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Ex-Judges Join Lawyers In Rejecting Move To Dismantle Iran Bar Association

Iranian lawyers celebrating the 64th anniversary of the independence of the Bar Association. March 7, 2017

In an open letter published on Monday 180 former judges have called on Iran's Chief Justice Ebrahim Raeesi to put a stop to the "illegal interference" of the of the Judiciary in the affairs of the Iranian Bar Association.

Mohammad Mosadegh, Judiciary Deputy in Legal Affairs, has recently proposed a draft bylaw for the Bar Association that undermines the independence of lawyers and replaces the Bar with a group of government-appointed judiciary officials.

In their letter the former judges have said that the proposal is illegal and in conflict with the independence of the Bar Association from the Judiciary as stipulated by Article 22 of the Bar Association's Independence Law.

Two days earlier 12,000 Iranian lawyers also signed a letter protesting the Judiciary's scheme to override the Bar Association.

The signatories of the open letter have also said that the interference of a Judiciary official in the affairs of the Bar association "violates the independence of the oldest Iranian civil society body in the [Iranian] legal system as well as in the international arena".

The Iran Bar Association was founded in 1915 and achieved full independence by a 1953 law which allowed its board of directors to be elected without the involvement of the justice ministry. The new law also bestowed the right to grant and revoke licenses to practice law without any interference from the justice ministry and made the Barr financially independent from the government.

According to the draft law proposed by Mosadegh, the Legal Department of the Judiciary will form a council called "Lawyers' Coordination Supreme Council" with seven members only two of which – the chairman of the Central Bar Association and the Chairman of the National Bar Associations Union" – will represent lawyers.

Iranian lawyers have been struggling for independence since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that, among other things, put clerics with no legal training or formal law education on top of the Judiciary branch of the government.

Since 1979, the independence of lawyers has been compromised in various ways by the government. Among the latest steps taken by the government to put a hold on the Bar Association was passing a law which granted extraordinary powers to chief justices.

According to Article 48 of the new Code of Criminal Procedure, the country's chief justice is now the sole authority to appoint lawyers for defending suspects in preliminary stages of national security-related trials.