Trial of Seven Leading Members of Banned Reformist Party Postponed
Former Politicians Sent Letter to Parliament Criticizing Persecution of Oppositionists
The trial of seven former reformist politicians who have been charged with “assembly and collusion against national security” and “membership in an illegal group” was postponed after Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court agreed to a request from their defense lawyers for more time to prepare.
On November 5, 2016, two days before their originally scheduled trial date, the defendants sent a letter to Parliament criticizing the Judiciary for targeting oppositionists through the use of vaguely defined laws and charging them with catch-all national security crimes.
“The lack of a definition for security crimes has given the Judiciary an open hand to prosecute nearly every form of legal political activity,” said the letter. “As you can see, no one has been [officially] prosecuted for political crimes, rather all the charges are security related.”
“Many detained political activists are denied the right to a lawyer until the start of their trials,” continued the letter. “The presence of a lawyer in court is important not just for his legal expertise in defending the rights of his clients, but also to counter unlawful motions put forward by the prosecution.”
The seven senior members of the now banned reformist political party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF)—Mohammad Reza Khatami, Mohammad Naimipour, Mohsen Safaie Farahani, Hamidreza Jalaiepour, Hossein Kashefi, Ali Shakouri-Rad and Azar Mansouri—were initially summoned to court on September 7, 2016; their trial was initially set for November 7, 2016.
The IIPF was established following the election of Mohammad Khatami as the Islamic Republic’s first reformist president in 1997. Many of the group’s members joined his cabinet or were elected to Parliament, but after leading protests against the widely disputed result of Iran’s 2009 presidential election, several of the party’s senior members were arrested and jailed.
In 2010, the IIPF was banned. Its leadership protested against the ruling for being without legal foundation and in 2015 formed the Union of Islamic Iran People Party.
According to Article 1 of the Political Crimes Law that came into effect on May 18, 2016: “Every crime mentioned in Article 2 of this law, if committed against the country’s internal or external political statesmen, with the intention to reform state affairs, will be considered a political crime, even if the perpetrator has no intention to strike at the state’s very foundation.” Examples of crimes listed in Article 2 include, “insulting or defaming the heads of the three branches of state (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary), vice presidents, ministers and members of Parliament.”
Based on Article 48 of Iran’s Criminal Procedure Code, “Once a suspect comes under criminal supervision, he or she can seek the presence of lawyer.” However, an added amendment states: “During preliminary investigations involving national security crimes inside or outside of the country… suspects can choose a lawyer or lawyers from the Bar Association who are approved by the Judiciary.”
Referring to the Revolutionary Guards and its Intelligence Organization, and the Intelligence Ministry, the letter also lamented “the great corruption within a military institution for engaging in [internal] security matters” in parallel with other intelligence and security organizations.