Groups Unite to Urge Due Process in ADVAR Cases
(10 December 2009) Forum Asia today, along with other Asian human rights organizations from India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Taiwan, and Japan, sent an appeal to the Head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, expressing concern over the persecution of members of the Iranian student alumni group ADVAR, many of whom have been arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted and sentenced in recent months because of their views.
The groups, all of whom are members of the Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), asked that the Judiciary review the cases in which the internationally protested rights of ADVAR members had been violated. They expressed “deep concern” for the “systematic repression of members of ADVAR which has been taking place since June of this year.” The letter was as follows:
An Open Appeal to Ayatollah Amoli Larijani,
Head of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Regarding the Persecution of members of the student alumni group ADVAR
We, the undersigned, represent independent human rights organizations in the Asia as members of the Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), appeal to you to review a series of arrests, detentions, and convictions of members of the respected Iranian student alumni organization ADVAR.
ADVAR is known throughout our region as a group of young Iranian citizens committed to improving the welfare of the people of Iran, and committed to peaceful methods and nonviolence to promote and protect Iranian citizens’ human rights. We believe no evidence exists to prosecute members of this group, and indeed, that no such evidence has been presented in trials in which several of its members have been convicted and sentenced. The arrests and prosecution of ADVAR members have thus been politically motivated and at variance with Iranian and international law.
We are deeply concerned about the systematic repression of members of ADVAR, which has been taking place since June of this year, with the onset of protests following the disputed presidential elections. Specifically, we call your attention to the following:
The General Secretary of ADVAR, Ahmad Zaidabadi, and its spokesperson, Abdollah Momeni, have been detained since June and have reportedly been under severe pressure and physical abuse to make false confessions.
Ahmad Zaidabadi has spent long period of his detention in solitary confinement. He was refused release on bail by prison authorities, despite a judge having approved bail, which his family posted, according to information we have received. The judge’s letter has been sent three times. Zaidabadi’s lawyer, Mohammad Sharif, confirmed in an interview with the Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA), that the requested bail was registered officially, but this was denied by the Justice Ministry. Sharif holds that charges of “conspiring against the regime” were not proven during Zaidabadi’s trial, where the only evidence presented included his published articles. According to his wife, Zaidabadi’s health has deteriorated and is at risk. He was subsequently sentenced to the excessive punishment of six year prison, five years in exile and ban of any political activity for his life time. Abdollah Momeni was recently sentenced to an eight-year prison term, including six years for allegedly participating in the protests after the disputed 12 June election, and two years for an earlier charge of threatening national security. Momeni had been denied access to his lawyer and received the sentence in prison. While Judiciary authorities claim Momeni refused an attorney, it is believed he was forced to do so. Momeni has appealed his conviction. He suffers from kidney and heart problems.
On 3 November 2009, Hasan Asadi Zaidabadi, a respected and influential human rights defender and member of the Central Council of ADVAR, was arrested at 20:30 at his home in Tehran, on the basis of a summons from the Revolutionary Court, and taken to Evin prison, ward 209.
Asadi is a prominent human rights activist, journalist, and spokesperson of the Committee to Investigate Arbitrary Detentions, as well as being in charge of the human rights committee of ADVAR.
While Asadi had been summoned on a number of occasions, he had not previously been arrested in the context of the recent political upheavals. His arrest was apparently an attempt to suppress political protests on 4 November, the anniversary of the students’ movement in 1977, and a traditional day of celebration. Asadi Zaidabadi is being held in solitary confinement in a cell about 1 by 2 meters large. No clear information has been released about charges against him.
Another ADVAR detainee, Mohammad Sadeghi, also arrested on 3 November, has been denied visits from his family. Hojat Sharifi and his wife, Nafiseh Zarekohan, who were arrested on 4 November, are being held in Evin prison. Mosa Saket, in charge of the ADVAR branch in Tabriz, was imprisoned for a substantial time with no information given about his case, and eventually released.
Other members of ADVAR have subsequently been persecuted. Salman Sima, a member of the political committee of ADVAR and a student in Azad University, was arrested on 14 November by agents who waited to capture him in front of his home. After he was arrested, the agents searched his home and confiscated personal items including his computer; his summons indicated that he was to be transported to ward 209 of Evin prison, managed by the Intelligence Ministry, and agents told his family his case would be heard in Branch Three of the Revolutionary Court. Sima was previously arrested in July 2008 and kept in ward 209 for 40 days.
Kouhzad Esmaieli, in charge of the Gilan province ADVAR branch, was arrested on 4 November and released on bail on 14 November, but was arrested again on 16 November to serve a four- month prison term.
Your Excellency, we will be most grateful for your attention and investigation into the clear pattern of persecution revealed by these cases.
Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions
Asia Pacific Forum
People’s Watch (India)
Sudhanthra (A Rehabilitation Centre for victims of domestic violence and torture, India)
Institute of Human Rights Education (IHRE, India)
Ain-O-Salish (ASK, Bangladesh)
Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD, Mongolia)
The Federation of the Commission for the Disappearances and Victims of Violence (KontraS, Indonesia)
The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (IMPARSIAL, Indonesia)
Taiwan Association for Human Rights
Citizens Council for Human Rights Japan
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran