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Iran Arrests Two More Lawyers Bringing Intense Pressure On Defenders

In this December 2016 photo, President Hassan Rouhani is seen unveiling a "Citizens' Rights Charter", which has remained on paper, as repression continues.

Iranian intelligence officers arrested two human rights lawyers Payam Dorfeshan and Farrokh Forouzan Friday August 31, reported lawyer Mohammad Najafi on his Facebook page.

Dorfeshan and Keykhosravi are the defense lawyers of the family of Kavous Seyed Emami, an environmentalist who died in jail in February. The Iranian government claimed that Emami committed suicide, while his family and lawyers rule out the possibility of his suicide. Human rights activists have said that the cause of Emami's death could have been torture or psychological pressure while in custody.

The two lawyers were arrested while visiting the family of Arash Kaykhosravi, a human rights lawyer who was detained last week with two other rights lawyers, Qasem Sholeh-Sadi and Massoud Javadieh in front of the Iranian Parliament while protesting the violations of civil rights by the Iranian government.

Iranian human rights lawyer Payam Dorfeshan
Iranian human rights lawyer Payam Dorfeshan

No reason has been given for the arrest of the two lawyers. The new arrests bring the number of Iranian human rights lawyers in jail in Tehran to more than ten.

Other human rights lawyers jailed in Iran for defending human rights include Abdolfattah Soltani, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Mohammad Seyfzadeh, Sara Sabbaghian, and Maryam Kian Ersi.

Iranian authorities also jailed Zeinab Taheri, the lawyer of the Gonabadi Sufis earlier in this year and released her on bail later. The Sufis' other lawyer, Mostafa Daneshjou has also been in jail since July.

Meanwhile, Iranian authorities have taken actions targeting human rights defenders and activists such as human right activist Narges Mohammadi, and Farhad Meysami, a human rights defender who was arrested by Intelligence Ministry officials on August 1 for protesting compulsory hijab laws.

International human rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported about the Iranian government's mounting pressures on human rights lawyers and defenders since President Hassan Rouhani first took office as President in Iran in 2013.

Human Rights Watch Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson said in an August 17 statement that "Iranian authorities blatantly disregard due process rights of human rights defenders such as prominent lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh" who has been in jail since late May.

The HRW has called on Iran's authorities to immediately release prominent lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, saying her arrest and the new charges against her reveal the "grave degree the Iranian judiciary is criminalizing human rights activism."

According to the Human Rights Watch, “Apparently what authorities fear greatly is advocating respect for human rights.”

The Ministry of Intelligence under President Hassan Rouhani “has tried to present itself to Iranians as a more ‘lenient’ security agency, but like the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization it is an integral part of the state’s repressive crackdown against human rights defenders,” Whitson said.

Meanwhile, an AI report released in 2017 said, "The Iranian authorities have waged a 'vicious' crackdown on human rights defenders since Hassan Rouhani became president, demonizing and imprisoning activists who dare to stand up for people’s rights."

"In a succession of cases, people have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, sometimes exceeding a decade, for acts that should not even be considered crimes. These include contact with the EU and the UN, as well as with media outlets, international trade union associations and human rights groups based outside Iran - including Amnesty International.

The activists are often labelled 'foreign agents' and 'traitors' by Iranian state media," Amnesty International added.