Local and international human rights organisations have widely condemned Iranian sentencing of journalists and activists who were detained and tortured over covering the protests of workers’ rights at the Haft Tappeh sugar mill that broke out in 2017.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) criticised the sentences of four journalists and three labour rights activists of between six and 18 years in prison and 74 lashes.
“The sentences are an indicator that newly appointed Judiciary Chief Ehrabim Raisi intends to prolong his predecessor’s reign of repression by punishing peaceful activism through arbitrary arrests and kangaroo courts,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Hardline Judge Mohammad Moghiseh at Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court handed seven individuals harsh sentences of long years in jail over what he called “national security” charges. This was for participating in or covering those demonstrations, according to a post by the Haft Tappeh workers’ Telegram channel on September 7th, 2019.
On the same day, one of the regime officials, former Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, was set free after serving two years of his three-year sentence over charges of torturing three political prisoners in 2009.
The seven defendants are currently imprisoned in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
Iran’s constitution guarantees “Public gatherings and marches to be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”
The CHRI condemned Iranian authorities for preventing peaceful labour activism as strikers are often fired and risk arrest and labour leaders are consistently prosecuted with long prison terms.
Two of the sentenced labour activists, Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Qoliyan reported being subjected to torture and beatings, according to their personal Twitter accounts.
Raisi participated in “death commissions” that ordered the extrajudicial executions of thousands of prisoners in 1988 based on fatwas issued by the Islamic Republic’s founder and then-supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Environmentalists, students, lawyers, researchers, and women’s rights activists are among those being targeted in a renewed crackdown on freedom of speech, expression, and assembly by Iran’s security establishment and judiciary that appears to be accelerating under Raisi.
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.”
Luther called on the European Union states that manage talks with Iran to “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.”
The Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran said that it strongly condemns the “unfair, long-term prison sentences issued for human rights activists in Iran” and that the clerical regime is “attempting to prevent eruption of widespread social discontent against their corrupt rule”.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Iran's judiciary of "dramatically increasing the costs of peaceful dissent," saying at least 13 activists had been handed prison sentences of more than 10 years since July 31st.
"Again and again, Iranian revolutionary court judges have been ensuring that anyone who dares challenge the authorities will pay a draconian price," Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said in a statement on September 10th.