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IRAN: A year after the death of Mahsa Jîna Amini, the family lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, is brought to trial for carrying out his profession

26 September 2023

The wave of protests following the death in custody of Mahsa Jîna Amini, a young Kurdish woman from Iran, aged 22, arrested for “improperly wearing the hijab” triggered a violent crackdown that resulted in numerous executions and mass arrests of protesters and human rights activists, including many lawyers.

As September marks the sad anniversary of Mahsa Jîna Amini’s death in custody, the family’s lawyer is being targeted by the Iranian authorities, accused of undermining the Islamic regime.

Saleh Nikbakht has been charged with “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” and faces a prison sentence of up to one year for his statement to the press in September 2022 that Mahsa Jîna Amini’s family had filed a complaint against the police officers who arrested and interrogated her.

The trial of lawyer Nikbakht, who is also President of the Association of Political Prisoners, began on Tuesday 29 August 2023 before the 28th Chamber of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

Prominent lawyer, human rights defender and academic of Kurdish origin, Saleh Nikbakht defended many Iranian opponents and elected representatives in 2009 following the “green movement” that followed Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s controversial and corrupt presidential election. As a result, he was subjected to persecution and banned from leaving Iran on several occasions for carrying out his profession, in particular defending minorities.

Saleh Nikbakht also defended Jafar Panahi, the Iranian filmmaker who won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Panahi was arrested in July 2022 for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”, and was released on bail in February 2023 after seven months of detention.

At the age of 72, Saleh Nikbakht is one of a long line of lawyers targeted by Iran’s Islamic regime, which persists in its brutal repression and shows no tolerance for popular and democratic expression.

 

The Observatory expresses its indignation over the proceedings brought against Saleh Nikbakht, who courageously exercises his profession as a lawyer.

The Observatory is concerned about the persecution of lawyers in Iran.

The Observatory calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure the free and unhindered exercise of the legal profession in accordance with the United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted in Havana in 1990.

The Observatory recalls that, in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular principles 16, 17, 27 and 28:

Principle 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.”

Principle 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”

Principle 27: Charges or complaints made against lawyers in their professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under appropriate procedures. Lawyers shall have the right to a fair hearing, including the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their choice.”

Principle 28: Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers shall be brought before an impartial disciplinary committee established by the legal profession, before an independent statutory authority, or before a court, and shall be subject to an independent judicial review.”