Conviction of Iranian lawyers condemned
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(September 28, 2000, New York)--Human Rights Watch today condemned the
conviction by a court in Tehran of two Iranian human rights lawyers on
charges of defamation and disseminating false information. Mohsen Rahami
and Shirin Ebadi were both given suspended prison sentences of fifteen
months and banned from practicing law for five years by Court Branch 16.
The two lawyers were accused of having produced a videotape of an informant
who alleged the involvement of senior government officials and conservative
clerics in orchestrating acts of political violence against reformists
and dissidents. The man featured in the videotape, Amir Farshad Ebrahimi,
a former member of Ansar Hezbollah, was sentenced to two years of imprisonment
on the same charges.
Mr. Rahami is a prominent lawyer who defended the former minister of
the Interior, Abdullah Nouri, as well as 400 students attacked by Tehran
police and extremists during peaceful protests for press freedom in July
1999. Ms. Ebadi is well known for her work on children's and women's rights.
"This prosecution punishes these lawyers because they are prominent
human rights activists," said Hanny Megally, executive director of
the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch.
Moreover, the two lawyers and Mr. Ebrahimi were not allowed a fair trial
in accordance with either Iranian or international law. All the defendants
were held for weeks in pre-trial detention without access to legal counsel.
Mr. Ebrahimi did not have access to legal counsel until the final two hearings
in the case and the court did not examine the validity of Ebrahimi's allegations.
The political nature of the trial appeared to be underscored by the
publication of the verdict in government controlled media before the defendants
or their legal representatives were informed.
Human Rights Watch is calling for the convictions against the defendants
to be dismissed. The two lawyers should be permitted to resume their practices
and Mr. Ebrahimi should be released from prison. If there is evidence of
the involvement of any of the defendants in criminal activities then they
should be charged and given a fair, public trial in accordance with international
For more information, please contact: Hanny Megally (in New York),
+212 216 1230 Joe Stork (in Washington, DC), +202 612 4327 Urmi Shah (in
London), +44 20 7713 1995 Jean-Paul Marthoz (in Brussels), +32 2 732 2009