From the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners



September 6, 2021

Editors’ note: We received the following from the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners.

Dear Signer of the Emergency Appeal:

You’re needed to help solve a problem and advance the struggle to Free Iran’s political prisoners.

Currently, out of over 2700+ total signers, there are just two practicing attorneys in the U.S., two in England, one in Hong Kong and one in Paris who have signed the Appeal as attorneys. This is not commensurate with the dire situation facing Iran’s political prisoners, including the recent and escalating attacks on defense lawyers, which directly affects them and their clients’ ability to get any semblance of justice.

So help broaden this fight by circulating this letter to any attorneys, legal associations or human rights groups you know. This would be a real help in getting scores of them worldwide to demand freedom for Iran’s arrested attorneys and all its political prisoners. Contact us with any questions or suggestions, and feel free to personalize this message if need be.

In struggle and solidarity,

The International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners

* * * * *

Political prisoner Raheleh Ahmadi, in response the August 14 arrests of several defense attorneys and activists as they were preparing a legal brief, issued a letter from Evin Prison that asks the Islamic Republic regime, “What are you looking for by arresting and increasing pressure on lawyers?” She then answers with “…to crush their hopes and aspirations.”

NO! This is unacceptable! Join with the Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s political prisoners by demanding freedom for these imprisoned lawyers and signing and circulating the Appeal that was published as a full back page ad in The New York Review of BooksYou’ll be joining with some of the most prominent voices of conscience of our time, including Noam ChomskyAriel Dorfman, Jody WilliamsGloria SteinemCornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Gayatri C. SpivakJudith Butler, Naomi Wallace and many more. And donate to publish it even more broadly.

At this moment, the political prisoner and Kurdish activist Heidar Ghorbani is facing imminent execution in Iran after being tried and sentenced to death without a lawyer and after being tortured.

Meanwhile, Iran’s escalating criminalization of defense attorneys is extremely ominous for the entire society and directly impacts the fate of all political prisoners—and whether they will have any rights that the Islamic regime is bound to respect.

The alarm needs to be sounded urgently to stand with Iran’s legal community. Below are some of the most egregious, but far from atypical, attacks on defense lawyers in Iran that demand immediate attention.

*Nasrin Sotoudeh is serving a 38 year and 148 lashes sentence. “In the courts and on the streets, Nasrin has long fought for the rights of women, children, LGBT prisoners, religious minorities, journalists and artists, and those facing the death penalty.” She had earlier spent three years in prison on a similar political conviction in 2010.

Left to right: Lawyers Arash Keykhosravi, Mostafa Nili and Mehdi Mahmoudian

*Mustafa Nili has only been allowed a 10 second phone call since his arrest with several other lawyers and activists on August 14. He was a student activist arrested during the 2009 Green movement in Iran and imprisoned for over 3 years. He became a defense lawyer after his release, and is now the lawyer for many of Iran’s most persecuted political prisoners, including those from the Baluchi minority. He is also the lawyer for Nahid Taghavi, Mehran Raouf, Bahareh Soleimani, Somayeh Kargar and Nazanin Mohammadnejad, who were recently accused of belonging to communist and other banned organizations and sentenced unjustly. At the time of his arrest, Nili was preparing to file an appeal on their behalf.

*Arash Keykhosravi was arrested in August with Mustafa Nili and others. Less than a month before, he was arrested and beaten by Iran’s police along with other rights activists during a rally in support of the uprising in Khuzestan over lack of water and oppression of the minority Arab people. He, along with Nili and journalist Mehdi Mahmoudian, are still being held by the regime and denied phone calls.

On August 25 the regime carried out warrantless and illegal raid on Keykhorsravi’s father’s home as well as the homes of Nili and Reza Faghihi, another lawyer who was arrested on that day but since released. They are all falsely charged with the sham catch-all, but threatening charge, of “running an illegal organization.”

In July 2021 three more human rights lawyers were sentenced. Javad Alikordi, a defense attorney and law professor, began serving his two-year sentence for allegedly running a Telegram messaging app social media channel. Amirsalar Davoudi, another defense attorney, was also imprisoned for running a Telegram channel. He was re-issued a punishment of 111 lashes and a 30-year prison sentence that had been initially revoked, and must now serve 15 years of this sentence. And defense attorney Mohammad Najafi, imprisoned in 2018 for speaking publicly about the death of a street protester in police custody, must now serve 10 years in prison, according to Iranian human rights lawyer Saeid Dehghan.

Escalating attacks: Iran’s Judiciary now mandates that defendants in security cases choose a defense lawyer from a list approved by the regime. The Center for Human Rights in Iran also reports the Islamic Republic has transferred authority for issuing law licenses from Iran’s Bar Association (IBA) to the regime’s judiciary, which can now deny or revoke licenses, powers previously vested in the IBA.

All these actions are completely illegal, illegitimate, and directly contrary to principles considered fundamental to any just society ever since the Magna Carta. This includes the right to habeas corpus, the principle of innocent until proven guilty, the right to a fair and impartial trial, and the right to adequate counsel of one’s choice, among others.

Renowned author, playwright and human rights activist Ariel Dorfman powerfully captures the Emergency Appeal’s importance and impact when he wrote the following to the campaign:

If I have signed on to the Emergency Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran, it is because I know that this initiative will effectively call attention to the situation of men and women in that country who, if enough pressure is brought to bear on its leaders, could tomorrow be liberated from terrible conditions and extraordinary injustice. And even if those leaders do not listen, I am convinced—from personal experience—that the prisoners themselves are given strength to survive and persevere, they are listening. They know others, faraway, care what happens to them, and we should not let them down.