They were among more than 50 people arrested on August 2 during a protest in Tehran about deteriorating economic conditions and corruption. On October 28, authorities also arrested a human rights lawyer who had been convicted to three years in prison for reporting a protester’s death in detention.
Three sources with close knowledge of the protesters’ cases told Human Rights Watch that prosecutors charged them with “assembly and collusion against national security” due to “participating in a protest without a permit that disrupted public order.” In the sentencing of at least two people, including Saba Kordafshari, 19, the evidence prosecutors presented was solely their social media posts reporting on the protest.
In reprisal for exposing Heidari’s death in custody and reporting that his body bore marks of torture and other ill-treatment, including cuts and bruises, the authorities arrested Mohammad Najafi, a lawyer. On July 26, Branch 2 of Arak’s criminal court sentenced Najafi to three years in prison for “disrupting public order through unconventional acts such as chanting slogans” and “publishing false information to disturb public opinion.” He began serving his sentence on October 28.
The court also sentenced 10 other protesters who were arrested during the December and January protests on charges such as disturbing public order and publishing false information to prison terms ranging from one to three years.
Under international law, everyone has the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provide that security forces should apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force. Whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, law enforcement officials should use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense and minimize injury.
Torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment are banned at all times, and evidence obtained by torture or other coercion may not be submitted as evidence in a trial. The ICCPR also guarantees the right to a fair criminal trial, including to be informed promptly of the nature and cause of the charges; to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; to communicate with counsel of one’s choosing; to be present at the trial; and to examine the prosecution’s witnesses.
“Countries that engage with Iran should press authorities for independent investigations into the proliferating number of abuses committed by Iran’s repressive intelligence and security apparatus,” Page said.
List of protestors who have been sentenced to prison terms: