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Iran Lawmakers Protest Arrest And Harsh Sentences Against Labor Activists

Labor Day gathering in Tehran, Iran-- 1 May 2019

In a letter to the head of the Islamic Republic's judiciary, sixteen Iranian legislators have protested the imprisonment of a young photographer, Nooshin Ja'fari, and harsh verdicts issued against labor rights activists.

Four female members of Majles (parliament) are among the signatories of the letter.

Also protesting harsh sentences for three female activists, the MPs have insisted they have not committed any crime and the presence of the detainees at rallies marking the International Labor Day on May 1 were not against the country's constitution.

During the May Day events, security forces detained dozens of workers and civil rights activists who has gathered to mark the occasion outside the Majles.

The detainees were later sentenced to long prison terms, based on ambiguous charges and without due process.

A young reporter working for pro-reform daily Sharq, Marzieh Amiri has been sentenced to ten years and 148 lashes.

Another court in Tehran sentenced labor rights activist, Atefeh Rangriz, to eleven years and six months in jail and 74 lashes.

The verdict was issued by notorious Judge Mohammad Moqisseh at the Branch 28 of Iran's Revolutionary Court and delivered to Ms. Rangriz's defense lawyer on August 31.

Furthermore, Nasrin Javadi, a retired worker, was sentenced to seven years in prison and 74 lashes. A bus driver, Rasoul Taleb Moqaddam, was also sentenced to 74 lashes, two years behind bars and two years living in exile. Moreover, the judge banned Taleb Moqaddam from using a mobile phone.

The court also sentenced three other detainees from 1-5 years.

The lawmakers in their protest have also highlighted the case of a photographer, Nooshin Jafari, accused of security-related charges.

The Islamic Republic's judiciary announced late Tuesday, August 13, that the prosecutors have charged her with "sacrilege," "denigrating" a religious mourning anniversary and "propaganda against the Islamic Republic." It is not clear to what specific acts of the defendant these charges apply.

In the meantime, the conservative allies of the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have insisted that Ms. Jafari used to run a dissident Twitter account, 'Yar-e Dabestani' (school friend) that they had found to be insulting to Islam.

However, Ms. Jafari's sister, Shahrzad, has denied any connection between Nooshin and the Twitter account.

Jafari, 31, was once before detained in 2010 while working as art and culture reporter for the pro-reform daily Etemad. She was later released and continued her career as a cinema photographer.

Independent labor unions, much like political parties are banned in Iran and once workers and activists form a group, that alone is sufficient for being arrested.

In the past two years worker protests have become more frequent, as wages are often delayed for months, while inflation and the cost of living has been rising.

In a letter to the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, eighty trade unions across the world also protested security-related charges against the Labor Day protesters.

However, as in the past, this time also the Islamic republic has not responded to the letter.