Six-Year Prison Sentence Against Teachers Union Leader Upheld After Pressure by Revolutionary Guards
Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court has upheld the six-year prison sentence against Esmail Abdi, the chairman of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association, confirmed Abdi in an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Abdi said he believed the Appeals Court’s decision was influenced by several alleged violations added to the indictment by the Sarallah Headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards. The alleged events, which took place while he was free on bail, were “purely professional and not political in nature,” said Abdi.
“According to a ruling delivered to my lawyer on October 7 (2016), the six-year prison sentence issued by the preliminary court has been upheld on appeal,” he said. “I have been given the maximum punishment for two charges: one year for ‘propaganda against the state’ and five years for ‘collusion against national security.’”
“On June 1 (2016) my lawyer and I appeared at Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court. At the end of the trial I asked for sentencing to be postponed so I could have a chance to show that our activities were purely professional and not political in nature. The Sarallah Headquarters, as the detaining authority, has had the wrong impression of our activities and has claimed that they were political in nature and directed against the state,” Abdi told the Campaign.
The labor rights leader was arrested on June 27, 2015 by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization, a week after being barred from leaving Iran to attend an international teachers’ conference in Canada. In his preliminary trial, Abdi was sentenced in February 2016 to six years in prison by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court for “propaganda against the state” and “collusion against national security.”
Abdi said the Revolutionary Guards had petitioned the Appeals Court alleging he had broken the terms of his conditional release by visiting fellow labor activist Jafar Azimzadeh in the hospital.
“The Sarallah Headquarters added a statement to my case that after my release on bail I did not stop my trade union activities. As examples, they mentioned my visits with Mr. Azimzadeh and my interviews with domestic and foreign media,” he said.
Abdi was detained four times by security forces between 2006 and 2009 for his peaceful activism, and in 2011 he was given a 10-year suspended prison sentence by the Tehran Revolutionary Court for “propaganda against the state” and “revealing information about security matters.”
Labor activism in Iran is seen as a national security offense; independent labor unions are not allowed to function, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are consistently prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.
In addition to Abdi, several senior members of the Teachers Trade Association of Iran have been arrested, jailed or sent into exile, including Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, Ali Akbar Baghani, and Rasoul Bodaghi.