Human Rights Lawyer Mohammad Najafi Facing 19 Years Behind Bars in Iran
Najafi Jailed for Demanding Justice for Detainee Who Died in State Custody
Imprisoned human rights attorney Mohammad Najafi was sentenced to two more years in prison in Iran on January 22, 2019—bringing the total number of years he has been condemned to serve to 19.
The sentences have been issued over the course of several trials held over the last few months. In the latest trial at Branch 102 of the Criminal Court in Shazand, Markazi Province, the 43-year-old was also fined four million tomans (approximately $950 USD), his lawyer Payam Derafshan told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Derafshan noted that the sentence was based on comments Najafi had posted on Instagram for which he had already been found guilty and sentenced.
In addition to the three-year prison sentence Najafi has been serving since October 2018, he has also been issued preliminary sentences totaling 14 more years behind bars.
On December 11, 2018, Najafi was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the charges of “collaboration with enemy states through transferring news and information in interviews” (10 years), “propaganda against the state” (two years) and “insulting the supreme leader” (one year) by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Arak.
On December 15, Branch 102 of the Criminal Court in Shazand also sentenced Najafi to one year in prison for the charge of “publishing falsehoods in cyberspace with a phone and computer with the intention to disturb public opinion.”
On January 15, 2019, Najafi was transferred from Arak Central Prison to the nearby city of Shazand to face the charge of “disturbing public opinion” in connection with a letter he posted on Facebook on September 8, 2018, criticizing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,
The letter said: “Mr. Khamenei! Our generation is crushed under your burning feet! Our days are as black as your turban. Remove your cape from neighboring countries. Don’t spend our resources on your Shia ideology. We have enough troubles inside the country with graft and corruption. Don’t try to step on world leaders. We have been frozen in time for 40 years and fighting the world in sensitive times while many of our poor cannot clothe themselves or buy bread.”
Despite Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s claim that “no one under the Islamic Republic is pursued or put under pressure for being opposed to the government,” scores of activists, dissidents and other citizens have been imprisoned in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution for criticizing state policies.
Najafi is currently imprisoned in Arak Central Prison, in Arak, the capital of Markazi Province.
In his interview with CHRI, Najafi’s lawyer expressed concern that multiple convictions could reduce the chances of him eventually being granted early release according to Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, which states that “prisoners convicted of no more than three charges would have to serve “only the maximum punishment provided for each offense.”
However, the article goes on to note that “if the offenses committed are more than three, [the court] shall impose more than the maximum punishment provided for each crime provided that it does not exceed more than the maximum plus one half of each punishment.”
Najafi has been imprisoned since October 28, 2018, fourteen months after he informed media outlets about the suspicious case of Vahid Heydari, 22, who died in detention at the 12th Police Station in Arak sometime between the end of December 2017 and the beginning of January 2018.
Najafi told media outlets at the time that the authorities were trying to cover up the real reason for Heydari’s death by claiming he had committed suicide.
Iranian authorities claimed at least two other detainees “committed suicide” in custody in 2018: Iranian Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed-Emami and Sina Ghanbari.
Iran’s State Prisons Organization and the judiciary are responsible for ensuring the safety and well being of all detainees held in state custody but no one has been investigated or held responsible for these deaths. Instead, Iran’s judiciary has worked to silence those who have sought justice for the victims, including activists and human rights lawyers.
Najafi is one of two lawyers currently behind bars in Iran for performing their legal work. At least six other lawyers were imprisoned in 2018, including prominent attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, for defending political prisoners or taking on politically sensitive cases and for rejecting the state requirement that political detainees must only choose from a short list of state-approved lawyers for their defense.