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Iran
28.09.16
Urgent Interventions

Sentencing of journalist Issa Saharkhiz

IRN001 / 0916 / OBS 082

Arbitrary detention /

Judicial harassment /

Health concern

Iran

September 28, 2016

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests yoururgent intervention in thefollowing situation in the Iran.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has beeninformed by the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LDDHI) about thesentencing of journalist and founding member of the Iranian Association for theDefence of Freedom of Press, Mr. Issa Saharkhiz.

According to theinformation received, on September 17, 2016, Branch 28 of the IslamicRevolution Court notified Mr. Issa Saharkhiz’s lawyer of a reduction in hissentence to 21 months of imprisonment. On August 8, 2016, Judge MohammadMoghisseh of Branch 28 had sentenced Mr. Saharkhiz to three years in prison oncharges of “insulting the Leader” for having used the term “Casino Seyyed Ali”[1]to describe a room in prison in his memoirs; and for “spreading propagandaagainst the State”. The Islamic Penal Code provides for a maximum of two years’imprisonment for insulting the leader and a maximum penalty of one year for thesecond charge.

Mr. Saharkhiz was arrestedon November 2, 2015 by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ intelligence unitduring a wave of arrests, was accused of allegedlybeing a “member of a network of infiltrators within the country’s cyberspaceand media who cooperate with hostile Western governments”, and was kept inpre-trial detention, mostly in solitary confinement, for several months.

Mr. Saharkhiz is facingcharges and potential prison sentences in two other cases. One case has alreadybeen examined by the courts, and he was charged with “spreading falseinformation.” The outcome of the trial is not clear yet, but if convicted hecould face up to two additional years in prison. In the other case, which hasnot yet gone to court, he is charged with “insulting the head of the Judiciaryand former President”.

The Observatory expressesconcern regarding Mr. Saharkhiz’s health condition, as he notably suffers froma cancerous tumour in his adrenal glands, as well as heart problems. He haspreviously been deprived medical treatment in jail and was hospitalised inMarch 2016 after suffering a heart attack and going on hunger strike to protestagainst his prison conditions.

The Observatory recallsthat Mr. Issa Saharkhiz has been continuously harassed by the authorities forseveral years[2].On July 3, 2009, he was arrested and subsequently sentenced to threeyears’ imprisonment on charges of “insulting the leader” and “propagandaagainst the State” for publishing political commentaries criticalof the widely disputed results of Iran’s 2009 presidential election. In a 2010 opinion,the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that he had beenarbitrarily deprived of his liberty and asked the Iranian government to takeappropriate steps to remedy the situation. In August 2011, while serving hissentence, he was tried on “press-related charges” dating back to 11 yearsbefore, and sentenced to 1.5 additional years in prison. He was finallyreleased on October 3, 2013, after spending more than four years in prison.

The Observatory firmlycondemns the new sentence and ongoing persecution and judicial harassmentagainst Mr. Issa Saharkhiz, as it is clearly aimed at sanctioning hislegitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory urges theIranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Issa Saharkhizand put an end to all acts of harassment against him.

Finally,until all charges are dropped against him, the Observatory urges the Iranianauthorities to ensure that his conditions of detention are humane and that alljudicial proceedings against him are carried out in full compliance with hisright to a fair trial, as protected under international law.

Actions requested:

Pleasewrite to the Iranian authorities and ask them to:

i. Guarantee in allcircumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Issa Saharkhiz as well as of all other human rights defenders inIran;

ii. Release immediately and unconditionally Mr. Issa Saharkhiz and all other human rightsdefenders who are detained in Iran merely as an attempt to sanction their humanrights activities;

iii. Put an end to anykind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Issa Saharkhiz and all other human rights defenders in Iran and ensure inall circumstances that they can carry out their activities withoutinterference;

iv.Conformin all circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human RightsDefenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly,in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstancesrespect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance withinternational human rights standards and international instruments ratified byIran.

Addresses:

· Leader of theIslamic Republic, H.E. Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, Fax: + 98 21 441 2030,Email: info_leader@leader.ir; Twitter:@khamenei_ir

· President HassanRouhani, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98 21 644 54811; Email: media@rouhani.ir; Twitter:@HassanRouhani (English) and @Rouhani_ir (Persian).

· Head of theJudiciary, H.E. Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98 21879 6671 / +98 21 3 311 6567, Email: info@dadiran.ir / info@dadgostary-tehran.ir / info@bia-judiciary.ir

· Minister ofForeign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax:+98-21-66743149; matbuat@mfa.gov.ir

· SecretaryGeneral, High Council for Human Rights, Mr. Mohammed Javad Larijani, IslamicRepublic of Iran. Email: info@humanrights-iran.ir

· H.E.Mr. Mohsen Naziri Asl, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic ofIran to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 7330203, Email: mission.iran@ties.itu.int

· H.E. Mr. Mahmoud Barimani, Ambassador, Embassy of Iran inBrussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 39 15. Email: secreteriat@iranembassy.be

Please also write todiplomatic representations of Iran in your respective countries.

[1]The judge’s interpretation seems to be that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed AliKhamenei has been insulted by the implication that he runs a “casino.”

[2]For more information see Observatory Press Release of September 11, 2012.

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