Seifzadeh in Court: ‘My Charge Was Establishing the Defenders of Human Rights Center’
On 9 October 2010, Mohammad Seifzadeh, a lawyer and one of the founders of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), was tried at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court on the charge of founding the organization. In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Seifzadeh referred to the proceedings as “illegal,” and called the unrelated questioning an “inquisition.” He also complained about lack of a jury panel at his trial and that his case was originally prepared by two judges who have since been suspended from service, Saeed Mortazavi and Haddad, and the fact that the court’s proceedings under these circumstances were entirely illegal.
“It was very strange, instead of the presiding judge, the representative from the Prosecutor’s Office kept asking me questions. Both my lawyer and I objected to this issue. The representative from the Prosecutor’s Office was conducting an inquisition, which by itself is a crime, and basically, the questions had nothing to do with the indictment,” Seifzadeh told the Campaign about his trial session.
“For example, he asked me whether I believe in velayat-e faqih (rule of the Supreme Leader) or not. I asked him whether I was being tried for my belief in the Supreme Leader. Unfortunately, the interaction was completely political and pre-determined, and the only thing that was not important in the court was law and justice. No matter how many times I asked the representative of the Prosecutor and the presiding judge to present examples of my crime, which is ‘propagating against the regime and national security,’ they did not offer anything. The only thing the Center has done in these years is to provide pro bono services to some 6,000 political prisoners and journalists. Do these activities count as propagating against the regime and national security? We also taught the Constitution, protecting citizenship rights, human rights, the Penal Code, and criminal law at the Center, but what do these activities have to do with propagating against the regime and national security?” Seifzadeh said about the questions he was asked.
Referring to the laws governing Iran’s political parties, Seifzadeh told he the Campaign, “According to the law, if they want to try someone, their trial must be an open court and before a jury panel. My court was held without a jury and behind closed doors. Also, under Article 193 of Criminal Procedure, if a defendant presents any defense to the court at the last minute, the court is obligated to accept it. I provided the court with names of ten witnesses–individuals who had issued the DHRC its license at the time, people such as the Khatami cabinet Interior Minister and his deputies, and members of the Tenth Committee–but the court refused my request and did not summon any of them.”
“It is strange that this case was cooked up by Mortazavi and Haddad, two judges who have since been suspended, but no one seems to pay any attention to this! Instead of me, those who have sealed the Center should be prosecuted. We even reported the violation when the Center was shut down, but, unfortunately, this issue was not addressed,” he said.
“I am accused of founding the DHRC, a center that is the only non-governmental organization in Iran that is a member of the International Federation of Human Rights. Do you know that the only way an organization can become a member of this Federation is when it has already been legally registered in one’s own country? So, it’s clear that in establishing this Center, all legal procedures have been followed. The qualifications of the entire founding committee of our organization were approved when Mousavi Lari was in office as the Interior Minister in Mohammad Khatami’s cabinet. Even though, according to Article 26 of the Constitution, no political organization requires a license, we even set out to pursue one. Several times we revised our articles of association and manifesto, until finally the Judiciary representative gave us the license, and news about it was posted by official news agencies like ISNA, ILNA, and Mehr News Agency, and the documents are all available. This all means that the Center was not formed illegally, and that it has even held a license,” Seifzadeh said.
“If this court is based on the word of law, all members of the Center should be acquitted and all those who have launched this persecution must be brought to justice, and be dismissed from their government jobs. Civil lawsuits can be brought against them. The Center must resume its activity again. But when the process is not legal and judicial, one should not wait for a legal ruling. In this sense, I am ready to hear any sentence within the next few days,” said Seifzadeh, who was informed of his charges in August 2009.
The DHRC was launched in 2002, and its founding members included Shirin Ebadi, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Mohammad Seifzadeh, Mohammad Sharif, and Abdolfattah Soltani. The Center’s activities were ceased during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency on the charge of activities against the regime and national security.