On the 12th anniversary of photographer Zahra Kazemi’s death in detention, Reporters without Borders voices concern about Iran’s new code of criminal procedure, which imposes an additional restriction on the rights of prisoners of conscience, including journalists. From now on, they will have to choose their lawyers from an approved list.
Several UN special rapporteurs have expressed criticisms and recommendations about respect for human rights in Iran, especially prisoner rights. They have often voiced concern about violations of national and international standards at trials.
Deaths in detention
Although lawyers may be appointed as soon someone is detained, those who defend journalists and bloggers do not have the right to meet with their clients, see the prosecution case files or even know what they are charged with. And at least 20 lawyers have been prosecuted and imprisoned since June 2009 for defending prisoners of conscience, including journalists and bloggers.
They include Mohammad Seifzadeh, who was arrested in April 2011 and was sentenced to nine years in prison (followed by a ten-year ban on practicing his profession), and Abdolfattah Soltani, who was notified in March 2012 that a Tehran revolutionary court had sentenced him to 18 years in prison (followed by a 20-year ban on practicing his profession).
The centre’s spokesperson, Narges Mohammadi, who is also a women’s rights activist, was arrested yet again on 5 May and was due to be tried on 6 July but the trial been postponed without a new date being set. According to her family, she has been accused of collaborating with ISIS for participating in protests by the families of members of Iran’s Sunni minority who have been sentenced to death.
Iran’s violations of fundamental rights, including its ban on lawyers immediately seeing detainees and or accessing the prosecution case file, have been responsible for many deaths in detention. The victims include Zahra Kazemi, a photojournalist with dual Iranian and Canadian citizenship who was badly beaten within a few hours of being arrested on 23 June 2003 and died in detention 17 days later, on 10 July 2003.The blogger Sattar Beheshti died on 3 November 2012 while being held by a cyber-police unit known by the initials FTA. Fellow blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi died in suspicious circumstances after being arrested on the orders of former Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, the official who also ordered Kazemi’s arrest.
Reporters Without Borders has been drawing attention to Mortazavi’s role in crimes against news and information providers for the past 12 years. He should be tried for his part in the deaths of Kazemi and Mirsayafi, the closure of around 100 newspapers, the mistreatment and torture of detainees, and the sentences imposed on hundreds of journalists and bloggers when he was prosecutor.
Symbol of impunity
Arrested while photographing the families of detainees waiting outside Evin prison in north Tehran in June 2003, Zahra Kazemi was tortured during detention and died 17 days later – 12 years ago today.
In a press release on 26 June 2009, Canadian foreign minister Lawrence Cannon said two official investigations had confirmed that it was Mortazavi who ordered Kazemi’s arrest and detention, which resulted in her being “tortured to death.” Mortazavi is also alleged to have forged documents to conceal his role in her death.
(Reporters Without Borders- July 10, 2015)