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Prison sentence confirmed for the Right-to-Health defenders Mustafa Nili, Arash Keykhosravi and Mehdi Mahmoudian

Status: 
Sentence confirmed
About the situation

On 16 August 2022, Mustafa Nili announced on his Twitter account that Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals has confirmed the initial verdict issued by Branch 29 of Tehran Revolutionary Court with respect to, what has come to be known as the case of the Right-to-Health defenders, which includes Mustfa Nili, Arash Keykhosravi and Mehdi Mahmoudian. The Court of appeals has confirmed the initial verdict without holding a new court session.

On 31 January 2022, Mehdi Mahmoudian’s lawyer announced on his twitter account that the human rights defender has been sentenced to an additional seven months and half in prison under the charge of “propaganda activities against the state.”

Mehdi Mahmoudian, Arash Keykhosravi, and Mostafa Nili have been arbitrarily detained by the Iranian authorities since August 14, 2021. On August 14, 2021, Iranian authorities arbitrarily arrested a group of seven human rights defenders, including five lawyers and one journalist, as they prepared to file a complaint against the country’s National Task Force against Coronavirus, including the Minister of Health and other officials responsible for the mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis.

About the HRD

Mehdi Mahmoudian is a human rights defender, a political journalist and blogger, who has previously served a five-year prison term (2009-2014) on charges of “mutiny against the regime” for his role in documenting complaints of rape and abuse of detainees at the Kahrizak Detention Center. The detention center was closed in July 2009 after Mahmoudian and others documented the pervasive abuse. Mahmoudian also worked with the Center for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights.

19 August 2022
Prison sentence confirmed for the Right-to-Health defenders Mustafa Nili, Arash Keykhosravi and Mehdi Mahmoudian

On 16 August 2022, Mustafa Nili announced on his Twitter account that Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals has confirmed the initial verdict issued by Branch 29 of Tehran Revolutionary Court with respect to, what has come to be known as the case of the Right-to-Health defenders, which includes Mustfa Nili, Arash Keykhosravi and Mehdi Mahmoudian. The Court of appeals has confirmed the initial verdict without holding a new court session.

The verdict was built on the charge of “gathering and colluding against national security” because of the intention of the human rights defenders to file a complaint against the country’s National Task Force against COVID-19. The court sentenced Mustafa Nili to four years in prison, a two year ban on practicing law and a two year ban on giving interviews to media; Mehdi Mohammadi was sentenced to four years in prison, a two year ban on giving interviews to the media; and Arash Keykhosravi was sentenced to two years in prison, a one year ban on practicing law and a one year ban on giving interviews to the media.

The three human rights defenders were among a group of seven human rights defenders, including five lawyers and one journalist, who were arbitrarily arrested by Iranian authorities on 14 August 2021 as they prepared to file a complaint against the country’s National Task Force against COVID-19, including the Minister of Health and other officials responsible for the mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis. The human rights defenders were arrested at the office of the Tehran Citizens’ Rights Protection Association, a human rights organization they had recently established and registered.

17 February 2022
Human rights defender Mehdi Mahmoudian sentenced to an additional seven months and a half in prison

On 31 January 2022, Mehdi Mahmoudian’s lawyer announced on his twitter account that the human rights defender has been sentenced to an additional seven months and half in prison under the charge of “propaganda activities against the state.” According to the lawyer, the charge brought  against Mehdi Mahmoudian is based on his campaign to stop the execution of Navid Afkari, an Iranian wrestler who was sentenced to death and then executed in Shiraz prison after being accused of murdering a security guard during the 2018 general protests in Iran.

31 October 2021
Human rights defender Mehdi Mahmoudian remains detained since August 2021

Mehdi Mahmoudian, Arash Keykhosravi, and Mustafa Nili have been arbitrarily detained by the Iranian authorities since August 14, 2021. On August 14, 2021, Iranian authorities arbitrarily arrested a group of seven human rights defenders, including five lawyers and one journalist, as they prepared to file a complaint against the country’s National Task Force against Coronavirus, including the Minister of Health and other officials responsible for the mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis.

Mehdi Mahmoudian is a human rights defender, a political journalist and blogger, who has previously served a five-year prison term (2009-2014) on charges of “mutiny against the regime” for his role in documenting complaints of rape and abuse of detainees at the Kahrizak Detention Center. The detention center was closed in July 2009 after Mahmoudian and others documented the pervasive abuse. Mahmoudian also worked with the Center for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights.

The human rights defenders were arrested at the office of the Tehran Citizens’ Rights Protection Association, a human rights organization they recently established and registered. Two lawyers, Leila Heydari and Mohammad Hadi Erfanian, were released after a few hours. Two other detainees from the group, lawyer Mohammadreza Faghihi and human rights defender Maryam Afrafaraz, were also released on bail on August 29, 2021. The three other members of the group, human rights defender and journalist Mahmoudian and human rights lawyers Nili and Keykhosravi however, have remained in prison for over three months, and  are facing an ongoing criminal trial.

In an open letter published by Mahmoudian, Nili, and Keykhosravi in October 2021, they wrote they had experienced rights violations in prison, including being held in solitary confinement for over a month, and they were under pressure to refrain from filing their complaint. Two weeks after their arrest, Iran’s judiciary spokesperson stated that the detainees and bailees were charged with the crime of "disruption of public order." On November 15, 2021, a group of Iranian human rights defenders and activists inside the country published a statement with over 500 signatories condemning their detentions and charges, saying that their detentions and charges violate fair trial guarantees under Article 34 of the Iranian Constitution and demanding their immediate release.

In late summer of this year, Iran faced its fifth peak of Covid-19 with an official daily death rate that reached over 600 people. With more than 128,000 total deaths since the initial outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, authorities have failed to provide details into their plans for domestic vaccine production and repeatedly changed policies on vaccine imports. Iranian citizens have been expressing their anger on social media at the government's mismanagement, lack of transparency, and unclear vaccination policies during the first six months of 2021. In their unfiled complaint, Mahmoudian, Nili, and Keykhosravi echoed the sentiment of countless Iranians, arguing that authorities who delayed vaccine production and imports were responsible for worsening health consequences of the pandemic.

Front Line Defenders condemns the arbitrary detention of Mahmoudian, Nili, and Keykhosravi, which we believe is connected to, and intended to curb their human rights activities in violation of international human rights law.  Iran is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified in 1975. This treaty guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of the law as well as legal representation to assure protection of rights. Article 9 of the ICCPR recognizes and protects both liberty of person and security of person. According to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), deprivation of liberty is arbitrary when it results from the exercise of fundamental rights including free expression and association as laid down in article 19 of the ICCPR and article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, interference in the work of human rights defenders and lawyers in the form of arbitrary detention results in a violation of the right to a fair trial under article 14 of the ICCPR.

The Iranian government should immediately and unconditionally release the three arbitrarily detained human rights defenders and drop all charges. The Iranian government should also guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate professional activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions. Furthermore, Front Line Defenders calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the member states of the Human Rights Council to raise their cases with the Iranian government at the highest levels, and to pressure them to uphold the rights of these lawyers and human rights defenders.