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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 18 December 2021, human rights defender Mustafa Nili was released on eight billion IRR bail after spending more than four months under arbitrary detention in Evin prison, in Tehran.

Mehdi Mahmoudian, Arash Keykhosravi, and Mustafa Nili were arbitrarily detained by the Iranian authorities on 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.

On 17 June 2021, Narges Mohammadi, Mustafa Nili and two other human rights defenders were stopped, physically assaulted, detained for a few hours and had their devices confiscated temporarily by intelligence agents in Shazand, Markazi province in central Iran. The group of human rights defenders were denied entrance to Arkak city, in order to visit the family of a human rights defender who is detained in Arak prison.

About Musafa Nili

Mustafa Nili is a human rights defender and lawyer, who has represented many political prisoners, including student union activists. He was arrested in December 2009 as a result of taking part in peaceful protests against the results of the 2009 presidential elections in Iran. In November 2010, Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court convicted the human rights defender to three years on the charge of “gathering and collusion to act against the national security” and an additional six months in prison on the charge of “propaganda against state”, due to him taking part in the protests and publishing critical content against violent crackdowns on the peaceful protests in 2009. Branch 54 of the Court of Appeals confirmed the prison sentences in April 2011 and consequently the defender served his sentence from 18 July 2011 to 18 November 2014.

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.

6 January 2022
Human rights defender Mustafa Nili released on bail

On 18 December 2021, human rights defender Mustafa Nili was released on eight billion IRR bail after spending more than four months under arbitrary detention in Evin prison, in Tehran. On 14 August 2021, Iranian authorities arbitrarily arrested a group of seven human rights defenders, including Mustafa Nili, four other lawyers and one journalist, as they were preparing to file a complaint against the country’s National Task Force Against Coronavirus, the Minister of Health and other officials responsible for the mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

31 October 2021
Human rights defender Mustafa Nili 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.

Arash Keykhosravi is a human rights defender, and attorney at law who has represented many human rights defenders including the environmental rights defenders. On August 2018, he had been sentenced to a six-year- prison term, which was subsequently overturned by the Branch 34 of the court of appeals on January 2020.

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.

25 June 2021
Group of human rights defenders physically assaulted and temporarily detained

On 17 June 2021, Narges Mohammadi, Mustafa Nili and two other human rights defenders were stopped, physically assaulted, detained for a few hours and had their devices confiscated temporarily by intelligence agents in Shazand, Markazi province in central Iran. The group of human rights defenders were denied entrance to Arkak city, in order to visit the family of a human rights defender who is detained in Arak prison.

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Narges Mohammadi is Deputy Director and Spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC) in Iran. She has campaigned for the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, and was awarded the Per Anger Prize by the Swedish government for her human rights work in 2011. The woman human rights defender continued her human rights activities while in detention and most recently has been campaigning against “White Torture” the cruel use of solitary confinement and other abusive treatment and conditions for prisoners in Iran.

Mustafa Nili is a human rights defender and lawyer, who has represented many political prisoners, including student union activists. He was arrested in December 2009 as a result of taking part in peaceful protests against the results of the 2009 presidential elections in Iran. In November 2010, Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court convicted the human rights defender to three years on the charge of “gathering and collusion to act against the national security” and an additional six months in prison on the charge of “propaganda against state”, due to him taking part in the protests and publishing critical content against violent crackdowns on the peaceful protests in 2009. Branch 54 of the Court of Appeals confirmed the prison sentences in April 2011 and consequently the defender served his sentence from 18 July 2011 to 18 November 2014.

On 17 June 2021, Narges Mohammadi, Mustafa Nili and two other human rights defenders were stopped, physically assaulted, detained for a few hours and had their devices confiscated temporarily by intelligence agents The group of the human rights defenders were on the way to Arak to visit the family of a human rights defender who is detained in Arak prison. The group of human rights defenders were asked to stop their car in the middle of Shazand highway, trying very hard not lose control of the vehicle. After physically assaulting Mustafa Nili and Narges Mohammadi and confiscating their personal device upon stopping their car, the human rights defenders were shown a letter from the Shazand prosecutor, ordering the security forces to forcibly stop and escort the group of human rights defenders. As a result, the human rights defenders’ car was escorted by the intelligence agents from Shazand to Arak and back to Tehran.

This is not the first time that a group of human rights defenders are targeted and banned from travelling around the country to carry out their human rights work. On 12 June 2021, Narges Mohammadi was singled out from a group of human rights defenders, who were going to visit the family of an executed prisoner in Shiraz. She was asked to leave the car and consequently was physically attacked resulting in three big bruises on her body. The authorities, who arrested Narges Mohammadi, did not show any ID or court orders, and kept her in detention for a few hours in an unmarked car, driving to unknown places, and threatening her by physically assaulting her.

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned by the two attacks against two groups of human rights defenders, including Narges Mohammadi and Mustafa Nili, but also more broadly the holding of the human rights defenders in short detentions and putting their lives at risk while driving.

Front Line Defenders further expresses deep concern regarding the increased harassment of human rights defenders through the use of new temporary detentions, travel bans and judicial harassment. Front Line Defenders believes that the targeting of these human rights defenders is in reprisal for their peaceful and legitimate work advocating for other human rights defenders in prison, and is an attempt to silence them.