Paris-Geneva, May 3, 2012. 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), denounces the relentless harassment of members of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC) and more particularly the sentencing on appeal of Mr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah.
On April 28, 2012, Mr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a human rights lawyer and founding member of the DHRC, was informed by Judge Salavati of Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolution Court, as the former was attempting to represent a political prisoner, that his nine-year imprisonment sentence and his 10-year ban on practising law and teaching had been upheld on appeal. In the past, he has defended many political and student activists and unionists as well as the Christian Pastor Mr. Yousef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death on charge of apostasy.
The Observatory recalls that Mr. Dadkhah was sentenced on May 21, 2011 by the same Judge on charges of “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime" and other charges, in retaliation for his human rights activities. Although the sentence had not been officially communicated to him and the Islamic Revolution Court lacks jurisdiction to ban a lawyer from practising law, Mr. Dadkhah was immediately denied the capacity to assist his client, who was facing a charge that could possibly carry the death sentence.
According to the e-daily Roozonline, Mr. Dadkhah declared on May 1, 2012 that he has to report himself to prison on May 5 to serve his nine-year sentence. He added that “They have banned me from practising law for 10 years and also from teaching even in private institutes after my prison term. My sentence includes a cash fine of 25 million rials and lashing, which has also been substituted with a cash fine”. Besides, he declared that he rejected opportunities to leave Iran and said: “I will go to prison; I will not leave my land even if I die in prison”. Today, Mr. Dadkhah is at risk of imminent arrest.
The Observatory recalls that several DHRC members have recently been subjected to judicial harassment and arbitrary detention, all the more so after the disputed 2009 June presidential election. Mr. Dadkhah will be the fifth member of DHRC to be imprisoned. Indeed, Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer, is serving a six-year sentence; Ms. Nargess Mohammadi is serving a six-year imprisonment sentence and is under additional pressure by the Ministry of Intelligence; Mr. Mohammad Seifzadeh, a human rights lawyer, is serving a two-year prison sentence and facing new charges; Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, a human rights lawyer, is still in arbitrary detention, awaiting the result of his appeal against an 18-year sentence of imprisonment in internal exile in the remote city of Borazjan (southern Bushehr province) and a 20-year ban on practicing law. Other DHRC members have also faced an intense criminalisation campaign since the closure of the DHRC in December 2008.Mr. Abdolreza Tajik, whose sentence of six-year imprisonment was upheld on appeal, left the country to avoid imprisonment.
“We fear that the harassment against DHRC and attempts to silence its members will continue exponentially”, says Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.
“The authorities in Iran are doing their utmost to stifle human rights defenders by imposing heavy sentences of imprisonment, exile, and ban on professional practice. All this is aimed at intimidating the whole society into a deadly silence”, adds Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.
The Observatory therefore urges the Iranian authorities to end the judicial harassment against Mr. Dadkhah, to drop all the charges against him, and to release immediately and unconditionally Ms. Sotoudeh, Ms. Mohammadi, Messrs Seifzadeh and Soltani. The Observatory also calls on the Iranian authorities to release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained, and more generally to conform to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments ratified by Iran.