Iran jailing lawyers, even those defending Christian converts
More than 30 lawyers have been detained; three of them have defended converts from Islam. Two journalists who first reported on Mahsa Amini's death face five years in prison. So far, the crackdown by Iran’s clerical regime has left 321 people dead, including 50 children, with almost 15,000 people taken into custody.
Tehran (AsiaNews) – Lawyers are the latest group facing the wrath of Iran’s clerical regime after students, activists, and journalists. The crackdown was sparked by a massive wave of protests triggered by the killing of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, by the morality police.
In recent weeks, more than 30 lawyers, including at least three who have defended Christians arrested for converting from Islam, have ended up in prison.
Since the start of the protest almost two months ago, thousands of people have been arrested.
More than 200 lawmakers are demanding harsh penalties for protesters, including the death penalty.
Hossein Ahmadiniaz, an Iranian activist now living in the Netherlands, told Article18 that many of the arrested lawyers are well-known figures.
Some of whom had offered free legal advice to protesters, and “demanded the establishment of a legal commission to protect the rights of detainees, including the right of access to a lawyer.”
For 43 years, he explains, the Islamic Republic has continuously expressed its hostility to the bar association and “illegally detained, tortured and imprisoned, or forced (people) to flee from Iran.”
Three jailed lawyers – Bahar Sahraian, Mustafa Nili, and Babak Paknia (pictured) – defended Christians tried for "illegal conversion”.
The first one represented a couple, Sam Khosravi and Maryam Fallahi, whose adopted daughter Lydia was removed from their care by order of the court since they had converted to Christianity, and could not raise the child who was considered Muslim from birth.
Another couple, Sara Ahmadi and Homayoun Zhaveh, were given a combined sentence of 10 years. They are currently in Evin prison, where the 64-year-old husband, Homayoun, is in precarious health suffering from advanced-stage Parkinson.
Last week, the second lawyer, Mustafa Nili, defended three converts – Ahmad Sarparast, Morteza Mashoodkari, and Ayoob Poor-Rezazadeh – already serving a five-year jail sentence.
Babak Paknia, Mustafa's colleague, has also defended Christians on several occasions; he has also supported the campaign in favour of his colleague Iman Soleimani, in the crosshairs of the authorities for his pro-rights activism.
According to the latest information, six of the arrested lawyers, including Paknia, were released on bail. However, the vast majority remain in pre-trial detention.
This and other serious violations have prompted Iranian 40 lawyers, plus some living abroad, to sign an open letter that is highly critical of Iran’s judiciary.
Instead, of “defend[ing] the rights of citizens”, the legal system has become a “despotic” and “corrupt” force that uses “false ‘security’ charges” to commit abuses and violations.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have charged journalists Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi with “collusion to act against national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic”. The two were among the first to report on Mahsa Amini's death and the first protests during her funeral.
Their fate should be decided in the coming days. It is not yet clear if the trial will be held behind closed doors; nevertheless, a conviction seems likely. Both could get up to five years in prison.
Despite the brutal crackdown by Iran’s clerics, the largest popular protests since the Islamic revolution of 1979 do not seem to be waning. Some 321 people have been reportedly killed so far, including 50 children, this according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).
Since the unrest began, nearly 15,000 people have been arrested.
According to the latest news, at some university, student groups have called for a day of remembrance for the victims of repression.