Trade Unionist Held in Unknown Location Should Be Released
Concerns for Health and Safety of Ali Nejati
(17 March 2009) The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran today called upon the Iranian Judiciary to immediately release Ali Nejati, a trade union leader, and end its persecution and prosecution of labor activists.
Intelligence agents detained Nejati at his home on 8 March. He is currently being held in incommunicado detention at an undisclosed location. The authorities have not provided any information to Nejati’s family about the charges against him or where he is currently detained. The Campaign expressed its serious concerns for Nejati’s health and safety.
“Under this information blackout, Nejati may be suffering torture and ill-treatment,” said Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the Campaign.
“With Persian New Year celebrations to begin on 20 March, it is cruel and inhumane to arbitrarily detain activists and deny them access to their families,” he added. “The authorities should release Nejati and respect the rights of trade unionists.”
Nejati is a leading member of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Factory Trade Union, in the southern city of Shoush. After searching his home and confiscating documents relating to the trade union, agents from the Intelligence Ministry detained Nejati on 8 March, taking him to the local Intelligence office. The agents failed to provide a detention order.
On Thursday, 12 March, a judge at Shoush Revolutionary Court issued a temporary detention order. On the same day, Judiciary officials told Nejati’s wife that he has been transferred to the prison in Dezful, a nearby city.
As Nejati’s wife attempted to visit him at Dezful prison, she witnessed his transfer out of that prison in a car. Since then, Nejati’s family has had no information about his whereabouts. When Nejati’s wife requested information from Shoush Revolutionary Court, the authorities told her that the judge who issued the order had left to celebrate the New Year and would not return until 4 April.
“It is completely unacceptable to withhold information about Nejati from his family. The Judiciary is responsible for his health and safety and cannot continue to hold him without charge in a secret location,” Ghaemi said.
Workers at Haft Tapeh factory have been engaged in establishing an independent labor union for the past several years. Last month, seven other members of the Hapt Tapeh Union were detained and subsequently released on bail.
Nejati and three other union members have also been subject to prosecution for trade unionist activities. On 17 and 23 February, their trial was held, although their sentences have not been publicly announced.
The Iranian authorities have implemented highly repressive policies to suppress the independent trade-unionist movement in Iran. On 18 February, two female labor activists, Sussan Razani and Shiva Kheirabadi, were flogged for celebrating May Day. Razani was flogged with 70 lashes and Kheirabadi received 15 lashes.
Two leading members of the Tehran Bus Workers’ Union, Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi, are currently in prison serving sentences relating to their trade union activists. Mohsen Hakimi, a labor activist and member of the Iranian Writers Association, was detained without charge on 22 December 2008.
The Campaign called on the Iranian authorities to honor their international legal obligation to recognize workers’ fundamental rights to freedom of association and to form unions to protect their interests. These rights are guaranteed by Article 22 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Iran is a signatory. As a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Iran is obligated to respect and implement these rights.