Senior Reformist Politicians Sentenced to Prison, Banned From Political Activities
Seven prominent Iranian reformist politicians who wrote in an open letter that the judiciary has been given an “open hand” to prosecute legal political activities with “security crimes” have been handed one-year prison sentences and a two-year ban on political and media activities.
“The court determined that all their activities amounted to ‘propaganda against the state’ and, in addition to a year in prison, banned them from membership in political parties and expressing their views in the press and on social media,” said Hojjat Kermani, the lawyer who represents four of the politicians.
The ruling against Mohammad Reza Khatami, Mohsen Safaei Farahani, Ali Shakouri-Rad, Azar Mansouri, Mohammad Naimipour, Hossein Kashefi and Hamidreza Jalaeipour—all senior members of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF)—will be appealed, added Kermani.
The men were sentenced by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court on October 2, 2017.
Formed after Iran’s first reformist government was established under President Mohammad Khatami in 1997, the IIPF was led by Khatami’s younger brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami. Half of Khatami’s cabinet ministers were members of the IIPF during his first term at a time when it had the largest block of members in Parliament.
After the disputed 2009 presidential election, many IIPF members were arrested and put on show trials for protesting then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial victory.
When the party was abolished in 2010 by order of the Revolutionary Court, many of its members formed the Islamic Union Party of Iran in 2015.
On November 5, 2016, two days before their originally scheduled trial date, the seven politicians issued an open letter criticizing the judiciary for targeting them with catchall national security crimes.
“The lack of a definition for security crimes has given the judiciary an open hand to prosecute nearly every form of legal political activity,” said the letter. “As you can see, no one has been [officially] prosecuted for political crimes, rather all the charges are security related.”
“Many detained political activists are denied the right to a lawyer until the start of their trials,” continued the letter. “The presence of a lawyer in court is important not just for his legal expertise in defending the rights of his clients, but also to counter unlawful motions put forward by the prosecution.”
The seven MPs were referring to Article 48 of Iran’s Criminal Procedure Code, which states, “Once a suspect comes under criminal supervision, he or she can seek the presence of lawyer.”
However, an amendment states: “During preliminary investigations involving national security crimes inside or outside of the country… suspects can choose a lawyer or lawyers from the Bar Association who are approved by the judiciary.”
According to Article 1 of the Political Crimes Law, “Every crime mentioned in Article 2 of this law, if committed against the country’s internal or external political statesmen, with the intention to reform state affairs, will be considered a political crime, even if the perpetrator has no intention to strike at the state’s very foundation.”
Examples of the crimes listed in Article 2 include, “insulting or defaming the heads of the three branches of state (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary), vice presidents, ministers and members of Parliament.”