Protesters, journalists and women who refuse to wear a hijab all risk facing trial in Iran. But many of the lawyers trained to fight for those defendants are already in jail.
According to a recent report from the Center for Human Rights in Iran, nine human rights attorneys in Iran have been arrested or disbarred in the past two years. At least five are in prison.
“The Iranian judiciary’s continuing prosecution of independent lawyers under manufactured charges is laying bare the state’s disregard for international standards of law and due process,” the center says in a June 23 report.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo has called on Iran’s regime to treat the Iranian people with basic dignity and uphold its commitments under international human rights agreements. Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits arbitrary arrest.
“True prosperity will only come to Iran when you cease terrorizing your people and jailing them,” Pompeo said in December 19, 2019, remarks regarding human rights under the Iranian regime.
Civil rights lawyers in Iran are being imprisoned at an alarming pace while activists, dissidents, and dual nationals continue to be charged with trumped-up “national security” crimes.
— IranHumanRights.org (@ICHRI) June 25, 2020
The Iranian regime’s history of committing serious human rights abuses is well documented. The United Nations rebuked Iran in December 2018 for its human rights violations, admonishing the regime for “harassment, intimidation, persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention.”
In 2020, Iran’s leaders imprisoned students for protesting the regime’s shooting down of a passenger airplane in January. The regime also jailed political opponents, labor leaders and others. Between its inception in 1979 and 2009, the Islamic Republic of Iran arrested and imprisoned 860 journalists and citizen journalists, the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders said in a February 2019 report.
Human rights attorneys are also a frequent target of the regime.
In March 2019, a judge sentenced human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who defended women charged with removing their headscarves, to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes. That July, three women were sentenced to a combined 55 years in prison for peacefully protesting the regime’s hijab law.
Payam Derafshan, a high-profile human rights attorney, has been detained in an unknown location since his June arrest on unspecified charges, the report says. He already had received a suspended prison term on a charge that he “insulted the supreme leader,” and has been barred from practicing law for two years.
Soheila Hejab was sentenced to 18 years in prison in May on charges of “forming a group for women’s rights.”
Mohammad Najafi has demanded accountability for deaths in detention. He has faced trial numerous times, and in 2019 was sentenced to 13 years in prison, according to the report.
Amirsalar Davoudi was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2019 after he created a news channel for attorneys on a messaging app. His sentence on charges of forming “an illegal group” included 111 lashes, according to published reports.
Abdolfattah Soltani had a long career representing political prisoners in Iran before becoming one himself in 2011. Soltani spent more than seven years in prison and is now banned from practicing law.