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Questions for the Board of Directors of Iran's Bar Association

By Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iranian human rights lawyer (source: Rooz Online)

Nasrin SotoudehNasrin Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security and was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. In January 2011, Iranian authorities sentenced Sotoudeh to 11 years in prison, in addition to barring her from practicing law and from leaving the country for 20 years. An appeals court later reduced Sotoudeh's prison sentence to six years, and her ban from working as a lawyer to ten years.

Sotoudeh was released on 18 September 2013 along with ten other political prisoners, days before an address by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the United Nations. No explanation was given for her early release.

The 28th elections for the board of directors of Iran's Bar Association were held as:

  1. A large number of attorneys are still in prison because of their oath of professional commitment. In addition to the members of the bar association, there are many other attorneys who fall under article 187 but who are behind bars because they too have indicated their commitment to their professional oath.
  2. In the past many years, and particularly in recent years, many of our colleagues have been forced to leave Iran and they suffer from violence imposed on their private lives by those in power.
  3. Like in previous years, a large number of honest and good members of the legal profession have been disqualified by the judiciary branch. Furthermore, the judiciary and the ministry of intelligence do not seem to find any need to announce the reasons for their disqualification.
  4. These last elections took place as representatives of the ministry of intelligence, who through their recurrent and weekly presence at the association, repeatedly questioned the members of the board of directors and surprisingly the jurists of the association not only facilitated the continuous presence of these representatives but they even provided explanations about the association's legal activities. Furthermore, the ministry of intelligence officials not only frequently requested for the dossiers and history of the association's human rights attorneys, but association board members willingly provided these to them. But the representatives did not stop there and in addition to the legal steps they took to annul the licenses of these attorneys also embarked on unlawful pressures to accomplish their goals.

In view of the current conditions of the bar association it is only right that the following questions be answered:

Are attorneys who are wrongly in prison these days not entitled to a deserving defense? Does the bar association not have the power to defend its members? If this is the case then how do its members and officials plan to defend the rights of others?

How is it that every time elections take place for the board of directors of the association, qualified individuals are rejected without the announcement of even a single reason for their disqualification?

What is the rationale for the continuous presence of the representatives of the ministry of intelligence at the bar association, which is the symbol of law? More importantly, what is the conditions of the bar association that it is subjected to such questioning? Why do the jurists of this land reply to the unlawful questions of the representatives of the ministry of intelligence?

Iran's Bar Association

We expect the board of directors of the bar association to do the following:

  1. Provide deserving defense to its colleagues such as Abdol-Fattah Soltani and seyed Mohammad Seifzadeh, in addition to Mostafa Daneshjoo, Farshid Yadollahi, Omid Behrouzi and Amir Eslami.
  2. Stop the violence that is committed against the families of the bar community and the confiscation of property belonging to our colleagues who have been forced to leave Iran. I assure you that there are many cases where the rights of the families of our colleagues are repeatedly violated.
  3. The legal community should come up with ways to stop the unlawful and unaccounted disqualification of its members because this is a flagrant interference in the independent bar association by officials.
  4. Since the head of the bar association enjoys the same stature as the attorney general, stop the interfering and illegal presence of the representatives of the ministry of intelligence in the bar association so that our colleagues can perform their professional work in a calm atmosphere and without fear and external pressure.

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