IRAN: Lawyer Mohammad Najafi who was detained several times, is arrested again 4 days after his release
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.