Campaign

Update

August 28, 2021

Free Iran’s Political Prisoners AND Their Heroic Lawyers

Leaked Evin Videos Show Barbarity of Iran’s Prison System

August 28, 2021

Breaking News: As of August 30, Maryam Afrafaraz and Mohammad Reza Faghihi are released on bail. Mostafa Nili, Arash Keykhosravi and Mehdi Mahmoudian are still in the custody of security forces, and so far as we know, the location where they are being held is still undisclosed. This is worrisome.

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Two weeks ago security agents seized lawyers Mostafa Nili, Mohammad Reza Faghihi and Arash Keykhosravi and activists Maryam Afrafaraz and Mehdi Mahmoudian as they were discussing the legality of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (IRI) handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and making life-saving vaccines available. (Two other attorneys, Leila Heydari and Mohammad Hadi Erfanian Kaseb, were released soon after the August 14 group arrest.)

Since then, there has been no word on where they are being held, nor of any charges against them. Mostafa Nili was allowed only one 10-second phone call.  Nili’s lawyer, Zahra Minouei, reported that the judiciary won’t allow her to represent him, “because I am not a trusted lawyer accepted by the judiciary in security cases.” (See 155 Lawyers Call on Iran’s Judiciary to Stop Restricting Detainees’ Access to Counsel, CHRI  January 15, 2018.) Lawyers who appeared in court attempting to represent Mahmoudian and Faghihi were also rejected.

L-R: Arash Keykhosravi, Mostafa Nili, Mehdi Mahmoudian, Leila Heydari, Mohammad Reza Faghihi, Maryam Afrafaraz

Then, on August 25, 2021, squads of security forces raided the homes of Nili, Faghihi, and Keykhosravi’s father. Lawyer Saeed Deghan noted, “It was a setup to ‘gain reason’ by planting evidence! They first detain you and then search for a reason! They also took away the closed-circuit cameras so that there would be no evidence of the raid.”

Fifty courageous lawyers and 363 civil and political activists inside Iran (links to Farsi text) publicly signed separate open letters to the new head of Iran’s judiciary protesting this group arrest and demanding the prosecution of those committing these illegal detentions.

The arrest of these prominent lawyers, well known for their courageous and unrelenting defense of political prisoners, is an outrageous act of illegitimate repression and a dangerous attack on Iran’s political prisoners and its people.

The world must not remain silent!

Who are these lawyers, and why are they under attack?

Mostafa Nili was a student human rights activist who became an attorney to fight for the rights of the oppressed. He has represented political prisoners including Nahid Taghavi, Mehran Raouf, Bahareh Soleimani, Somayeh Kargar and Nazanin Mohammadnejad, who were recently sentenced unjustly. Mohammad Reza Faghihi is secretary of the Board of Directors of the Association for the Defense of Prisoners' Rights in Iran.

For many years Iranian human rights, defense and other lawyers have endured repeated jailings, persecution and bans, especially for defending prisoners of conscience, labor and women's activists, Kurds, Baha’i and other minorities.

For example, Nasrin Sotoudeh is currently serving a sentence of 38 years and 148 lashes for “encouraging prostitution” for defending protestors against the compulsory hijab, “propaganda against the state”, and many other false charges. She had earlier spent three years in prison on a similar conviction in 2010.

At least five other prominent human rights attorneys are still serving sentences on charges which amount to criminalization of critical thought and further stripping away even the meager protections under Iran’s theocratic legal system. (Center for Human Rights in Iran: List of Attorneys Imprisoned in Iran for Defending Human Rights, June 23, 2020; Three More Iranian Human Rights Attorneys Slapped with Unjust Prison Sentences, August 2, 2021.)

“Human rights lawyers are a lifeline for citizens relentlessly and unlawfully targeted by the state, and the Iranian government expects the world to look the other way while it cuts this lifeline,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran in a recent press release. (See Iranian Judiciary Assumes Sweeping New Powers Over Lawyers)

These lawyers are heroes for our times.  They must be defended!  

We call on everyone —especially other lawyers— to demand their release and to sign the International Emergency Appeal to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners.

Breaking News: As of August 30, Maryam Afrafaraz and Mohammad Reza Faghihi are released on bail. Mostafa Nili, Arash Keykhosravi and Mehdi Mahmoudian are still in the custody of security forces, and so far as we know, the location where they are being held is still undisclosed. This is worrisome.

--

Two weeks ago security agents seized lawyers Mostafa Nili, Mohammad Reza Faghihi and Arash Keykhosravi and activists Maryam Afrafaraz and Mehdi Mahmoudian as they were discussing the legality of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (IRI) handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and making life-saving vaccines available. (Two other attorneys, Leila Heydari and Mohammad Hadi Erfanian Kaseb, were released soon after the August 14 group arrest.)

Since then, there has been no word on where they are being held, nor of any charges against them. Mostafa Nili was allowed only one 10-second phone call.  Nili’s lawyer, Zahra Minouei, reported that the judiciary won’t allow her to represent him, “because I am not a trusted lawyer accepted by the judiciary in security cases.” (See 155 Lawyers Call on Iran’s Judiciary to Stop Restricting Detainees’ Access to Counsel, CHRI  January 15, 2018.) Lawyers who appeared in court attempting to represent Mahmoudian and Faghihi were also rejected.

L-R: Arash Keykhosravi, Mostafa Nili, Mehdi Mahmoudian, Leila Heydari, Mohammad Reza Faghihi, Maryam Afrafaraz

Then, on August 25, 2021, squads of security forces raided the homes of Nili, Faghihi, and Keykhosravi’s father. Lawyer Saeed Deghan noted, “It was a setup to ‘gain reason’ by planting evidence! They first detain you and then search for a reason! They also took away the closed-circuit cameras so that there would be no evidence of the raid.”

Fifty courageous lawyers and 363 civil and political activists inside Iran (links to Farsi text) publicly signed separate open letters to the new head of Iran’s judiciary protesting this group arrest and demanding the prosecution of those committing these illegal detentions.

The arrest of these prominent lawyers, well known for their courageous and unrelenting defense of political prisoners, is an outrageous act of illegitimate repression and a dangerous attack on Iran’s political prisoners and its people.

The world must not remain silent!

Who are these lawyers, and why are they under attack?

Mostafa Nili was a student human rights activist who became an attorney to fight for the rights of the oppressed. He has represented political prisoners including Nahid Taghavi, Mehran Raouf, Bahareh Soleimani, Somayeh Kargar and Nazanin Mohammadnejad, who were recently sentenced unjustly. Mohammad Reza Faghihi is secretary of the Board of Directors of the Association for the Defense of Prisoners' Rights in Iran.

For many years Iranian human rights, defense and other lawyers have endured repeated jailings, persecution and bans, especially for defending prisoners of conscience, labor and women's activists, Kurds, Baha’i and other minorities.

For example, Nasrin Sotoudeh is currently serving a sentence of 38 years and 148 lashes for “encouraging prostitution” for defending protestors against the compulsory hijab, “propaganda against the state”, and many other false charges. She had earlier spent three years in prison on a similar conviction in 2010.

At least five other prominent human rights attorneys are still serving sentences on charges which amount to criminalization of critical thought and further stripping away even the meager protections under Iran’s theocratic legal system. (Center for Human Rights in Iran: List of Attorneys Imprisoned in Iran for Defending Human Rights, June 23, 2020; Three More Iranian Human Rights Attorneys Slapped with Unjust Prison Sentences, August 2, 2021.)

“Human rights lawyers are a lifeline for citizens relentlessly and unlawfully targeted by the state, and the Iranian government expects the world to look the other way while it cuts this lifeline,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran in a recent press release. (See Iranian Judiciary Assumes Sweeping New Powers Over Lawyers)

These lawyers are heroes for our times.  They must be defended!  

We call on everyone —especially other lawyers— to demand their release and to sign the International Emergency Appeal to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners.

Hack of Evin Prison Security Videos: “Only a small glimpse of the real horrors”

On August 22, 2021, “General protest until freedom of political prisoners” was the message that flashed across international news and social media after a self-identified hacker group, Edaalate-Ali (Ali’s Justice) released apparent footage from security cameras at Evin Prison, the infamous dungeon in Tehran with a high concentration of political and dual national prisoners. Some of the videos show guards beating prisoners or extremely crowded and chaotic conditions. Guards are shown dragging an emaciated man through halls while staff and a cleric nonchalantly step over him.

(Many news outlets suggest that the hacker group’s name Edaalate-Ali (“Ali’s Justice”) is satiric, possibly referring to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Their logo shows a tilted scale of justice, and their Twitter @edaalate-ali bio reads: “We decided to expose the crimes of the regime and launched a cyber attack on the systems of Evin prison: videos, photos, cases of political prisoners ... from Evin. Political prisoners must be released!” “Ali’s Justice” continues to release new footage daily from what may be a huge storage of data, mostly from 2020 - 2021 but some which appear to be from 2015.)

In a screen grab from released footage, a guard in the Evin control room jumps up when security monitors flash red and then display messages: “Cyberattack: Evin Prison is a stain on [Iranian President Ebrahim] Raisi's black turban and white beard,” and “General protest until political prisoners are free”.

The hackers’ inspiring call, and the ongoing public release of security footage, is shredding the IRI’s lies about its treatment of prisoners and dealing a real blow to the “all-powerful” image projected by its security forces.

“This hack is a big deal,” says Mariam Claren, the daughter of political prisoner Nahid Taghavi.  “But the videos released so far are only a small glimpse of the real horrors inside Iran’s prisons – we haven’t seen the interrogation or the solitary confinement, for example.  If these scenes of an ordinary day are so horrible, imagine what the full reality is.”

Here is one compilation released by Al Arabiya with English annotations:

Statement by Political Prisoners Inside Evin on Security Camera Hack

Shortly after the videos went viral, a group of political prisoners in Evin prison issued a statement, signed personally, and very courageously, by 25 inmates (rough translation by IEC):

"The published videos of the inhuman and degrading treatment of the inmates of Evin Prison are so clear that even the Prisons Organization, with all its media and propaganda power, has not been able to conceal their authenticity and has limited itself to an apology.

What is shown in these films in the form of torture, humiliation and naked and physical harassment is only part of the visible reality of torture imposed on a prisoner and his family in Iran. But there are other tortures that are not recorded on any camera…

We, the political prisoners of Evin Prison, have drawn public attention to this issue and call for a serious and immediate investigation by the human rights institutions into the situation of prisoners in Iran."

In addition, the Human Rights Commission of the Central Bar Association of Iran specifically correlated (Link in Farsi) the importance of access to independent lawyers to combat the abuse shown in the Evin videos, and called for the protection of the 5 detained lawyers and activists.

Step up the struggle to release the heroic human rights lawyers and ALL Iran’s political prisoners!

General protest until political prisoners are free.” That was the message on hacked Evin Prison monitors and that’s exactly what’s needed:  building an increasingly broad, loud and determined global movement to actually FREE Iran’s Political Prisoners Now.

Sign the Emergency Appeal, Donate, Volunteer. Spread the word on social media!

Related Resources:

Campaign Updates & Press Releases

September 17, 2021
Update
Heroism for Our Times
September 22, 2021
Update
UN Press Conference Photos and Video
May 20, 2021
Update
Letter to Signatories

Prisoner News