September 10, 2019
In a statement on Monday, September 9, Amnesty International (AI) lambasted the Islamic Republic for issuing harsh sentences against Iranian civil and labor activists.
Two days earlier, a Revolutionary Court had sentenced four journalists and three civil and labor rights activists between six and eighteen years in prison.
AI insists that they were all sentenced on “bogus” national security charges.
“These outrageous sentences are just the latest to be meted out by Iran’s cruel justice system and expose the authorities’ complete disregard for journalists and workers’ rights,” Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther, said.
According to Luther, these individuals are blatantly being targeted and punished for their work defending human rights and for publicizing human rights violations.
“This disgraceful injustice must be reversed. We call on the Iranian authorities to quash these unjust verdicts and cruel sentences and immediately and unconditionally release all seven individuals,” Luther asserted.
Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Mohammad Moqisseh, recently sentenced 24-year-old Ms. Sepideh Qolyan to seven years for “collusion and action against the national security,” seven years for “contributing to an electronic magazine”, one and a half year for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic regime,” two and a half years for disseminating false information.”
Five other activists, including the spokesman of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Plant’s independent union, Esmaeil Bakhshi, have also been sentenced to eighteen years each; an unusually harsh punishment even by Islamic Republic practice.
Mid-ranking cleric, Judge Mohammad Moqisseh (Moghiseh, also nicknamed as Haj Nasser, and Nasserian) is notorious for issuing harsh sentences against political, civil, and labor activists.
Moqisseh sentenced Esmail Bakhshi to a total of thirteen and a half years in prison and 74 lashes after convicting him of charges including “spreading lies,” “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.”
Furthermore, Sepideh Qolyan and journalists Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Sanaz Alahyari, Asal Mohammadi and Amir Amirqoli (Amirgholi) were each sentenced to eighteen years in prison after being convicted of charges including “membership of a group with the purpose of disrupting national security” for their work at an online magazine called Gam (Step), which reports on social justice issues, including labor rights.
Judge Moqisseh also sentenced labor rights activist Mohammad Khanifar to six years in prison for spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic and gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.
“The international community, including EU states, which have an ongoing dialogue with Iran, must step up its efforts and demand the Iranian authorities immediately stop targeting journalists and human rights defenders and end their increasingly ruthless campaign to quash what little remains of Iran’s civil society,” Philip Luther noted.
Meanwhile, the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) also blasted the Islamic Republic justice system for harsh sentences against young journalists, civil, and labor rights activists.
Less than a year after workers’ rights activists in southwestern Iran publicized evidence that Intelligence Ministry agents had tortured detainees, those same activists and four independent journalists who covered their cases have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, CHRI reported on Monday, September 9.
“The sentences are an indicator that newly appointed Judiciary Chief Ehrabim Raeisi intends to prolong his predecessor’s reign of repression by punishing peaceful activism through arbitrary arrests and kangaroo courts,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the CHRI.