The Case is Political, Sarah Shourd is Ill, and the Continuation of Imprisonment is Illegal, Says the Hikers’ Lawyer
Massoud Shafie, attorney to the three American hikers spoke with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran about the situation of his clients’ case. Shafie said that the continued detention of the three hikers, who were arrested a year ago, allegedly for illegal entry into the Iranian soil, is illegal and politically-motivated. He also reported of Sarah Shourd’s unfavorable health conditions in prison.
Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Joshua Fattal have been at Evin Prison since 31 July 2009. During this time they have only been able to contact their families once on the telephone and once in person.
In his capacity as lawyer to the families of these individuals, Massoud Shafie has not been able to meet with his clients. “The view to this case is not a judicial one; it seems that the political view is dominant,” he told the
Campaign. Describing the conditions of his clients’ case, Shafiee said that the continued imprisonment of his clients is illegal. “According to Iranian law, it is illegal to detain a suspect for more than four months without a trial. My clients have been in detention for almost a year now. I believe that whether they are charged with espionage or with illegal entry, the minimum sentence for these crimes is about one year,” he said. “Under no circumstances can a prisoner’s detention length be more than the minimum punishment for his/her charges. I don’t believe they will be charged with espionage. Even if they are, the minimum punishment for espionage is one year. For illegal entry through the border, the punishment is either a cash fine or one to two years in prison. As under no circumstances can a suspect be held for a duration more than the minimum punishment, it is necessary for them to be released now,” he added.
Referring to the fact that he has not been able to visit with his clients even once during the past several months, Shafie said: “If we review the case from a judicial standpoint, this case is currently in the investigation phase. This is why they have not allowed me to visit with my clients yet. After the investigation phase ends, one of two things may happen. Either the case is dismissed and the prisoners are released, or an indictment is issued against them and the case is sent to trial. At this point the case files will be made available to me so that I can prepare my defense…Over the past year my clients were only allowed to call their families once [last March] on the eve of the Iranian New Year, and this was through my frequent followups and insistence.”
The lawyer for the three jailed Americans was asked whether preventing him from meeting with his clients is legal. “No. Denying visits with my clients has no legal merit, because according to Article 128 of the Code of Criminal Procedures,lawyers can even be present during the investigation phase. But unfortunately up until today they have denied my requests and have not allowed me to meet with my clients. The procedure is that I must see them, talk to them, and meticulously express my views. As a lawyer, as the only person who is the sole legal representative of these three hikers, and as a person who is trusted by their families, I should be able to communicate with them,” he said.
Once again, Masoud Shafie brought up the issue of Sarah Shourd’s illness and her family’s concern over this issue. “Sarah suffers from an acute female reproductive system illness. Her mother told me that before she came to Iran, she had to be examined by her physician once every two months or so. This is not possible now. I told the case judge about this and it appeared that he had taken action on it, but I doubt any actions to be adequate. Other than her physical illness, because she is in a solitary cell, Sarah also suffers from depression,” Shafie said.
He rejected his clients’ espionage charges, saying: “The discussion about espionage has no relevance; because espionage has a legal definition. A spy is a person who has access to secret documents and then provides these documents to a foreign state without authorization. Such a thing has not happened. Of course I answered the issues raised by the Minister of Information, saying that his statements do not have any legal basis. They could only be his expert opinions,” Shafie said.