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Lecturers Urge Rouhani To Support Prosecuted Students

IRAN -- Iranian students clash with riot police during an anti-government protest around the University of Tehran, Iran, 30 December 2017
IRAN -- Iranian students clash with riot police during an anti-government protest around the University of Tehran, Iran, 30 December 2017

More than 100 lecturers from different universities across Iran have protested verdicts recently issued against students charged for attending protest rallies in December and January and have called upon President Hassan Rouhani to “support” the detained students.

In an open letter addressed to Rouhani and published on Monday, July 16, by the EnsafNews website, 125 lecturers state, “In recent months, particularly after the last December/January protests, scores of students have been detained by intelligence apparatuses and, reportedly, the Islamic Republic’s judiciary has sentenced them to long term imprisonment.”

EnsafNews reported that the lecturers reaffirmed to Rouhani that they demand “safe and secure” universities, not universities dominated by “security forces” and overshadowed by the “police state”.

The lecturers also called upon Rouhani to remain loyal to his “promises” about safeguarding the nation’s rights and providing an environment for students to freely present their criticism.

They wrote, “The Islamic Republic’s President, as the head of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and supervisor of the country’s Constitution, is duty-bound to immediately order the termination of the legal procedures against all prosecuted students".

The signatories said that Rouhani’s Intelligence Ministry was responsible for arresting the students.

“Apparently, most of the detainees are students who have already participated in legal activities and probably expressed their criticism against the government’s performance,” they wrote.

Among the letter’s signatories are Tehran’s representative to the Majlis (Islamic parliament) Mahmoud Sadeghi, and former pro-reform MPs Hashem Aghajari and Elaheh Koulaei. Also included are professors Yousef Ali Abazari and Mostafa Azkia, as well as renowned economists Hossein Raqfar and Farshad Mo’meni.

It was recently reported that scores of students have been sentenced to long terms by the Islamic Republic’s judiciary. Responding to the reports, hundreds of students have held rallies in Tehran University to protest the conviction of their peers.

Based on reports published by sources close to students’ rights activists, Tehran University graduate Sina Darvish Omran and current student of the same university Ali Mozaffari have been sentenced each to eight years and are banned from activity on social media for the same time period.

Furthermore, students’ sources reported nearly three months ago that Tehran University students Layla Hassanzadeh, Mohsen Haqshenas, and Sina Rabiei have been given six, two, and one-year prison sentences respectively and are banned from leaving Iran.

Another student, Roya Saghiri from Shahid Madani University in the city of Tabriz in northwestern Iran, has been sentenced to 23-months in prison. Saghiri, 24, who had publicly opposed compulsory hijab, published her own final verdict on Wednesday, July 11, on her Instagram account.

During recent protests that broke out late last December in the city of Mashhad, northeastern Iran, and which soon spread to more than 100 cities across the country, more than 100 students were detained.

The protests, which started with slogans against unemployment, corruption, high prices and poverty, turned into widespread demonstrations against “tyranny”, “dictatorship” and, in many cases, were in favor of monarchy and the Pahlavi royal dynasty.

Under a barrage of criticism, the Islamic Republic’s judiciary maintained that most of the detained students were arrested as a “preventive measure”. Human rights activists and legal experts rushed in to say that the Islamic Republic’s own constitution explicitly forbids the authorities to use “preventive measures” as an excuse to arrest people who “might” commit a crime in “future”.

The charges against the detained students are vaguely defined and are ones that are usually used against political and human rights activists who have been recognized as “anti-Islamic Revolution” and “anti-state” dissidents by intelligence and judiciary officials.