IRAN: Iranian lawyer Mohammad Najafi imprisoned on false charges and not allowed to have medical care
14 March 2023
The Observatory learns with concern about the situation of Iranian lawyer Mohammad Najafi, who has been imprisoned since 2016 and is facing eleven convictions for his peaceful stance, including for reacting in defence of protests against the Iranian government and publishing audio files recorded in prison.
For more than ten years, Mohammad Najafi has been the subject of false accusations, and despite numerous official guarantors, two sponsorships and large sums of bail paid (2 billion tomans), the lawyer is still in detention and, since 21 September 2022, Mohammad Najafi has been banned from all contact, without being notified of this decision.
He has also been denied the treatment he should receive, to the detriment of medical recommendations, and testifies to psychological torture suffered in prison, as well as numerous pressures on his family, including a complaint against his son and the summoning of his sister to the Arak Prosecutor’s Office. This increase in pressure on the lawyer and his family is said to follow his denunciation to the supervisory judge of the prison and the director, of the illegal behaviour of certain prison employees, who allegedly use threats and psychological torture on the demonstrators detained following the recent protests.
Concern about the situation of Mohammad Najafi is heightened by the fact that his lawyers themselves are prevented from defending him, with Nasrin Sotoudeh banned from working and Arash Kikhosravi and Mustafa Nili also imprisoned.
The Observatory condemns in the strongest possible terms the sentencing and detention of lawyer Mohammad Najafi.
The Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to grant the lawyer’s request for medical treatment and to respect the medical recommendations related to it, but also to stop all means of pressure against the lawyer and his family.
Faced with this situation, the Observatory recalls the United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular principles 16, 17 and 23:
Principle 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all their professional functions without hindrance, intimidation, harassment or undue interference;(…)”
Principle 17: “Where the safety of lawyers is threatened in the exercise of their functions, they shall be adequately protected by the authorities.”
Principle 23: “Lawyers, like all other citizens, shall enjoy freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. (…) “
IRAN: Lawyer Mohammad Najafi who was detained several times, is arrested again 4 days after his release
8 april 2019
Mohammad Najafi is an Iranian lawyer who defended many political prisoners.
In January 2018, he informed the media about the case of Vahid Heydari, a man who died during his detention at the Arak prison after having been arrested during protests on December 31st, 2017. Authorities then evoked a suicide – as in the case of Kavous Seyed-Emami (a Canadian environmental activist) and Sina Ghanbari, both died in detention. Mohammad Najafi went to Shazand and led his own investigations; he then published his conclusions (that Heydari was killed by State agents) on Instagram.
Following these events, Mohammad Najafi was arrested, and was not released before April 17th 2018. He had to pay a 1 million Iranian Tomans bail (approximately 237 000 $). In May, Najafi reported to the Iranian Center for Human Rights that a member of the Revolutionary Guards had explicitly told him that authorities would paralyze him by constantly prosecuting and detaining him.
In October 2018, Mohammad Najafi was arrested again and put in detention. He was condemned to 3 years of imprisonment and 74 lashes for “disturbing the State” and “publishing lies”.
Despite Judge Abdollahi’s press statements (confirming Najafi’s conviction), no proof was given that the lawyer had effectively worked “with opponents to the State and enemies of the Iranian people”, as he was accused of.
The crackdown then intensified: Mohammad Najafi was condemned on December 11th, 2018 to 13 additional years of imprisonment (10 years for “collaborating with enemy States through transfer of information”, 2 years for “propaganda against the State”, and 1 year for “insult to the Supreme leader”).
A few days later (December 15th), Mohammad Najafi was again condemned to 1 year of imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court of Shazand for “publishing lies on Internet (…) with the intent of disturbing the public opinion”. What was targeted was a letter published by the lawyer on Facebook, in which he criticized the Supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
According to his lawyer, the charges on which the sentences are based make it very unlikely for Najafi to be granted an early release. Indeed, according to Article 134 of the Iranian Criminal procedure code, when a person is convicted of more than 3 charges, the judge has the possibility to exceed the maximum sentence set for each charge. It is the same mechanism that allowed judges to condemn Nasrin Sotoudeh to an extremely heavy sentence.
On April 1st, 2019, just 4 days after his release from the Arak prison, Mohammad Najafi was arrested again.
The OIAD firmly condemns the crackdown suffered by Mohammad Najafi and calls on Iranian authorities to release him immediately and without conditions, as for Nasrin Sotoudeh, Amir Salar Davoodi and all the Iranian lawyers who are prosecuted or imprisoned due to the legitimate exercise of their profession.
The OIAD furthermore demands that Iranian authorities respect the fundamental principles of the rights of the defense, and consequently that they withdraw the list of 20 State-approved lawyers to whom persons accused of crimes against the national security must resort to.
Iranian authorities are also expected to comply with the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990), which state that “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 n° 16).
Who are we?
The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger was created by the National Bar Council (France), the Paris Bar (France), the Consejo General de la Abogacía Espanola (Spain), and the Consiglio Nazionale Forense (Italy). Its goal is to conduct a constant monitoring on lawyers facing threats around the world because they lawfully practice their profession and to provide assistance to attorneys whose lives, freedom or practice are threatened.