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Outspoken Lawmaker Tells Iran Judiciary 'Stop Wrong Practices', As UN Issues Critical Report

Ali Motahari, a social conservative lawmaker has become an outspoken critic of hardliners on civil rights issues in recent years. File photo

The outspoken Deputy Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Ali Motahari has called on Iran's new Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi to "stop some wrong practices" in the judicial system.

In a letter, Motahari, representing Tehran, has put forward five requests including one that calls on Raeesi (Raeisi) to stop limiting the number of defense lawyers political prisoners can choose from.

Motahari said the practice was against the law and prisoners' freedom, as well as being a discriminatory regulation.

The Judiciary in 2018 named only 20 out of more than 2000 lawyers as the only ones trusted by the courts to be defense attorneys for people charged with security charges – usually political detainees. The decision triggered criticism by inmates as well as lawyers.

Raeesi who is said to have been in a judicial committee that ordered the killings of hundreds of political prisoners in 1988, was a highly controversial appointment on March 7 by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Motahari also said that indicting lawmakers for comments they make at parliament was a "strange phenomenon" and against the Iranian Constitution.

Meanwhile, referring to cases like the one involving environmentalists, where disputes between two major intelligence agencies has caused problems for inmates, Motahari called on Raeesi to stop intelligence agencies' intervention in Judiciary affairs.

Jailed Iranian environmentalists' case has been continuing since early 2018 as one intelligence agency labels them as spies while another agency insists that they are not spies.

He also warned Raeesi against radicalism of some Judiciary officials, including an official in Mashad who said "a prosecutor's authority is only one inch less than God's power."

The next point made by Motahari, is his opposition to the special authorities vested in the Judiciary by Supreme Leader Khamenei, which denies suspects in economic cases of the right to appeal unless they are sentenced to death.

Motahari also opposed the idea of special courts for clerics as a system that belonged to ancient caste societies. Ironically, Raeesi is the chairman of the Special Court for Clerics.

International human rights watchdogs have been criticizing these and many other discriminatory practices of the Iranian Judiciary all along the past forty years since the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

In the most recent cases UN Chief Antonio Guterres released a report at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council on Friday describing violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic, based on " information from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, State media and non-governmental organizations and from individual interviews with known victims and alleged victims and their families and with lawyers."

According to the report, the Secretary-General remains concerned by "the continued application of the death penalty for a wide range of offences, including those which are vague or uncertain in scope, such as efsad-e fel-arz (“spreading corruption on earth”), and those which do not involve intentional murder and therefore do not amount to “most serious crimes”, such as adultery or consensual sexual relations between two men in certain circumstances."

Execution of child offenders, harsh decisions to “take swift and decisive action” against individuals referred to as “economic disruptors” in the context of an “economic war”, by way of a directive issued by the Supreme Leader, denial of many prisoners' right to fair trial, arbitrary arrest and detention of dual and foreign nationals, pressures on ethnic and religious minorities, arrest and detention of environmentalists, violation of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to privacy, and exerting pressures on human rights defenders and human rights lawyers were among the criticisms made in the UN Chief's report.

However, the UN chief diplomat also pointed out some positive changes. According to the report, Guterres noted that the Iranian government has increasingly engaged with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and with United Nations human rights mechanisms.

"Representatives of OHCHR visited Tehran in May 2018 and met with a range of interlocutors to discuss the human rights situation in the country. The Government has extended an invitation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and to three special procedure mandate holders," he said

The Iranian government has not reacted to the report yet, and it is yet to be seen how Iran's new chief justice takes it from here and whether he continues the improvement.