July 30, 2010
Mohammad Mostafaei in Germany while on a trip. Picture courtesy of Radio Farda.
Last week, Iranian human rights lawyer Mohmamad Mostafaei, who is most known for defending the execution cases of and , was summoned to Evin prison for questioning. He went on the morning of July 24th and endured four hours of interrogation. Later that afternoon, security forces visited his office with an arrest warrant. When they arrived, Mostafaei was not there. There is no word on Mostafaei since then. On that evening, Mostafaei’s wife Fereshteh Halimi and his brother-in-law Farhad Halimi and imprisoned. According to , the lawyer for Fereshteh and Farhad Halimi, family members of his clients were informed that the release of the Halimi’s depends on whether Mostafaei turns himself in.
, lawyer, journalist, and women’s rights activist, has written a letter to the Chair of the Iran Bar Association to urge its members to stand up against the illegal actions of the government toward Mohammad Mostafaei.
July 28, 2010
By SHADI SADR | text edited by
Honourable Chair of Iran Bar Association, Honourable members of the management committee,
You are aware that on Saturday July 24, 2010, security forces invaded the offices of Mr. Mohammad Mostafaei, one of the most active human rights lawyers in Iran, but could not find him. A few hours later they arrested his wife and brother-in-law in front of his office and took them to Evin prison. The Evin investigator at the Revolutionary Court told Mostafaei’s family that they will stay in prison until Mr. Mostafaei turns himself in.
Meanwhile, state TV aired a report that announced that those who brought the stoning case (of Mrs. Sakineh Mohammadi) to the attention of the world are considered terrorists and monafegh (which in the literature of IRI means membership in the People’s Mujahedin Orgainzation of Iran). Mrs. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43 year old mother of two from the city of Orumiyeh, was under the sentence of death by stoning. The stoning sentence was dropped because of widespread international pressure. Mr. Mostafaei, Sakineh’s attorney, who had tried all possible roads but to no avail, was the first person to bring this case to the world’s attention.
Therefore, it appears that the legal-security system, while forced to stop carrying out the stoning sentence, is hell bent on taking revenge on Mr. Mostafaei based on some trumped up charges. Since they were unable to find him, they arrested his wife and brother-in-law. Not only is the evidence against Mr. Mostafaei questionable but there is [also] no evidence that his wife and his brother-in-law had any role in Mostafaei’s disappearance. On the contrary, details of the events on Saturday point to the opposite.
This is not the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran that the family of a civil activist was taken hostage. The policy of oppression of activists by pressuring their family members via different forms, from threatening them to extracting ‘confessions’ through torture, has been used brutally in the past few years. In one of the recent cases, the husband of Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, a member of the Bar Association of Iran, human rights activist, and Nobel Laureate, was forced to speak against his wife on camera after several days of incarceration.
It is five days now that Mr. Mostafaei’s wife, Fereshteh Halimi, and his brother-in-law, Mr. Farhad Halimi, are incarcerated. Their only crime is being related to Mr. Mostafaei. And his only crime was that he carried out his duties as a lawyer; to defend under-age [people], those sentenced to death by stoning, and political prisoners. Now, the seven year old daughter of Mohammad Mostafaei and Fereshteh Halimi is deprived of her parents.
I knew Mohammad Mostafaei from the time when we collaborated on the cases of women sentenced to stoning, like Nazanin Fatehi. He was one of the active members of a network of pro bono lawyers in the ‘Campaign for Law without Stoning’. The campaign succeeded to save the lives of at least nine women and two men in less than two years and was influential in removing death by stoning from the Islamic Penal Code in Iran. In March 2007, when I and 32 other women’s rights activists were arrested, Mohammad Mostafaei took on my case. At that time, the Management Committee of the Bar Association wrote a very effective letter to the Judiciary in protest to my arrest [that occurred from] defending a client.
Defending the rights of lawyers to carry out their duties is one of the most basic charges of the Bar Association and the main Reason D’etre for establishing it to be the oldest civil law entity in Iran.
Therefore, as a lawyer, a member of the Central Court lawyers, also as a client and defendant, I urge you, who lead this oldest civil law society in Iran, to not remain silent on state kidnap and retaliation. At this moment a member of this Bar, whose only crime is defending his client and the rights of the vulnerable, is, together with his family, under intense pressure. Your silence on this matter not only means failure to discharge your duty of care of lawyers but also questions your independence from the judicial-security system. It is time that every one of us acts against the policy of state hostage taking and retaliation. If we do not act against this policy, whose victims today are Shirin Ebadi and Mohammad Mostafaei, it will attack every single one of us tomorrow.
Hoping for human rights,
International bar Association (IBA),
The Council of Bar and Law Societies in Europe (CCBE),
Advocaten voor Advocaten,
School of Law, Goethe University,
School of Law, Santa Clara University,
Attorneys Without Borders,
Max Planck Institute,
And international human rights organisations.