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11/01/10

Prominent Iranian Rights Lawyer Sentenced To Nine Years In Prison

By Golnaz Esfandiari RFE/RL
 

Laywer Mohammad Seifzadeh has been sentenced to nine years in prison.
Iran has sentenced a prominent human rights lawyer, Mohammad Seifzadeh, to nine years in prison and a 10-year ban from practicing law. 

Seifzadeh was charged with "acting against national security" by establishing the Center for Human Rights Defenders, which he co-founded with Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi and two other lawyers, Abdolfatah Soltani and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah (who are also being prosecuted on similar charges).

In an interview with Radio Farda's Azadeh Assadi, Seifzadeh rejected the charges against him and said he will appeal his sentence. 

Authorities have said that the center, which issued regular reports about human rights violations in the country, did not have a license.

Seifzadeh said the previous administration had agreed to issue a license to the group but that after President Mahmud Ahmadinejad came to power, the situation changed.

"The ministry and the government, who are against anyone who does not share their way of thinking, did not give us the license," Seifzadeh said. "Therefore, the Interior Ministry should be prosecuted, not me."

In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Ebadi condemned the sentence and called on the UN's Human Rights Commission to react.   

"This unjust sentence demonstrates that the Iranian judiciary's independence is vanishing with each passing day," Ebadi said. "Noting the 1999 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, I call on the high commissioner for human rights to react to this development and request that she recommends acquittal of Mr. Seifzadeh and reminds the Iranian government of its obligations under the declaration."

Ebadi and other activists have warned against the persecution of human rights defenders in Iran.  

Two lawyers who have defended political prisoners, student activists, and child offenders are currently in jail in Iran. Nasrin Sotoudeh has reportedly been held in solitary confinement since her arrest in early September. Mohammad Oliyaifard is serving a one-year jail term over a media interview he gave about one of his clients.

Sotoudeh last week called off a monthlong hunger strike she had been holding to protest prison conditions. 


Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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