U.N. rights experts decry "mounting repression" in Iran (REUTERS) By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA, SWITZERLAND 05/04/12 9:01am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Iran is cracking down on activists and their lawyers,
meting out harsh sentences in an effort to quash pro-democracy
activities, United Nations human rights experts said on Friday.
In a joint statement, the independent experts called for the
immediate release of human rights defenders including Narges
Mohammadi, whom they said was rearrested on April 21 to serve a six-
year prison sentence handed down by an appeals court.
"The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of human rights
defenders is an indication of mounting repression against the
legitimate activities of human rights defenders and represents a
serious setback for the protection of human rights in Iran," said
Ahmed Shaheed, U.N. special rapporteur on Iran.
Thousands of opposition supporters have been detained since the
disputed 2009 presidential election won by President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, including scores of senior reformist figures.
Mohammadi, former vice-president of the Defenders of Human Rights
Centre, founded by rights lawyer and Nobel peace laureate Shirin
Ebadi, was convicted of "assembly and collusion against national
security, membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Centre and
propaganda against the regime," the statement said.
She is said to be in "extremely fragile" health, it said. A U.N.
official told Reuters that Mohammadi is believed to be held in
Tehran´s Evin Prison.
"Human rights defenders play a fundamental role in ensuring a
democratic society which respects human rights. They must be allowed
to carry out their work without facing intimidation, harassment,
arrest and prosecution," said Margaret Sekaggya, special rapporteur
on human rights defenders.
Lawyers representing activists in the Islamic republic are also
facing difficulties as they are being identified with their clients´
causes, according to Gabriela Knaul, special rapporteur on the
independence of judges and lawyers.
"The government has an obligation to ensure that lawyers can perform
all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance,
harassment or improper interference and that they do not suffer
prosecution for any action taken while carrying out their duties,"
Abdolfattah Soltani and Nasrin Sotoudeh, both lawyers who have
represented many high-profile political and human rights activists,
are among those to have been jailed for carrying out their legitimate
work, according to the statement.
Soltani, co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, was
arrested in September on charges of collusion, anti-regime propaganda
and acquiring property through illegitimate means, leading to an 18-
year prison sentence and 20-year ban on practicing law, it said.
Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer, was arrested in September 2010 and
sentenced to six years by an Iranian appeal court, along with a 10-
year ban on her practicing law, it said.
Shaheed, a former foreign minister of the Maldives, and the other
investigators report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Despite repeated requests, he has never been allowed into Iran, but
the Geneva forum renewed his mandate in March for a second year after
he reported a high rate of executions as well as abuse of minorities,
and persecution of homosexuals and labor unions.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of Iran´s High Council for Human
Rights, told the U.N. forum in March that his government
had "repeatedly manifested its unwavering commitment toward the
advancement of human rights" and that "self-monitoring" was a key
principle. The aim was to build a prosperous society based on
justice, equality, legitimate freedoms and development.
The report submitted by Shaheed "amounted to nothing more than the
repetition of a barrage of unsubstantiated and biased contentions
traditionally levied" against Iran, Larijani said. (Reporting by
Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Myra MacDonald) (© Thomson Reuters
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