Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, arrest and incommunicado detention

Re: Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, arrest and incommunicado detention

To: Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei

From: Tina Parbhakar, LRWC

Date: 2009-06-18

LRWC, alongside many other observers, is witnessing the general uprising of Iranian civil society regarding their democratic rights as ensured by fair administrative processes. We are also witnessing the subsequent crackdown on key political leaders, academics, journalists and activists. We have received information that Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, a lawyer at the Bar of Tehran and a founding member of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), has been recently detained.

Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani was handcuffed and arrested in front of his home by four plainclothes persons on June 16, 2009. There is no information available as to his whereabouts. Like many other targeted individuals, he has been harassed on several occasions in the past.

Mr. Soltani, who represented Ms. Zahra Kazemi’s family and Mr. Akbar Ganji, was unlawfully arrested and detained on July 30, 2005. He was holding a sit-in at the building of Tehran’s Bar Association to protest a warrant for his arrest, along with a search warrant for his home, both issued by the Chief Prosecutor for Tehran, Saeed Mortazavi, on 27 July 2005. He was accused of releasing “classified national intelligence” alongside allegations of disclosing information in a nuclear espionage case in which he was a defence counsel. Mr. Soltani was finally released after eight months in prison on March 5, 2006, after posting an exorbitant bail of 100,000 euros, thanks to a national and international movement of solidarity.

While in detention, he was allowed only limited access to his family and not granted access to his lawyer for over five months. He was not even allowed to see his own file. On a March 21, 2006 interview on Radio Farda, he noted that not allowing the accused to see or read his file was a clear violation of Article 190 of the Iranian Criminal Code. On July 16, 2006, he was informed that the Revolutionary Court had sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment.
Although Mr. Soltani was acquitted on May 28, 2007 of all charges that were pending against him since July 2005, the Iranian authorities did not return his identity documents (i.e. passport and family record book), thus preventing him from exercising his freedom of movement, in violation of Article 12.2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Furthermore, in the 2008 elections to the Board of the Central Bar Association (Kanoon-e Vokala), Mr. Soltani was one of four lawyers – the others being Mohammad Dadkhah, Dr. Hadi Esmailzadeh and Fatemeh Gheyrat – who were disqualified from standing by order of the judiciary. It is noted that these lawyers were all members of the DHRC.

LRWC continues to monitor the status of specific human rights defenders. Your government’s long-term interference with citizens such as Mr. Soltani are contrary to both international and Iranian law. The treatment is in contravention of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Section 1, which states,

“Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”

Meanwhile, the applicable portions of the Iranian Constitution are the following:

Article 22, which states,
“The dignity, life, property, rights, residence, and occupation of the individual are inviolate, except in cases sanctioned by law.”

Article 32, which states,
“No one may be arrested except by the order and in accordance with the procedure laid down by law. In case of arrest, charges with the reasons for accusation must, without delay, be communicated and explained to the accused in writing, and a provisional dossier must be forwarded to the competent judicial authorities…The violation of this article will be liable to punishment in accordance with the law.”

Also, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly has provisions that apply as follows:

Article 1, which states,
“Everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”

Article 5(c), which states,
“Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels, […] to communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations”

Article 12.2 which states,
“the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) joins other international groups to demand that the arbitrary arrests, prosecutions and releases on arbitrary conditions come to a close. Although the situation has progressively worsened for those who seek meaningful participation in Iranian political life, we still urge you to provide a response.

Write to LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax to advise us of the actions taken by your government to do the following:

  • Guarantee Mr. Soltani’s physical and psychological integrity including access to a lawyer, adequate and safe living conditions and treatment;
  • Make Mr. Soltani’s whereabouts public and provide for his immediate and unconditional release; and,
  • Put an end to acts of persistent harassment, including judicial and prosecutorial harassment, against Mr. Soltani and all human rights defenders in Iran.