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Prominent Labor Leader Freed From Iran Prison On Bail

Esmail Bakhshi (C) with his family and friends after his release on bail. October 30, 2019.

A prominent labor activist and leader has been released today from prison in Iran on bail after ten months of incarceration following strikes and protests last year in the factory where he worked.

Esmail Bakhshi was the representative of workers at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Mill in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, where workers began strikes last November in protest for their unpaid wages and other demands.

He was arrested in November 2018 and released in December, when he complained about having been tortured in prison. Following a public outcry, authorities re-arrested him in January based on a complaint by President Hassan Rouhani’s Intelligence Minister and since then little was known about his condition in prison.

The decision to arrest him again was attributed to his torture complaint implicating agents of the intelligence ministry.

Last week, six other labor activists were released on bail and Bakhshi’s release indicates a change of policy by Iran’s conservative Judiciary. The bail set for him is around $70,000, a hefty amount for ordinary Iranians but somehow it has been posted.

According to his lawyer, the original bail was set at $140,000, but it was reduced after his defense team protested.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized and condemned the arrest of labor activists on trumped up and ambiguous charges.