IRAN 28 October 2009
Sentences handed down against defendants accused of inciting post-electionunrest
SOURCE: Human Rights Watch
Overturn death sentences, other unfair convictions, says Human Rights Watch Post-
election protesters were denied access to lawyers (Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, October 23, 2009 -
The Iranian Judiciary should immediately quash the convictions that have been handed down by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran since the end of September against defendants accused of inciting post-election unrest, Human Rights Watch said today.
The convictions all stem from unfair trials in which theaccused were denied access to lawyers. The authorities repeatedly denied the prisoners' requests for access tolawyers during pre-trial detention that in many cases lasted months, andtheir requests at their trials for lawyers of their choice were refused,Human Rights Watch said. The wife of one of the sentenced prisoners toldHuman Rights Watch that her husband was told he would not leave the prisonany time soon if he did not agree to write a confession. "Death sentences following unfair trials expose the mockery of Iran'sjudicial system," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africadirector at Human Rights Watch. "Those responsible need to quash theseverdicts and sentences, and ensure that everyone detained, or put on trial,has free and regular access to a lawyer of their choosing." Scores of prominent reformist politicians, intellectuals, journalists,clerics, student leaders, and others have been put on trial before courtsthat do not meet international fair trial standards following thenationwide protests against the disputed results of Iran's elections onJune 12, 2009. Human Rights Watch also said today that it is especially concerned aboutthe condition of the Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan who wasarrested in October 2008 and has been in prison ever since. With regard to the trials, on September 30, Alireza Avaie, head of theTehran Justice Department, told reporters that the Revolutionary Court hadissued preliminary verdicts against 20 political prisoners arrested afterthe presidential elections. He did not give names or the length of thesentences. Since then, authorities have announced more than 10 additionalsentences – four death sentences and others ranging from five to 12 years. All 30 of the prisoners had been held for months without access to lawyers,much of that time in solitary confinement. The authorities assigned themlawyers at their trials, but there was no time to prepare their defense andthe court-appointed lawyers have not represented them properly. This wasthe experience in all of the cases noted below, which are among the 10 mostrecent sentences and include those that were sentenced to death. On October 20, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Kian Tajbakhsh, anIranian-American scholar, to more than 12 years in prison. Authoritiesarrested Tajbakhsh, 47, on July 9 and later charged him with acting againstnational security for participating in Gulf 2000, an internet forum housedat Columbia University, and for working for the Open Society Institute. AtTajbakhsh's trial, the appointed lawyer simply called the accusationsagainst his client "untenable," but did nothing else to challenge theaccusations On October 17, the court sentenced Shahab Tabatabai, a senior member of MirMossein Mousavi's campaign, to five years in prison for "acting againstnational security." He was arrested on June 18. On October 17, Hedayat Aghaei, a prominent politician from the reformistpolitical party Kargozaran who was arrested on June 18, was sentenced tofive years in prison for "disrupting the public order by provoking peopleto riot" and "acting against national security." On October 18, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Masoud Bastani, ajournalist arrested on June 25, to six years in prison for "propagandaagainst the government" and his alleged role in the post election unrest. On October 17, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Saeed Hajjarian, 55, aprominent reformist who had been disabled in an assassination attempt in2000, to a five-year suspended sentence for allegedly incitingpost-election unrest. He was held without charge for more than 100 days andreleased on September 30. He did not receive adequate medical carethroughout his detention and trial. On October 10, the Judiciary announced that two men identified only bytheir initials, M.Z. and A.P., had been sentenced to death. Both weremembers of the Kinddam Assembly of Iran, a group that wants to restore themonarchy. "M.Z." is believed to be Mohamad Ali Zamani, who was arrestedbefore the June 12 election. His name is included in the group indictmentof post-election arrests. Another man, with the initials N.A., wassentenced to death for being a member of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization(MKO), a dissident group largely operating from exile. Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,ratified by Iran in 1975, requires that all persons facing a criminalcharge be given the right to defend themselves through legal assistance oftheir own choosing. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in allcircumstances due to its inherently cruelty and irreversible nature. With regard to Derakhshan, the Iranian-Canadian blogger, a source close tohis family told Human Rights Watch that he has been in solitary confinementfor more than nine months and has been allowed to meet his family justtwice. The source said that Derakhshan had been tortured and put underenormous pressure to write false confessions that might be used against himand others in trial. Derakhshan's family has been threatened that if theyspeak out it will harm their son's case. Other sources told Human Rights Watch that the authorities have accused himof spying and that he was coerced into a confession that implicatedprominent reformists and activists arrested after the presidential electionfor purported "soft revolution" activities. They said that the IslamicRevolutionary Guards Corps intelligence service is holding him in solitaryconfinement in a section of Evin prison under their control.