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Iran: Release Detainees from Iran Freedom Movement (english)
by Hanny Megally
26 Mar 2003
Human Rights Watch today called for the release of twenty six members of the Iran Freedom Movement (IFM) who are due to go on trial on November 11 in Tehran.
All twenty-six face charges of "acts against national security" and planning to "overthrow the system." The trial will be held in Tehran's Revolutionary Court, where proceedings fall short of international fair trial standards, Human Rights Watch said.
"These individuals are pawns in the power struggle between Iranian reformists and the conservative clerics who still control the judiciary," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "The accused have committed no 'crime' other than to exercise their basic human rights to meet together peacefully and express themselves freely."
Megally said that the judiciary's decision to go ahead with the IFM trial fits a pattern of holding controversial trials at times calculated to cause maximum embarrassment to President Mohammad Khatami, who is currently in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
The twenty-six IFM members due to go on trial were among more than forty supporters of the National Religious Alliance (NRA), a loosely-knit group of activists who favor political reform, whom Iranian authorities arrested in March and April this year. Of the twenty-six IFM members, twenty were later released on bail; the other six remain in prison. They have not been given details of the charges, or of any evidence against them.
The authorities are also continuing to illegally detain other leading NRA activists, including veteran politicians, at a secret detention center in Tehran known as Prison 59. The authorities have denied them access to lawyers or doctors.
Until the arrests earlier this year, successive Iranian governments had tolerated the fifty-year-old Iran Freedom Movement as a political party despite its advocacy of constitutional Islamic rule and respect for democratic principles. Its founder, Mehdi Bazargan, was Prime Minister in the transitional government that ruled Iran immediately after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. Bazargan was replaced by religious hardliners. In March, however, the Revolutionary Court effectively ordered the IFM to close down on grounds of attempting to "overthrow the Islamic government."
The names of the twenty-six trial defendants are:
Abolfazl Bazargan, Mohammad Tavasoli, Hashem Sabaghian, Khosro Mansourian, Mohammad Naeimpour, and Alireza Hendi.
Safa Bitaraf, Mohammad Hossein Baniassadi, Navid Bazargan, Mohssen Mohagheghi, Hojat Ghiassi, Mohammad Hossein Darvishmola, Ghafar Farzadi, Hadi Hadizadeh, Ahad Rezaei, Mossaeib Davani, Jamal Zrehsaz, Aliasghar Gharavi, Morteza Eshfagh, Reza Masmouei, Mostafa Meskin, Amir Khoram, Alireza Gharavi, Fereshteh Bazarghan, Saeid Ghafarzadeh, and Jamshid Mansourian.
Other NRA prisoners still in detention without charge or trial include:
Dr. Habibollah Payman, Dr. Reza Raeiss-Toussi, Reza Alijani, Taghi Rahmani, and Hoda Saber.
In addition, veteran politician Ezzatollah Sahabi, 70, arrested earlier than the other NRA activists, has been held without charge or trial for more than eleven months.
Moreover, Dr. Ibrahim Yazdi, the leader of the IFM, has been in the United States undergoing cancer treatment for the past year. In his absence his house was raided and the authorities declared that they had discovered a weapons cache in a search carried out in April, without regard to legal procedures. In his absence, Dr. Yazdi has been summoned to appear before the court.
Several important pre-trial irregularities have undermined the defendants' ability to properly prepare their defense, in accordance with the right to a fair trial under international law, Human Rights Watch said. They include prolonged incommunicado detention, denial of access to lawyers, and denial of adequate information about the charges and evidence against them.
For more information, please visit the Human Rights Watch website at: