Geoffrey Robertson QC
Doughty Street Chambers
54 Doughty Street
London WC1N 2LS
Re: Persecution of Iranian Lawyers
Date: October 13, 2010
Dear Mr. Robertson,
I regret that it has become necessary to write to you again regarding the situation of lawyers in Iran.
As noted previously, I have read with great interest the results of your inquiry into the massacre of political prisoners in Iran in 1988, commissioned by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation. Your findings — that key actors in the Islamic Republic, many of whom remain in power today, are responsible for crimes against humanity — and the conclusions that you have drawn about what should be done with those findings — prosecution of those responsible in an international court — have given the hope that the sound of the voices of people in Iran might finally reach the ears of Justice after 31 years of being silenced.
In the process of building a just, free and equal society, it is an undeniably necessary task to rigorously pursue justice after a crime has taken place. Yet in terms of protecting whatever progress we have made towards that better society that we envision, it is undeniably more efficient and humane to put all of our force behind the pursuit of justice before tragic crimes occur.
The case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has drawn attention worldwide, as have the dispositions of her lawyers, your colleagues Houtan Kian and Mohammad Mostafaei. As a result of the repression of the Islamic Republic, Houtan Kian has been arrested in a violent invasion of his office, during which Sakineh Ashtiani’s son Sajjad, and two German journalists, were also arrested. Kian has not been heard from since October 10, 2010. Mohammad Mostafaei and his family were persecuted and ultimately fled Iran this summer.
Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested on September 4, 2010, and has been on hunger strike to protest her unjust imprisonment.
Human rights lawyer Mohammad Olyaeifard was detained on May 1st, 2010, on charges of “propaganda against the system”: he criticized the execution of his client, juvenile offender Behnoud Shojaei. Olyaeifard has been diagnosed with cancer while in prison; unfortunately, the Islamic Republic has a track record in refusing to free prisoners diagnosed with terminal conditions, or even allow them medical treatment.
Yesterday, October 12, 2010, human rights lawyer Mohammad Seifzadeh was put on trial for being a founding member of the Center for Human Rights Defenders, and for acting against national security and related fabricated charges. The questions asked of him during the hearing were unrelated to the charges on the indictment, but were rather politico-ideological; for example, he was asked whether he believed in the concept of velayat-e faqih.
The stories of lawyers Kian, Mostafaei, Sotoudeh, Olyaeifard and Seifzadeh are collectively emblematic of the injustices that have assaulted people in Iran for the past 31 years: sham trials, torture, arbitrary execution sentences, imprisonment without legal basis, persecution by the state for voicing a demand for justice in a wilderness where there is no justice to be found. These multiple arrests and persecutions constitute a declaration of open season on all lawyers who defend the rights of people in Iran. This fact should be shaking the legal profession worldwide. These courageous lawyers, even knowing the risks of speaking out, refused to stay silent in the face of injustice in Iran. Their colleagues outside of Iran must not stay silent while these lawyers are under siege by the Islamic Republic.
The time has come for the international community to put all of our force behind the pursuit of justice in these cases, which represent every element of the savage abuses of the Islamic regime. I therefore ask you to add your voice to the demand for justice for your persecuted colleagues in Iran, and for all those in Iran who continue to suffer the same injustices as those whose stories you know so well, who met their terrible fates in 1988 – and in every other year since the Islamic Republic began its reign of terror.
I hope that you will be moved to issue a public statement demanding the immediate and unconditional release of these wrongfully persecuted lawyers from prison; demanding freedom of practice of law for all Iranian lawyers; and demanding an immediate end to harassment and intimidation of Iranian lawyers, their families, friends, and colleagues.
Silence is no longer an option, for any of us.
Mission Free Iran