A prominent Iranian lawyer has temporarily ended his hunger strike from behind bars at the request of his colleagues, who believed his health was in danger.
Abdolfattah Soltani, who has been in prison since September 10, 2011, went on hunger strike March 21, but began taking food again March 26 at the request of thousands of attorneys and civil society activist who believed the fast threatened the 64 year old’s life.
Soltani announced he would suspend his hunger strike until April 10 to allow parliament and lawyers unions time to research his case and reinstate his rights in a “tension-free atmosphere.”
In a March 25 letter addressed to the Islamic Republic’s judiciary, members of parliament, and the chairmen of Iranian Bar Association and lawyers’ unions, 3,600 lawyers and civil rights activists called for “implementing all tools” needed for Soltani’s release. In the same letter the signatories asked Soltani to suspend his hunger strike until April 10.
Soltani began his hunger strike to protest what he says is the Intelligence Ministry’s interference in judicial proceedings against political prisoners. He carried out his strike in the prison where he is incarcerated in the city of Borazjan.
While thieves enjoy their basic human rights behind bars, political prisoners are controlled and persecuted by the Intelligence Ministry’s agents, said Soltani.
Earlier, Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, who is in contact with Soltani, said the person investigating Soltani’s case is an Intelligence Ministry official called “Mahmoudi.”
According to Ms. Ebadi, Mahmoudi was in charge of her own interrogation while she was in jail, as well as that of another prominent human rights defender, Ms. Nargess Mohammadi.
Soltani, who co-founded the Defenders Of Human Rights Center along with his colleagues Shirin Ebadi, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Mohammad Seifzadeh, and Mohammad Sharif, served as the attorney defending the family of Iranian-Canadian photo journalist Zahra Kazemi, who is widely believed to have been tortured and murdered in July 2003 in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.
The Center was declared defunct by the Islamic Republic’s authorities and its founders were arrested.
Soltani was arrested again on political charges in 2005 and 2009. In 2012 he was charged with “using the law to facilitate crimes,” “founding a human rights organization,” and “acting against national security.” He was sentenced to eighteen (subsequently commuted to ten) years in prison and banned from practicing law for an additional 20 years.
In an interview with New York-based Center For Human Rights In Iran (CHRI), Soltani’s daughter, Maedeh, says her father should have been freed already.
According to Ms. Soltani, President Hassan Rouhani and his Ministry of Intelligence are directly responsible for keeping her father behind bars.
“Mr. Rouhani has said some slogans in defense of citizens’ rights, but that has made no difference in the Intelligence Ministry’s decisions or else my father, who happens to be a defender of citizens’ rights and freedoms, would not be sitting in prison,” she said. “I believe the Intelligence Ministry is still being run by the same gang who took away my father’s freedom.”