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Date:6 March 2012

Author: The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Sentencing of Prominent Human Rights Lawyer To 18 Years' Imprisonment

Voice of Freedom:The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), denounces the unfair sentence of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani to 18 years in prison and 20 years of ban in practising law.

On March 4, 2012, the lawyers of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, lawyer and founding member of Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), were informed that the Islamic Revolution Court Branch 26 had condemned Mr. Soltani to 18 years in prison in internal exile in the remote city of Borazjan (southern Bushehr province) - which is contrary to Islamic Penal Code, which does not provide for imprisonment in exile away from your home town. Under the law, it has to be either imprisonment or exile - and 20 years of ban on practising law. Mr. Soltani was convicted on charges of "propaganda against the system", "participation in founding the Human Rights Defenders Centre", "assembly and collusion against national security" as well as "earning illegitimate assets" through receiving the Nuremberg City's Human Rights prize in 2009. During his pre-trial detention in Section 209 of the Evin Prison, since September 10, 2011, he was subjected to discriminatory harassment, notably his lawyers and family were only allowed to visit him very few times.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Soltani has been subjected to judicial harassment for many years but this harassment increased following the contested 2009 June election. Several other DHRC members, including Messrs. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Mohammad Seifzadeh, Abdolreza Tajik, Ms. Nargess Mohammadi and Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, have also faced an intense criminalisation campaign since the closure of the centre in December 2008.

After his last arrest in September, 2011, Mr. Soltani decided not to defend himself before the Court, to contest the unconstitutionality of the Islamic Revolution Court, his arbitrary detention and the political character of the charges brought against him. He asked for a jury to conduct the trial pursuant to Article 168 of the Iranian Constitution. Mr. Soltani intends to appeal the Islamic Revolution Court's decision before an Appeal Court.

The Observatory believes that the sentence against Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani merely aims at intimidating him and impeding him from carrying out his human rights activities, especially as a lawyer. More generally, it also aims at intimidating lawyers who stand up for human rights as well as all human rights defenders in Iran.

"The authorities continue to target human rights lawyers as an attempt to reduce the number of those who are prepared to defend victims of the overtly flawed judicial system, in particular human rights defenders and women's rights activists, trade unionists and student activists, effectively criminalising human rights legal representation", says Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. Therefore, Iranian Peace Nobel Prize Ms. Shirin Ebadi, DHRC Founder, qualified legal representation as "the riskiest job in Iran".

"Lawyers are not only subjected to judicial harassment and unfair prison sentences, but they are also subjected to punitive measures in jail aimed at silencing them and sanctioning their legitimate activities", adds Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

The Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to the judicial harassment against Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani and release him and all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained, and more generally to conform to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments ratified by Iran.

For further information, please contact:
OMCT: Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39
FIDH: Karine Appy / Arthur Manet : + 33 1 43 55 25 18

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