Irresponsible Statements And Threats–Can The Judiciary Head Act Above The Law?
Instead of addressing questions, concerns, and issues raised in cases which have taken some suspects as far as being executed, the Iranian Judiciary has systematically tried to silence the lawyers.
The Head of the Iranian Judiciary criticized lawyers’ interviews with the media again and said that some lawyers “undermine the Islamic regime with their interviews.” This is the second time the Head of the Iranian Judiciary has criticized lawyers for talking to the press.
“Unfortunately, some lawyers don’t act according to their main responsibility, whereas if they act properly, many issues would be prevented, but this group does not feel obligated to the conditions defined in the requirements for being licensed to practice law. They easily undermine the Islamic regime through their interviews and actions, and we hope that this trend will be corrected,” Sadegh Larijani told the reporters.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran believes the statements made by the Head of the Iranian Judiciary lack any legal basis, and appear as threats, and regards this as a bad sign for the implementation of justice in the country. The Campaign asks the Iranian Judiciary to end its systematic pressure on lawyers representing political prisoners and to release Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mohammad Oliaifard, and to exonerate other human rights lawyers who have received heavy sentences, or are awaiting sentencing, and to be accountable for the violations in the cases which have taken suspects to their deaths.
There are no laws that prohibit lawyers from disseminating information about the cases which they represent and Sadegh Larijani’s criticism of interviews by lawyers is not based on any existing laws. Only after the Iranian Judiciary has proven that an interview contains libel, slander, or that it creates public anxiety through propagating lies, the lawyer—or for that matter, any other citizen—should be held accountable to the Judiciary for their crimes. In none of the cases has the Iranian Judiciary challenged the information presented by the lawyers, and in the human rights lawyers’ cases, the act of interviewing with the media has been construed as a crime based upon which a sentence has been issued.
In fact, instead of addressing questions, concerns, and issues raised in cases which have taken some suspects as far as being executed, the Iranian Judiciary has systematically tried to silence the lawyers.
At this time, two lawyers representing political prisoners, Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mohammad Oliaifard, are in prison, and a group of other prominent Iranian lawyers have either received heavy sentences, or are awaiting their trials. Both imprisoned lawyers represented cases in which by disseminating information about the illegal aspects of the case, they tried to stop the political executions of their clients, but despite the serious doubts about the judicial review process and lack of sufficient evidence, clients of both Sotoudeh and Oliaifard were executed.
Nasrin Sotoudeh first spoke to the press about the judicial violations in the case of Arash Rahmani Nia who had been sentenced to death for moharebeh, enmity with God. Earlier, Mohammad Oliaifard had questioned the Ministry of Inelligence’s research by security forces in the case of Kurdish activist, Hossein Khezri. What both lawyers said about their clients’ cases, questioned the quality of the judicial review inside the Iranian Judiciary, and demonstrated the organization’s dependence on security organizations.
Information provided by the two lawyers caused international media and organizations to ask for a halt to the said executions, raising many questions about the way the Iranian Judiciary is managed. But, instead of pursuing the violations in the referenced cases, Head of the Iranian Judiciary not only continued its questionable prior practices, he made the lawyers targets of judicial pressure such as summonses, threats, and eventually, heavy sentences and imprisonment.
In November 2010, during a meeting with members of the Board of Directors of the Iranian Bar Association, Sadegh Larijani said that interviews of Iranian lawyers with foreign media are “an insult to the legal community.” Mohammad Javad Larijani, brother of the Head of the Iranian Judiciary, routinely interviews with foreign media. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian authorities, also, never miss an opportunity to interview with foreign press. Head of the Iranian Judiciary took a step further, adding: “unfortunately, actions of certain profit-seeking individuals and some intermediaries have undermined the image of legal representation.”
During a press conference on 17 November 2010, in response to a question about the imprisoned lawyers, Mohammad Javad Larijani, Head of the Iranian Judiciary’s Human Rights Council told reporters: “Just as we don’t accept the misuse of the name of human rights by the foreigners, inside our country, too, we would not allow anyone to commit violations and actions beyond the law, whether as a lawyer, or as a defender of human rights.”
Head of the Iran Human Rights Council emphasized that everyone must act within the law. “Those who claim to be lawyers, instead of pursuing the rights of their clients inside courtrooms and in legal centers, travel to western countries and are constantly interviewing with foreign media, [something] that has no relation with their responsibilities as a lawyer,” Larijani said.
Contrary to his brother’s statements, Mr. Larijani said that no one has barred interviews with foreign press. “The issue is not interviewing with the foreign media. The main issue is that some lawyers, instead of pursuing their clients’ rights, through making accusations to the judicial and political system of the country, and by questioning the regime, take steps on a different path, other than helping their clients, and they should accept their responsibilities,” he said.
Mr. Larijani failed to mention that nowhere in Iranian laws is it reflected that lawyers must only speak about their cases and that their freedom of expression is limited to their profession. Furthermore, he called the lawyers’ criticism of the conditions of the judicial system vis a vis political cases as “accusing the judicial and political system of the country,” or “questioning the regime.”
The Head of the Iranian Judiciary’s statements are made just as trials of the lawyers are taking place behind closed doors and in some cases, security forces are reading the imprisoned lawyers’ sentences to them before their trials have been held. Previously, Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the imprisoned lawyer told him that security forces have advised her that they would make it such that she would not receive less than 10 years in prison. The judge in Sotoudeh’s case sentenced her to 11 years in prison.
In addition to Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mohammad Oliaifard, in October 2010, another lawyer and founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center was sentenced , Mohammad Seifzadeh, was sentenced to nine years in prison and 10 years’ ban on the legal profession on the charge of establishing the Defenders of Human Rights Center. Seifzadeh called his charges “a list pre-determined by the Ministry of Intelligence,” calling his sentence “a partisan and political statement against a human rights effort.” Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, who represented many students in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election, was arrested at his offices after the election and later released on bail.