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Shirin Ebadi: Interrogators Make Decisions for the Judges

Amid the ongoing wave of life-threatening hunger strikes by political prisoners in Iran, Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi has called on the chief of the country’s Judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, to resign. 

“The system is broken and the final responsibility rests with its head,” Ebadi, who was Iran’s first female judge before being forced to resign after the 1979 Islamic revolution, told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Mr. Larijani must accept his incompetence and resign…It’s not enough to wait for people to get arrested and start hunger strikes for us to defend political prisoners. We have to think of something more effective.”

“The Judiciary is responsible for most of the injustices taking place in Iran because it has lost its independence and turned into an agent of the Intelligence Ministry,” she added. “In cases involving political prisoners, it is the interrogators who make decisions for the judges.”

Ebadi continued: “Since Larijani became the head of the Judiciary (in 2009), conditions have become worse than before. When [Larijani’s predecessor Mahmoud Hashemi] Shahroudi took over the job (in 1999), he said the Judiciary was in ruins. Today those ruins have turned into devastation. Why? Because we see lawyers jailed simply for defending their clients, such as Abdolfattah Soltani, Mohammad Seifzadeh, and Mohammad Oliaifar.”

“At the same time, we are witnessing judges engaged in crimes and corruption, but even those who have been proven guilty—such as misters Saeed Mortazavi, Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, Mohammad Moghiseh, and many others—comfortably maintain their posts,” she added.

Parliament must investigate the record of Larijani, who is “directly responsible” for ongoing rights violations, said the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), which was founded in Iran in 2002 by Ebadi, who was forced into exile in 2009.

“Political and non-political prisoners have often been forced to resort to hunger strikes in order to get the authorities to pay attention to their most basic legal rights,” continued the January 4 statement. “Some of them, such as Saeed Shirzad, are displaying their protest in a gruesome way [by sewing his lips]. Where is the Judiciary’s just response?”

Ebadi also held centrist President Hassan Rouhani responsible for the “many…wrongful arrests of political activists and prisoners of conscience” in Iran: “If the Judiciary chief is to blame for jailing people, Mr. Rouhani is equally responsible because many people have been prosecuted based on trumped up charges by the Intelligence Ministry.”

“Unfortunately, the human rights situation has not improved in the past year, and in fact, it has become a lot worse…The important point is that Iran’s Constitution is deficient and defective,” Ebadi told the Campaign. “One problem is that all authority has been exclusively granted to one person, the supreme leader (Ali Khamenei), who appoints the Judiciary chief.” 

“Standing up to injustice is the moral duty of every citizen,” she said.

At least three political prisoners are currently on hunger strike in Iran. Imprisoned civil rights activist Arash Sadeghi ended his 71-day strike on January 3 after public pressure, especially on social media, forced the Judiciary to promise a review of his imprisoned wife’s case.