Paris-Geneva, June 24, 2022 – The Observatory (FIDH-OMCT) and the League for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) strongly condemn the prison sentences against five human rights defenders who have been prosecuted and convicted for spreading the COVID-19 Mismanagement of the pandemic by the Iranian authorities. Our organizations call for an end to the judicial harassment of her and all other human rights lawyers and defenders in Iran.
According to one of the lawyers representing the five lawyers, on June 20, 2022, four human rights lawyers and a civil rights activist and journalist were convicted by Branch 29 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran in April and May 2022 of the crime “assembly and collusion against national security” under Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code and sentenced to imprisonment from 95 days to four years:
Mister. Mostafa Nilia human rights lawyer who has represented many political prisoners in the past, including student activists and trade unionists, has been sentenced to four years in prison and a two-year ban from practicing law and media.
Mister. Arash Kaykhosravia human rights lawyer who had previously defended scores of human rights defenders and political activists was sentenced to two years in prison and a one-year ban from practicing law.
Mister. Mohammad Reza Faqihia human rights lawyer, was sentenced to six months in prison.
MS. Maryam Affaraza lawyer and civil rights activist and member of the now banned Imam Ali Charity Association, was sentenced to 95 days in prison.
Mister. Mehdi Mahmoodiana civil rights activist and outspoken journalist who denounced human rights abuses was sentenced to four years in prison and a two-year media ban.
All said they would appeal their convictions and sentences.
The five were arrested by 15 security forces on August 14, 2021 during a meeting at the Tehran office of the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights when they were meeting with two other human rights lawyers, Mr. Mohammad Hadi Erfanian Kaseb and woman Leila Heideri. They met to draft a complaint against Supreme Leader Khamenei; the country’s national task force against coronavirus; the Minister of Health; and other officials responsible for the alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic and banning imports of US and UK-made COVID-19 vaccines in January 20211.  Before their arrest, they received threats from strangers but refused to back down. During the arrest, some of the defenders’ personal belongings, including their mobile phones, were confiscated by the security forces. They were taken to an unknown location and then detained in Tehran’s Evin prison under the supervision of the judicial intelligence service. Mr. Mohammad Hadi Erfanian Kaseb and Ms. Leila Heidari were released after several hours of detention.
Ms Maryam Afrafaraz and Mr Mohammad-Reza Faqihi were released on bail on August 29, 2021. Mr Mostafa Nili was released on bail on December 18, 2021 and Mr Arash Kaykhosravi was released on bail on December 25, 2021. after spending more than four months in arbitrary detention. Mr Mehdi Mahmoodian had previously been sentenced in September 2020 to one year in prison for “spreading propaganda against the system” and four years in prison for “collecting and collusion with intent to disrupt national security” in September 2020. His judgment was confirmed. At the time of publishing this statement, he is serving his sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
On February 27, 2022, Arash Kaykhosravi and Mohammad-Reza Faqihi jointly filed a complaint against 18 senior officials, including Supreme Leader and then-President Rouhani, for “accidental killings of more than 100,000 compatriots, abuse of power and authority, failure to enforce the laws.” enforcement, offering untrue reports to the people and spreading lies.” The Observatory and LDDHI fear further retaliation over the complaint.
The Observatory and LDDHI strongly condemn the sentences against Mostafa Nili, Arash Kaykhosravi, Mohammad-Reza Faqihi, Maryam Afrafaraz and Mehdi Mahmoodian as they appear to only aim to punish them for their legitimate human rights activities and urge the Iranian authorities to take action against them quash the sentences imposed, drop all charges against them and put an end to all harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders in Iran.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was established in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT). The aim of this program is to prevent or eliminate repression of human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union’s mechanism for human rights defenders implemented by international civil society.
The League for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) was founded in Paris in March 1983, after the ‘Iranian Association for the Defense of Human Rights and Liberties’ (founded in 1977) was forcibly closed in 1981 and its leaders left into exile . Since its inception, LDDHI has consistently reported and campaigned on human rights abuses in Iran, with a focus on the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, women’s rights, freedom of political prisoners, rights of religious and ethnic minorities, freedom of speech, and freedom of association lay among others. LDDHI has been a member of FIDH since 1986.