15 Iran MPs Urge New Judiciary Chief To Stop Renewed Crackdown On Freedom Of Speech

During a speech addressing Iran’s legislature, member of Parliament (MP) Parvaneh Salahshouri strongly criticized the recent crackdown on journalists and workers’ rights advocates and called on recently appointed Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi to uphold the rule of law.

A group of MPs subsequently called on Raisi to rescind recent harsh prison sentences that have been issued against several individuals including journalists and activists who were arrested during a Labor Day rally in Tehran on May 1, 2019.

“There are young women inside prison crying for justice these days,” said Salahshouri, a prominent reformist and former leader of the Women’s Faction in Parliament, on September 1, 2019.

“Even though social freedoms have been defined by Article 27 of the Constitution, several people were imprisoned for making trade union demands at a protest rally near Parliament on Labor Day,” she added. “Some of the detainees were released but a number of others are still in prison.”

Article 27 of the Constitution states, “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”

“Also, Marzieh Amiri and Atefeh Rangriz were recently sentenced to very heavy prison terms of 10 or 11 years, in addition to lashes, only because they were present at a street protest,” added Salahshouri. “What is regrettable is that those found guilty [government officials] of embezzlement… have been given only 15 years in prison. Is this Islamic justice?”

Amiri, a reporter for the reformist Shargh newspaper in Tehran, was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison and 148 lashes by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court on August 25, 2019, under several charges including “assembly and collusion against national security,” “disturbing public order” and “propaganda against the state.”

If upheld upon appeal, she would have to serve at least six years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.

Rangriz, a workers’ rights activist, was sentenced to 11.6 years in prison and 74 lashes after being arrested at the Labor Day rally.

Fellow workers’ rights activist Neda Naji, who was also arrested at that rally, is in Evin Prison awaiting trial.

Salahshouri also referred to the detainment of film and theater photographer Nooshin Jafari, “whose cries for justice have gone viral on social media.”

“I call upon the ministries of intelligence and justice as well as the judiciary to demonstrate Islamic mercy toward young people who, in their youthful passion, carry out protests,” she said.

The MP continued: “When Hojatoleslam [Ebrahim] Raisi became the Judiciary Chief (in March 2019), his statements reminded the people of the meaning of justice and due process. But unfortunately, we are again witnessing the same kind of sentences preferred by the previous Judiciary Chief [Sadegh Larijani].”

During his commencement ceremony on March 11, 2019, Raisi, who was appointed to head the judiciary by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, acknowledged the public’s concern over arbitrary arrests and the imprisonment of individuals for their peaceful actions.

“According to public opinion polls, the people are still concerned about the implementation of justice. More than ever, the people demand to see the implementation of justice at various levels,” he said.

But the conservative cleric, who participated in “death commissions” that ordered the extrajudicial executions of thousands of prisoners in Iran in 1988, did not offer any direct plan for preventing miscarriages of justice in Iran:

“The implementation of justice is considered an important pillar by all sections of society, the officials and the judicial system. And it has always been emphasized by the leaders of the revolution as one of the fundamental points in religious thought, the Constitution and relevant laws. Therefore it is necessary that we all reach an understanding about the implementation of justice.”

A day after Salashouri’s speech, on September 2, she and 14 other MPs sent a letter to Raisi reminding him that peacefully attending demonstrations is not a crime.

“Recently people have been disturbed by the heavy sentences imposed on a number of journalists, including Marzieh Amiri, Atefeh Rangriz and Neda Naji, for being present at the Labor Day gathering by workers in front of Parliament,” said the letter.

“If they were prosecuted for being present at a gathering, that is not a crime,” continued the letter. “And if they have been found guilty of covering a gathering, they were only doing their professional duty. The same can be said of the way civil activist Nooshin Jafari has been treated.”

Since August 4, 2019, Jafari has been in detention under unspecified national security charges. On August 21, her friend released a tearful audio message containing Jafari’s voice that has raised serious concerns for her safety.

Jafari’s sister, Shahrzad Jafari, was arrested on September 1 after posting several tweets criticizing the authorities’ treatment of Jafari.

But they did not mention satirist Keyomars Marzban, who was recently sentenced to 23.9 years in prison for working for foreign media outlets under the charges of “contact with U.S. enemy state,” “insulting the sacred,” “insulting the supreme leader,” “propaganda against the state” and “insulting officials.”

The letter was signed by reformist MPs Salahshouri, Tayebeh Siavashi, Hamideh Zarabadi, Mahmoud SadeghiElias Hazrati, Gholamreza Heydari, Ali Nobakht, Ghasem Mirzaie Nikoo, Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh, Mostafa Kavakebian, Farajollah Rajabi, Mohammad Reza Tabesh, Bahram Parsaie, Alireza Rahimi, and independent MP Ali Motahari.

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