Harrassment of human rights defender continues after brutal arrest in November

Expression

Iranian authorities continue to harass Human Rights Defender Atena Daemi through the courts, following her brutal rearrest late last year. Daemi, who was most recently arrested on 26th November, is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison because of her activism in defence of civil rights. As reported by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, she was convicted on charges of “insulting the supreme leader,” “insulting state officials,” “spreading lies,” “resisting arrest” and “assaulting the arresting agent.” She now faces the possibility of additional years of detention for filing a complaint against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) for using excessive force during her arrest. Daemi had already been in jail after a first arrest in 2014, and had been released on bail in February 2016 pending her appeal. Following appeal proceedings on 29th September, her punishment was reduced from 3 to 2 years on the charge of “insulting the Supreme Leader” and from 7 to 5 years on the charge of “assembly and collusion against national security”. 

According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 2 out of 5 new charges against her were dropped on 19th January. A few days later however, apparently unsatisfied at harrassing Daemi alone, the authorities imposed charges on her two sisters and the family's son in law, for "preventing implementation of the verdict" and "insulting government forces" in the course of her arrest.

Daemi's case is symptomatic of a wider trend in Iran. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2016 Global Report, released in January, space for free speech and dissent remains extremely restricted in Iran. Human rights defenders, bloggers, journalists and activists continue to be targeted for exercising their right to free expression.The authorities routinely block and monitor hundreds of websites, including social media platforms. On 5th January, Amnesty International reported that a journalist had been subjected to a punishment of forty lashes in Najaf Abad, Esfahan province, after a court found him guilty of inaccurately reporting the number of motorcycles confiscated by police in the city. 

Randa Habib, Amnesty International's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, stated:

"Iran's prolific use of corporal punishment, including flogging, amputation and blinding, throughout 2016 highlights the inhumanity of a justice system that legalizes brutality. [...] Severing people’s limbs, taking away their eyesight and subjecting them to brutal lashings cannot be considered justice"

On 6th January the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi called for the resignation of the head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, citing the numerous injustices and abuses committed against human rights defenders and political prisoners under his tenure. Her call came amid a wave of hunger strikes started by political prisoners in Iran. 


Peaceful Assembly

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports that more than 70 people, who had been arrested at a peaceful gathering celebrating Cyrus the Great last October, were tried in mid-December. Lacking access to legal representation, they were hastily sentenced to long prison terms by the Revolutionary Court in the city of Shiraz. According to the International Campaign, the charges against them included "propaganda against the state", "disturbing public order" and "assembly and collusion against national security".

According to an informed source,

“The exact number of those arrested is not known because the court has not publicized their cases and their relatives have been ordered not to speak about them. [...] The initial number of those arrested [at Pasargad] is between 300 and 700 people. More than 100 were detained for two months. They were interrogated for two weeks and then taken to Shiraz Central Prison, next to Adelabad Prison. Then, around mid-December, Branch 1 of the Shiraz Revolutionary Court sentenced more than 70 of them to prison terms ranging from three months to eight years. They are appealing their sentences.”