Human Rights Lawyers, Activist to Be Illegally Tried as Their Legal Team is Denied Case Files
- Group was Arrested Ahead of Filing Lawsuit Against State Officials for Disastrous Pandemic Response
- Legal Teams of Defendants Denied Access to Case Files, Homes Raided
- Detainees Were Pressured to Sign Pledges Promising to Withdraw Any Lawsuits
October 12, 2021 – The ongoing detention of Iranian defense lawyers Mostafa Nili and Arash Keykhosravi as well as civil rights activist Mehdi Mahmoudian, who were all held in solitary confinement for 23 days while being denied legal counsel and phone calls to their relatives, is a violation of Iranian law and all international standards of due process.
In addition, the defendants’ legal teams have been denied access to their case files, another blatant violation of fair trial standards, thereby preventing them from preparing a proper defense.
“This case is the clearest example to date of the Iranian judiciary’s determination to completely deny due process to those accused of peacefully challenging the state’s repressive policies,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“We’re witnessing the lawyers of detained human rights lawyers being denied access to their case files because the state fears these courageous individuals,” added Ghaemi. “It wants to strip them of their power because they are the last lifeline of those targeted by the state for peaceful dissent.”
Keykhosravi, Nili, and Mahmoudian were unlawfully arrested on August 14, 2021, as they were planning to file a lawsuitagainst Iran’s supreme leader, president, health minister, and members of the National Headquarters to Combat Coronavirus including the prosecutor general for causing the deaths of huge numbers of Iranians through their negligent and incompetent response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Iran has experienced the highest COVID infection and death rates in the Middle East, and one of the highest in the world.
The three are scheduled to be tried on October 13, 2021, along with Mohammad Reza Faghihi (lawyer), and Maryam Afrafaraz (civil activist), who are free on bail.
While noting the unlawful nature of the entire judicial process against the defendants, CHRI calls on the Iranian judiciary to try them in a public court to allow the public to witness every step of the trial in a case that is directly tied to the interests of all citizens.
“While Iran’s judiciary has refused to hold accountable those responsible for the current pandemic crisis, it is seeking the maximum punishment against lawyers and peaceful activists for demanding accountability,” said Ghaemi. “This is nothing but judicial tyranny.”
Trial Moves Ahead despite Blatant Violations of Due Process
“I went to Branch 29 of the Revolutionary Court today [on October 4] and asked to read the case file but was denied,” Saeed Khalili, the lawyer representing Mohammad Reza Faghihi tweeted. “They said come back on Saturday or Sunday but that’s not enough time to examine the case and prepare a defense.”
Based on Article 343 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, court hearings should not be held fewer than seven days after the summons has been issued, to allow time for a proper defense to be prepared.
In response to their upcoming trial, Nili, Keykhosravi and Mahmoudian wrote a joint letter to the Central Supervisory Board on Proper Enforcement of the Law and Respect for Legitimate Freedoms and Protection of Citizens’ Rights detailing their unlawful arrest and detention, and objecting to the “denial of personal freedom and prevention from seeking justice,” “unethical and unlawful behavior by Intelligence Ministry and Judiciary agents,” “deviation from impartiality by the interrogator and the head of intelligence at Evin Court,” and “failure to press charges quickly.”
The letter points to “violations of the law in ignoring repeated requests to access and choose lawyers,” “failure to present cause during the reading of charges,” and “overlooking objections to warrants issued by judicial authorities.”
The authors also condemned the illegal raids of their homes and confiscations of belongings as “breaches of the right to personal privacy.”
Pointing to their 23 days in solitary confinement in Evin Prison’s Ward 241, which is controlled by the judiciary’s intelligence division, the three stressed: “This action was a clear example of torture and a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 38 of the Constitution. The investigations had ended 16 days after our detention, but they continued to hold us under extraordinary and illegal conditions to put more pressure on us and to intimidate and terrorize the public.”
“During solitary confinement inside the judiciary’s security ward we were subjected to psychological pressure only because on August 14, 2021, we refused to sign a pledge not to file a lawsuit against the supreme leader and other judicial and government officials,” the letter added.
Read this press release in Persian.