Prominent Labor Activist Returns to Prison After Medical Leave “Unapproved” by Prosecutor
Almost three years after he was released, prominent labor activist Reza Shahabi has returned to prison to serve the remainder of a six-year prison sentence to prevent the judiciary from seizing the home of a person who had posted bail on his behalf.
The Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company has condemned the authorities for coercing Shahabi, a board member, into returning to prison.
“Despite the fact that medical leave counts as time served for a sentence, unfortunately the prosecutor claims that three months of Shahabi’s leave was unapproved and therefore he was ordered back to prison,” said a statement published by the union on August 8.
“If he had not complied with the order, the house of the person who left a security deposit for Reza would have been confiscated,” a labor activist familiar with the case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“Reza believed such an action would have been unjust and unlawful, but he did not want to cause any trouble for the depositor and decided to turn himself in,” added the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Shahabi returned to Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, west of Tehran, on August 8, 2017 after receiving several warnings that he would lose his security deposit if he refused to serve the remainder of the prison sentence he was issued for engaging in peaceful activism.
He had been released on medical grounds in September 2014 after posting the bail set at 200 million toman ($62,000 USD).
Shahabi, 44, was arrested in June 2010 for peacefully advocating labor rights in Iran.
He was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from civic activism for five years after being convicted of “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion against national security” by Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court.
On February 13, 2017, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) urged Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to free Shahabi.
“A return to detention of Reza Shahabi, unjustly convicted for his trade union activity, would be only a further violation of international conventions and a violation of human rights,” said the organization in a letter.
Labor activism in Iran is seen as a national security offense; independent labor unions are not allowed to function, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are consistently prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.