Ten Detained Political Activists and Environmentalists Denied Counsel in Iran’s Kurdistan Province
Ten political activists and environmentalists arrested in Iran’s Kurdistan Province between December 31, 2018, and January 6, 2019, are being held at the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in the city of Sanandaj while being denied access to legal counsel and contact with family members.
Eight of the detainees are members of the Kurdish branch of the Iran National Unity Party (INUP) and two others had allegedly engaged in peaceful environmental activism, a party source with knowledge about their cases told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) February 5.
As of February 5, they had only been allowed to make one phone call to their families, said the source who asked not to be identified for security reasons.
“It started on January 31 with the arrest of three people and by January 6 a total of ten people had been taken into custody in Sanandaj and Kamyaran,” said the source.
Added the source: “We heard nothing for a week until they made a short call to their families to say they had been arrested and were okay. Since then, they have not met with their lawyers or family members and it’s not clear what they have been accused of. The authorities are not responding to family inquiries.”
News about the arrests was first published by the Kurdistan Human Rights Network website. Those taken into custody include Farhad Mohammadi, the secretary of the INUP’s Kurdish branch in Sanandaj; Zanyar Zamiran, the party’s former deputy secretary in Sanandaj; Hadi Kamangar, the party’s senior official in Kamyaran; Fazel Gheytasi, a party member in Kamyaran; Reza Asadi, a party member in Kamyaran; Amanj Ghorbani, the chairman of the party’s regional environmental committee and an official in the Department of the Environment in Kamyaran; Issa Feyzi, a member of the party’s environmental committee in Kamyaran; and Rashed Montazeri, a former party member in Kamyaran.
In addition, Hossein Kamangar and Bakhtiar Kamangar, two political activists mainly concerned with environmental issues, were arrested during the same period in Kamyaran and taken to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in Sanandaj, according to CHRI’s source.
The INUP’s Kurdish branch was launched in 2015 with a license from the Interior Ministry. Its mission statement states: “The country of Iran… is in the process of transforming from a traditional society to a modern one. As part of our national duty as the children of this land, we have decided to create a civil institution called the Iran National Unity Party in order to protect our precious heritage and bring about a happy, dynamic and prosperous society capable of meeting the material and spiritual needs of our compatriots.”
CHRI’s source said the party had organized public education classes on issues such as civil society, the environment, social upheavals and natural disasters.
Party members were among first responders after an earthquake hit the region in November 2018, the source added.
Hossein Khosheghbal, the deputy governor of Kurdistan in charge of security, alleged that under the cover of environmental activities the detainees had engaged in criminal activities, specifically playing a role in the murder of an ambulance driver in July 2018.
“Following our investigations and security leads from intelligence agencies, a number of contacts and agents for anti-revolutionary groups who were working under the guise of environmental activities have been identified and arrested for being responsible for the martyrdom of a Red Crescent ambulance driver and will be treated in accordance with the law,” Khosheghbal said in an interview with the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) on January 8.
On January 27th, the INUP denied the claims in a statement.
“Officials and members of the INUP’s Kurdish branch have been arrested without a true understanding of the party’s activities and without considering society’s guaranteed rights,” it said. “The INUP strongly condemns the arrests and the way the state views the party as a security threat.”
On January 25, a group of 59 attorneys in Iran issued a statement calling for the immediate release of the detainees, especially Farhad Mohammadi, a prominent lawyer in the province.
“It is unlawful to summon and arrest a person without sufficient cause,” the statement said. “We call upon bar association members and legal advisers not to remain silent and carry out their duty to defend detained lawyers.
“Secondly, we urge the judicial authorities who issued the arrest warrants to suspend their decision by taking into consideration all aspects of a fair legal process … and take steps to free detained lawyers.”
Security forces in Iran including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Intelligence Ministry launched several crackdowns on lawyers, environmental activists and dissidents in 2018.
At least eight lawyers who have worked on human rights issues in Iran, including prominent attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, were jailed that year as well as nine members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
Many of them are facing years of imprisonment for their peaceful activities.