Responding to reports of a Revolutionary Court’s decision on September 7 to hand four journalists and three labor rights activists between six and 18 years in prison and, in one case, 74 lashes on bogus national security charges, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther, said:
“These outrageous sentences are just the latest to be meted out by Iran’s cruel justice system and expose the authorities’ complete disregard for journalists and workers’ rights.
“These individuals are blatantly being targeted and punished for their work defending human rights and for publicizing human rights violations. This disgraceful injustice must be reversed. We call on the Iranian authorities to quash these unjust verdicts and cruel sentences and immediately and unconditionally release all seven individuals.
“The international community, including EU states, which have an ongoing dialogue with Iran, must step up its efforts and demand the Iranian authorities immediately stop targeting journalists and human rights defenders and end their increasingly ruthless campaign to quash what little remains of Iran’s civil society.”
According to media reports, on September 7, Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran issued a verdict against seven individuals who had been arrested over the past year after taking part in peaceful protests for workers’ rights or documenting and publicizing them.
The seven individuals include labour rights activists Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian, who have been arrested several times in the past year for participating in peaceful protests by workers over unpaid wages at Haft Tappeh sugar cane company in Khuzestan province and for stating that they were tortured after their first arrest in November 2018.
The court sentenced Esmail Bakhshi to a total of 13 and a half years in prison and 74 lashes after convicting him of charges including “spreading lies,” “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.” Sepideh Gholian and journalists Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Sanaz Alahyari, Asal Mohammadi and Amir Amirgholi were each sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted of charges including “membership of a group with the purpose of disrupting national security” for their work at an online magazine called Gam, which reports on social justice issues, including labor rights, as well as “spreading propaganda against the system” and “spreading lies.”
Under Iran’s sentencing guidelines, which state that individuals convicted of three or more offenses are required to serve the heaviest single sentence for any one of the charges, they will each be required to serve seven years in prison. For the same reason, Esmail Bakhshi’s flogging sentence is not expected to be carried out.
The court sentenced labor rights activist Mohammad Khanifar to six years in prison for “spreading propaganda against the system” and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.”