its visit to Iran in February 2003 (E/CN4/2004/3/Add2, paragraphs 49 and 50): "The Group has noted that lawyers have been prosecuted or sentenced simply for having, as a legitimate part of their role as defence counsel, drawn the attention of the court to the ill-treatment suffered by their clients or malfunctions in the system of justice. As an aggravating circumstance, these lawyers have for the most part been tried by revolutionary tribunals, and even, in one case {Zarafchan}, by a military tribunal, rather than initially being submitted to the authority of the lawyers' disciplinary panel provided for by law".

Detention in prison39

In December 2003 several intellectuals and journalists were still in prison for having exercised their right to freedom of expression. Such is in particular the case of two journalists, Mr. Akbar Ganji and Mr. Hassan Youssefi-Eshkevari. Akbar Ganji, of the daily newspaper Sobh-é-Emrooz, was arrested on 22nd April 2000, sentenced to ten years' imprisonment in January 2001, and is still in prison. He is accused of having revealed details concerning the murder of intellectuals and opponents to the regime at the end of 1998, and of having accused certain politicians of being involved. Hassan Yussefi Eshkevari was arrested in August 2000 and sentenced to seven years' imprisonment in October 2002. He is still in prison.

Legal proceedings40

Mr. Mohammad Seyfzadeh, Mr. Soltani's lawyer, was sentenced in 2002 to four months' imprisonment and three years' deprivation of the right to exercise his profession. His appeal is still pending. If his appeal is rejected, he can be arrested at any moment.


Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, lawyer and Human Rights defender, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2003. On 3rd December 2003, militiamen linked to Hezbollah prevented Mrs Ebadi from entering the premises of the university where she had been invited to deliver a speech on women's rights. The militia men blocked the entrance shouting slogans such as "death for Shirin Ebadi" and "Shirin Ebadi agent from the US, agent from the West". Mrs. Ebadi had to hide in the university's cellar and was subsequently escorted back home.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

37. See Annual Report 2002.

38. See urgent appeal IRN 004/0012/OBS 125.03.

39. See Annual Report 2002.

40. Idem.

41. Idem and Urgent Appeal IRN 005/1203/OBS 067


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