Iran: Authorities must release wife and brother-in-law of human rights lawyer

Press Release
July 27, 2010

Iran: Authorities must release wife and brother-in-law of human rights lawyer

Wife and Brother-in-Law of Iranian 'Stoning' Defense Lawyer Are Arrested, Reports Amnesty International

July 27, 2010

Amnesty International is calling on its worldwide membership to appeal to Iranian authorities to release the wife and brother-in-law of leading human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei, who defended Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

In an "Urgent Action Appeal" to its members, Amnesty International said Fereshteh Halimi, Mostafaei's wife, and Farhad Halimi, his brother-in-law, were arrested, apparently to pressure Mostafaei to turn himself in for arrest.

Fereshteh Halimi reportedly called her parents to say that she is being held at Evin Prison in Tehran. Her brother is also believed to be detained there. Amnesty International is concerned that they may be prisoners of conscience, held because they are related to Mostafaei.

On July 21, Mostafaei was issued with a summons requiring him to go to a branch of the Prosecutor's Office in Evin Prison. He went there on July 24, was questioned for at least one hour and then was released. Later, however, he received a further summons by telephone. The same evening, his wife and her brother were arrested and have been detained since. According to unconfirmed information that Amnesty International received on Monday, if true,, they may be held on suspicion of hiding somebody wanted by the authorities.

Mostafaei's current whereabouts are not known. On the evening of July 24, he wrote on his Facebook account: "it is possible they will arrest me."

Mostafaei and Halimi have a daughter who is approximately seven years old, who is currently believed to be in the care of Halimi's mother.

Amnesty International is urging its membership to appeal to the head of the Iranian Judiciary and other authorities to release Fereshteh and Farhad Halimi.

Mohammad Mostafaei is a human rights lawyer who was briefly detained following the June 2009 presidential election in Iran. He is defense counsel for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose sentence of death by stoning for alleged adultery recently provoked wide an international public outcry and is a focus of continuing protests and worldwide demands for clemency. Following his interrogation on July 24, he wrote on his blog that he was questioned mainly about his defense of juvenile offenders.

Scores of human rights defenders have been harassed or arrested in Iran, including up to seven members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters and other human rights groups and activists. Since the disputed presidential election in June 2009, thousands have been arrested, mostly arbitrarily and many have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Scores have faced unfair trial, including some in mass "show trials," with more than 80 sentenced to prison terms, and at least 12 sentenced to death, although at least one has had his sentence commuted to a prison term. Waves of arrests, notably of political activists, students, journalists and human rights activists have been taking place since a Shi'a religious festival called 'Ashoura’ in December 2009 and Iran's national day on February 11, 2010.