The secretary of Center for Coordinating Islamic Work Councils in Tehran has announced that the legal case against imprisoned labor activist, Reza Shahabi must be reviewed, noting, “Defending trade union rights is not a crime and article 26 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution on workers and labor associations must be upheld.
According to state-run Iran Labor News Agency, ILNA, Hossein Habibi insisted that Reza Shahabi’s legal case should be reviewed and, as an elected member of Tehran workers, he is going to follow his appeal.
Mr. Habibi represents the officially sanctioned trade unions of the Islamic Republic and his defense of an imprisoned labor activist is important.
The detained treasurer of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, Reza Shahabi, under pressure from the Prosecutor-General’s office, introduced himself to Rajaei Shahr prison last summer.
Shahabi who was on medical furlough, found out that the Prosecutor-General had not endorsed his furlough and decided to put him back in prison.
You have gone on an unauthorized medical furlough, Shahabi was told; “Therefore, you are condemned to stay behind bars for another 968 days”.
With no success, Shahabi tried to clarify the case by explaining that his medical furlough was approved by the Forensic Medicine Organization, which must certify if a prisoner is seriously ill.
As his protests fell on deaf ears, Shahabi went on hunger strike and soon his health deteriorated to the extent that international human rights organizations and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), issued statements, calling for his unconditional release.
Shahabi’s health condition deteriorated so much that according to ILNA, “The members of the High Center for Islamic Labor Councils intervened and called upon the Labor Minister to use all his influence to release Shahabi”.
A protest was held in front of Iranian parliament in September demanding his release. The police forcibly dispersed the protestors.
The imprisoned labor activist ended his hunger strike after fifty days while he was promised that his case would be reviewed.
Shahabi who is a board member and the treasurer of the Tehran public bus company union, insists that his 986 day sentence should be repealed. He has vowed to go on another hunger strike if his demands are not met.
Many international Labor organizations, including International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and International Union of Industrial Workers have called upon the Islamic Republic officials to help release Shahabi.
ITUC’s Secretary-General, Sharon Burrow, while referring to what she described as years of torture and inappropriate treatment of Shahabi behind bars, reiterated, “[Reza] the labor rights activist was on medical furlough but Tehran’s prosecutor-general refused to extend his parole.”
Protesting the inhumane situation and injustice against Shahabi, Burrow wrote in a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, “Leaving Reza Shahabi behind bars is against Iran’s international commitments, which prohibit detaining labor activists who are peacefully campaigning for workers’ rights”.
The Secretary-General of the International Industrial Workers’ Union, Walter Sanchez has also written a letter to Rouhani warning him, “Years of imprisonment, torture and mistreatment during interrogations have alarmingly deteriorated Reza Shahabi’s health”.
Citing Hossein Habibi, ILNA reported, “Shahabi’s initial charge was attempting to launch an illegal entity, whereas, what he did was in accordance with Article 26 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, stipulating that defending labor rights is quite lawful”.
Article 26 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution explicitly stipulates, “The formation of parties, societies, political or professional associations, as well as religious societies, whether Islamic or pertaining to one of the recognized religious minorities, is permitted provided they do not violate the principles of independence, freedom, national unity, the criteria of Islam, or the basis of the Islamic republic”.
It also insists, “No one may be prevented from participating in the aforementioned groups, or be compelled to participate in them”.
Meanwhile, Hossein Habibi has bitterly demanded’ “Why the judiciary does not take any action toward maintaining labor rights?”
Furthermore, he has asserted that, regarding Reza Shahabi’s poor health, the Center for Coordinating Islamic Councils expects his legal case reviewed as soon as possible.