Three More Iranian Human Rights Attorneys Slapped with Unjust Prison Sentences
Three more human rights attorneys in Iran were handed unjust prison sentences in July 2021 amid an ongoing campaign to eliminate due process for activists and dissidents by intimidating the lawyers who defend them, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
At least four defense lawyers were imprisoned in the country on trumped-up charges as of August 2021 (Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mohammad Najafi, Soheila Hejab, and Giti Pourfazel), and at least two additional lawyers (Farzaneh Zilabi and Mohammad Hadi Erfanian-Kaseb) were prosecuted on false charges in June 2021.
Javad Alikordi, a defense attorney and law professor, was taken to Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad, northeastern Iran, on July 15, 2021, to begin serving a two-year prison sentence for running a Telegram messaging app social media channel.
Any peaceful action, including appearing in public without your headscarf if you are a woman, or promoting human rights as a defense attorney can be prosecuted as a national security crime in Iran, where the state is not only trying to eliminate all forms of dissent and criticism of its policies but also imprisons the lawyers who try to defend activists.
Alikordi, a former member of the City Council in Sabzevar, Khorasan Razavi Province, was arrested by Intelligence Ministry agents in Mashhad on April 22, 2020, and held in solitary confinement for more than a month.
He was tried at Branch 4 of the Revolutionary Court in Mashhad presided by Judge Mansouri [first name unknown] at an unknown date and convicted of “creating and managing a channel on Telegram (messaging app) with the intention of overthrowing the state” (6.5 years in prison), “insulting the supreme leader” (1.5 years), and “propaganda against the state” (eight months).
Upon appeal, his 6.5-year prison sentence for “creating and managing a channel on Telegram (messaging app) with the intention of overthrowing the state” was reduced to two years in prison, the length of time he must remain behind bars according to Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code.
Branch 37 of the Appeals Court in Khorasan Razavi Province meanwhile upheld other punishments against Alikordi, including a two-year ban on teaching, a two-year ban on traveling abroad, and a two-year ban on membership in political and social groups.
Amirsalar Davoudi, another defense attorney who was imprisoned for running a Telegram channel, learned that the Tehran Revolutionary Court re-issued a sentence of 30 years in prison and 111 lashes that was initially revoked by the Supreme Court.
“Branch 15 of the [Tehran Revolutionary Court] sentenced me to 15 years of servable imprisonment,” tweeted Davoudi, who is currently on medical furlough on July 31, 2021. “I did not appeal and requested a retrial two years later. Branch 41 of the Supreme Court overturned the impugned verdict and referred it to a court of equal standing, and I was released on bail. The said court [Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court] heard the case on July 13 and upheld the revoked sentence. I must protest.”
Davoudi must serve 15 years of the sentence according to Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code.
Mohammad Najafi, a defense attorney who was imprisoned in 2018 for speaking publicly about the death of a street protester in police custody, must serve 10 years in prison, according to a July 30 tweet by Iranian human rights lawyer Saeid Dehghan.
“The trial of Mohammad Najafi, an attorney, will begin in Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court in Arak today at 9 a.m,” tweeted Dehghan. “The new charge against him is propaganda against the state for calling for a boycott of the elections and changing the constitution as well as the removal of the supreme leader, which are the wishes of the majority of the Iranian people.”
However, a source with knowledge about the case told CHRI on condition of anonymity that the judge did not show up at Najafi’s trial and no new trial date has been set. Many trials have been canceled in Iran because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on the multiple sentences he has received so far, Najafi must serve at least 10 years behind bars.
Read a version of this article in Persian.