/ 6 March 2012

Iran jails human rights lawyer for 18 years

Iran has sentenced a prominent human rights lawyer, Abdolfattah Soltani, to 18 years in jail for allegedly spreading anti-regime propaganda, several opposition websites reported on Tuesday.

“One of my husband’s lawyers was told that my husband was sentenced to 18 years in jail in Borazjan [south Iran] and was also banned from practising law for 20 years,” Soltani’s wife, Masoumeh Dehqan, told the reformist opposition website Rahebsabz.net.

She did not say when the sentence was issued or on what charges he was found guilty.

Soltani, a co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre along with Nobel peace winner Shirin Ebadi and others, was arrested in early September, spurring condemnation by Amnesty International and the European Union.

He is also known for defending the minority religious group of Bahais in Iran, who are not recognised by the authorities.

Amnesty has called for the immediate release of Soltani, who also spent several months behind bars between 2005 and 2009.

‘Spreading propaganda’
According to the rights watchdog, a revolutionary court in Tehran accused Soltani of “spreading propaganda against the system”, and of “setting up an illegal opposition group”.

He is also accused of “gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security,” according to Amnesty.

It said Soltani was also accused of accepting an illegal prize — a reference to a prestigious human rights award he was awarded in 2009 in Germany.

But his wife said Soltani has denied all the allegations and would appeal the sentence.

Another opposition website, Kalame.com, reported on Tuesday that an appeals court in Tehran handed down on January 1 a six-year jail term to an aide to Ebadi, Narges Mohammadi.

Her lawyer was informed on Sunday, the report said.

Rights ‘abuses’
Mohammadi, who had been originally sentenced to 11 years in jail, was previously detained for a few weeks in the summer of 2010. She worked with Ebadi at the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, a vocal critic of the Iranian regime’s treatment of dissidents and regularly reports on rights “abuses”.

A dozen lawyers defending human rights cases and opposition members are currently imprisoned in Iran, according to Amnesty International, which describes them as prisoners of conscience.

Lawyers Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mohammad Seifzadeh, Javid Houtan Kian and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah are all among them.

Sotoudeh was sentenced to 11 years in prison for defending opposition members after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Seifzadeh, who defended the family of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi who died in prison in 2003, is serving a two-year prison term.

Houtan Kian, a lawyer for the Iranian woman sentenced to be stoned for adultery, Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, is behind bars, and Dadkhah — who defended pastor Yusef Nadarkhani Nadarkhani, who had been sentenced to death for apostasy before the supreme court annulled the verdict in July — was sentenced to nine years in jail July.

All of them have received the support of Western democracies and major international organisations who defend human rights in the Islamic republic. — AFP