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Date:16 January 2012


Reported from: Nedaye Azadi


Letter To Ahmad Shahid For Release Of Mr. Tavasooli & All Political Prisoners


Voice of Freedom:The Honorable Mr. Ahmad Shaheed,

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Since the presidential election of 2009, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has escalated its violations of human rights and the minimal rights recognized by the constitution. In unprecedented numbers, critics of the regime, including lawyers, students, journalists, labor union leaders, clergymen, social and political dissidents, men and women, young and old, have been incarcerated, abused, and threatened with additional violence if they speak out. The regime has sentenced many of them to lengthy imprisonment and revocation civil rights after their release. Whole families have been impoverished by courts demanding large sums as bail for temporary releases from prison.

One recent example is Nasrin Sotoudeh, a brave human rights lawyer with two young children, who did not acquiesce to government demands to remain silent and has been sentenced to six years imprisonment. Students who have peacefully spoken out against the regime, such as Majid Tavakkoli, Mahdiyyeh Golroo, Emad Bahavor, Leila Tavassoli, Majid Dorri, Abdollah Moemeni, Bahareh Hedayat are being subjected to long prison terms. Political activists and journalists, such as Behzad Nabavi, Farid Taheri, Mostafa Tajzadeh , Alireza Rajaii, Masood Pedram, Abolfazl Ghediayani, Keivan Samimi, Ahmad Ziedabadi, Isa Saharkhiz, Mohsen Mohagheghi, Amir Khorram, Davoud Soleimani, Masood Bastani, Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, Mohsen Mirdamadi, Mehdi Mahmoodian among many others, have received long sentences for peaceful opposition. Two opposition leaders, Mirhosein Mossavi and Mehdi Karoubi, remain under arrest over 300 days in safe houses run by the intelligence ministry.

In this climate of repression, the government of Iran is trying to present upcoming parliamentary elections, to be held in March, as free and fair. A wide range of opposition groups have publically declared that they reject the fairness of these elections for a variety of reasons, most notably the fact that the government continues to keep opposition leaders under imprisoned, house arrest, and other forms of intimidation. In November of last year, a group of 143 senior opposition leaders and political-social activists wrote a letter to former president Mohammad Khatami, encouraging him to stick to his conditions for participation in upcoming elections, namely that the regime release all political prisoners and provide mechanisms to guarantee a fair and free election. They declared that, since none of these conditions have been met, they reject participation in the forthcoming elections. This stance was repeated again in a letter by 39 political prisoners, from within their jail cells, also rejecting participation in unfair elections.

In response, the government of the IRI has begun a new campaign to intimidate those who have spoken out against or refused to participate in unfair elections. One of the most prominent victims of this new campaign is 74 years old, Mohammad Tavassolia, the former mayor of Tehran and Political Secretary of the Freedom Movement of Iran. Mr. Tavassoli has been an outspoken critic of IRI government policies but has always kept within the bounds of peaceful protest and the rights given to all Iranians under the IRI constitution. For this, Tavassoli has been subjected to six terms of prison over the past 30 years. After signing the above mentioned letter, he was arrested again and has been held in isolation since.

We have obtained information that Tavassoli is being held at Evin Prison in Tehran. His interrogators first attempted to force him to confess to forging the signatures on that letter. When this failed, the intelligence ministry summoned several of the other signatories of this letter to repudiate their signatures and make public statements disapproving of the letter. So far, all of them have bravely resisted this pressure and defended both their signatures and the letter itself. The government is trying to make the case that Mohammad Tavassoli was the mastermind behind the letter. In addition, a judiciary official announced recently that boycotting the March election is illegal.

Another prominent dissident and member of the Freedom Movement of Iran at great personal risk, is Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi, former Foreign Minister of Iran and General Secretary of the FMI. Following the release of several letters signed by him critical of the regime and upcoming elections, Dr. Yazdi was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment and five years denial of civil rights. He is presently released on bail pending appeal. The 80 years old, Dr. Yazdi, was only recently released from prison and house arrest after suffering severe deterioration in his health during incarceration.

These abuses of human rights by the government of Iran are emblematic of the behavior of other authoritarian governments in the region. Many people in Iran, like their brothers and sisters in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya & Syria will no longer remain silent and are increasingly active and vocal in demanding their rights. There is a danger of escalation in Iran as it is not clear what moral constraints the government of Iran will respect. One ominous sign in this regard is the active support Irans leaders have provided to the government of Syria in the suppression of dissidents and providing excuses for the Damascus regimes brutal killing of more than four thousand innocent civilians. The United Nations has a moral obligation to intervene to try to halt these abuses and avoid further deterioration in Iran.

We the signatories of this letter ask you to intervene specifically on behalf of Mohammad Tavassoli but also all other political prisoners in the IRI. Your intervention is urgently needed. Mohammad Tavassoli and others who have spoken out for fair elections in Iran are under extreme pressure. We ask that you condemn the Iranian government for these clear violations of human rights.

We the signatories below join with the peoples of the Middle East, including Iran, in affirming their demand for respect for the rule of law, for their right to peaceful dissent, and for their right to choose their leaders through fair elections.

We value the potential role the United Nations Human Rights Council and your office of Special Rapporteur can have in reversing this decline in respect for human rights in Iran and in proactively preventing a dangerous escalation of violence and abuse in Iran that we have witnessed in other states in the region.

We thank you in advance for your attention to this urgent matter.








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