Iran (MNN) ― Human rights watchdog Amnesty International is demanding freedom for lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah. He's currently detained in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, sentenced to nine years of imprisonment.
"I was in a court in Tehran defending one of my clients--a jailed political activist on death row," Dadkhah told theGuardian, a UK news service, "when the judge told me that my own sentence has been approved and I will be shortly summoned to jail to serve the 9-year sentence."
It's not the first time he's been behind the bars of Evin. In 2009, Dadkhah was tortured and held in solitary confinement for the majority of his 74-day incarceration.
Ask the Lord to protect Mohammad Ali Dadkhah. Pray that the charges against him would be dropped.
"I have been convicted of acting against the national security, spreading propaganda against the regime, and keeping banned books at home," he said.
He was also banned from practicing law for the next decade. A co-founder of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), Dadkhah was convicted in July 2011 of charges that included "membership of an association [the CHRD] seeking the soft overthrow of the government" and "spreading propaganda against the system through interviews with foreign media." The CHRD was forcibly closed in 2008 by Iranian authorities.
Dadkhah is the fourth CHRD member to be imprisoned within the last 18 months.
"He should never have been put on trial for his legitimate human rights activities," said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.
"The Iranian authorities must overturn his conviction and sentence, and release him immediately and unconditionally."
Dadkhah has defended the rights of many high-profile clients, including Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who faced apostasy charges and a potential death sentence. With the help of Dadkhah and international pressure, Nadarkhani's case was dropped, and he returned to his family last month.
"Mohammad Ali Dadkhah and other human rights defenders should be encouraged and supported in their lawful and important work instead of being persecuted for their activism," Harrison continued.
The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) also condemned the sentencing of Dadkhah and Iran's continual harassment of CHRD members.
"The authorities in Iran are doing their utmost to stifle human rights defenders by imposing heavy sentences of imprisonment, exile, and ban on professional practice," said Gerald Staberock, OMCT secretary general.
"All this is aimed at intimidating the whole society into a deadly silence."
In 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern over the reported persecution of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Iran. It stated that "human rights defenders and defense lawyers often serve prison sentences based on vaguely formulated crimes such as 'mohareb' (enemy of God) or the spreading of propaganda against the establishment."