Teachers’ Rights Leader Returned to Prison Despite Judicial Official’s Furlough Pledge
Esmail Abdi’s Six-Year Sentence Influenced by IRGC
The former secretary general of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA) has been returned to Evin Prison to continue serving a six-year prison sentence for his peaceful activism despite being promised extended furlough by a judicial official.
“Esmail Abdi, who was on furlough after posting bail, was arrested this morning [July 27] without prior notice,” said a statement by the ITTA . “The prosecutor’s representative had promised Abdi would remain on extended furlough.”
Abdi ended a 37-day hunger strike on June 6, 2017 after a “constructive” meeting with Assistant Prosecutor Hajimoradi (first name unknown), two members of the ITTA’s board of directors, his lawyer Amir Salar Davoudi and Abdi’s mother.
The prominent union leader and high school mathematics teacher had been on temporary leave at his home on bail since June 25.
Abdi was arrested on June 27, 2015 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Intelligence Organization after being barred from leaving Iran to attend an international teachers’ conference in Canada.
In February 2016, Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced him to six years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the state” and “collusion against national security” for his peaceful activism in support of teachers’ rights.
In an October 2016 interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) after an Appeals Court’s upheld the sentence, Abdi said he believed the judge was influenced by several alleged violations added to the indictment by the IRGC’s Sarallah Headquarters.
“On June 1  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 that I could have a chance to show that our activities were purely professional and not political in nature,” he said.
Security forces have detained Abdi four times between 2006 and 2009 for his peaceful activism. He was also issued a 10-year suspended prison sentence in 2011 by the Tehran Revolutionary Court for “propaganda against the state” and “revealing information about security matters.”
In May 2017, an online petition signed by more than 15,000 people calling for Abdi’s release was delivered to the judiciary and the office of President Hassan Rouhani.
“Mr. Abdi is not a thief, murderer, drug dealer, embezzler, foreign spy or traitor to his country,” said the petition addressed to Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani. “He is a trade union activist elected by the teachers of Tehran according to the laws and regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
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.