Halt Arrest of Lawyer in Stoning Case
Mohommad Mostafaee at large; family members “held hostage”
(27 July 2010) Iranian authorities should end their efforts to arrest Mohammad Mostafaee, a human rights lawyer whose work came into international focus with his defense of Sakineh Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
In what is being interpreted as a pressure tactic to force Mostafaee to turn himself in, his wife, Fereshteh Halimi, and brother-in-law, Farhad Halimi, neither of whom is involved in human rights work, were detained at the same time shortly after Mostafaee was last summoned on Saturday, 24 July. Mostafaee was first summoned to a security court for interrogation on 21 July. His current whereabouts are unknown.
“In advocating against the stoning of his client, Mostafaee has broken no laws, rather, he has tried to uphold the laws and rights of Iranian citizens,” stated Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the Campaign.
“The apparent effort to halt Mostafaee’s important work is in direct violation of Iran’s international human rights obligation to allow for independent legal counsel,” he added.
The Campaign also called for the immediate release of Mostafaee’s wife and brother-in-law, whom it said were “essentially hostages who have been kidnapped.”
In an interview with the Campaign, on 23 July, Mostafaee stated, “I have not committed any crime for which they would want to keep me. My work as a lawyer is defending the accused, and all the processes are done according to the law. There isn’t any part that is outside the law. I respect the law and always have respect for the judicial system. I have a professional outlook towards my work and therefore there is no reason for my arrest. However, a potential always exists.”
A number of human rights lawyers have been banned from travel, arrested, detained, tortured, and put on trial in the course of Iran’s post-election crackdown on dissidents and civil society groups. They include, inter alia, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Shadi Sadr and Abdolfattah Soltani. Threats against other human rights lawyers have continued.
Iranian judicial authorities routinely disallow lawyers representing prisoners of conscience to meet with their clients, have access to court documents, or to make statements during trials. According to information the Campaign has received from human rights lawyers, prisoners have been ordered by authorities to change their lawyers, and have prevented lawyers from representing clients.
“The warrant for Mohammad Mostafaee’s arrest is further evidence of the erosion of legal rights in Iran,” Ghaemi said.