Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, Lawyer

Re: Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, Lawyer

To: President Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei

From: Gail Davidson, Executive Director of LRWC

Date: 2005-08-11

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is writing you upon the arrest of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani and the search of his house by the Tehran Prosecutor, Mr. Mortazavi. LRWC is alarmed and concerned about these unjustified and arbitrary actions.

LRWC is a committee of Canadian lawyers involved in promoting human rights and the rule of law by providing support internationally to human rights defenders in danger. Through active engagement and providing support to advocates in danger, LRWC enforces international standards to protect the independence and security of human rights defenders around the world.

On July 30, 2005, Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani was arrested while he was taking part in a sit-in at the Bar of Tehran in order to protest against his warrant of arrest, which Mr. Soltani considered as “illegal with respect to the Iranian Penal Code”. He was also protesting against the search and seizure of his personal and professional belongings. Both his arrest and search warrants were on the orders of Mr. Saïd Mortazavi, Tehran Prosecutor.

Mr. Soltani has been accused of “espionage”, without any details or evidence. He is currently detained at Evin prison in Tehran.

On the same day of Mr. Soltani’s arrest, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, received two messages on her answering machine stating that “We have Soltani, you are next”. Mrs. Ebadi has been subjected to a campaign of intimidation in the government press. She is accused, amongst other things, of “inciting Mr. Akbar Ganji to be on hunger strike”. Mr. Ganji is a prominent journalist and human rights defender who has been imprisoned in Evin Prison for five years. Finally, along with the other lawyers who are members of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, Mrs. Ebadi is subjected to acts of harassment by Mr. Saïd Mortazavi.

On July 25, 2005, during a hearing in camera of the Court of Appeal, Mr. Soltani, acting on behalf of Zahra Kazemi’s family, put into question the independence and fairness of the trial. He pointed out that the main officials involved in the case had not been indicted by the court, including Mr. Saïd Mortazavi. Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, was tortured to death in 2003 while in the custody of Mr. Saïd Mortazavi.

It is clear to LRWC that Mr. Soltani’s arrest, authorized by one of the persons involved in Ms. Kazemi’s death, was undertaken to prevent Mr. Soltani from carrying out his duties as a lawyer, human rights defender and advocate seeking the truth. LRWC demands that the Islamic Republic of Iran follow international laws and agreements and immediately release Mr. Soltani, unconditionally.

As a member of United Nations since 1946, the Islamic Republic of Iran is bound by several United Nations Non-Treaty Standards adopted by the UN General Assembly as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). One of the provisions dealing specifically with arbitrary arrest is Article 9, which states that “no one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.” As Mr. Soltani’s arrest warrant was the product of his work as a lawyer and human rights defender, Iranian authorities supporting his arrest are in direct violation of this Article. The Islamic Republic of Iran must stand by its promises, adhere to the Rule of Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Body of Principles for the Protection of all Persons under any Form of Detention or Imprisonment are also applicable to all member states on the treatment of detainees and prisoners. Under Principle 2, it is stated that:

Arrest, detention or imprisonment shall only be carried out strictly in accordance with the provisions of the law and by competent officials or persons authorized for that purpose.

It is clear that Mr. Mortazavi’s direct involvement in Ms. Kazemi’s case creates a personal interest in the arrest of Mr. Soltani. Mr. Mortazavi’s actions and conduct are improper and demonstrate that Mr. Soltani’s arrest was not “strictly in accordance with the provisions of the law and by competent officials authorized for that purpose”, but as a tool to carry out Mr. Mortazavi’s personal cause against Mr. Soltani. In his defence, Mr. Mortazavi has gone on the offensive.

Mr. Soltani’s arrest also violates Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1990. Principle 16 states:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional function without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.

By directly punishing Mr. Soltani for acting effectively on behalf of his client, her family and by calling on those who have had a hand in her murder but escaped arrest, the Islamic Republic of Iran is in direct violation of this Article. Mr. Soltani and other Iranian attorneys are clearly unable to perform their professional obligations to the best of their abilities if their strategy results in incriminating important public officials. We again urge the Islamic Republic of Iran to recognize the gravity of this situation as well as the message that Mr. Soltani’s arrest is sending to Iranian attorneys faced with similar cases.

Mr. Mortazavi’s behaviour is clearly motivated by fear. Such behaviour is not fit for the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office or the Islamic Republic of Iran. We urge the Islamic Republic of Iran to consider the International Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors. Section 3 of the Guidelines states that:

Prosecutors, as essential agents of the administration of justice, shall at all times maintain the honour and dignity of their profession.

We are hopeful that the Islamic Republic of Iran will use these words to guide future conduct and will, after re-evaluating the situation under which Mr. Soltani’s arrest was made, release Mr. Soltani unconditionally.

We respectfully urge you to:

i Guarantee under all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani;

ii Ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani;

iii Conduct a fair, impartial and independent trial in Ms. Zahra Kazemi’s death in order to identify the perpetrators, bring them to justice and pronounce sentences proportional to the gravity of their crimes;

iv Comply with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”; and

v Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It is unfortunate that such thoughtless action was taken by Mr. Mortazavi so soon after the recent elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mr. Soltani‘s arrest will do nothing more than distract the international community towards the continued practices of those few who exercise power for their own benefit and not the greater good of the Islamic Republic of Iran.