NYT: Iran Engaged in ‘Severe Clampdown’ on Critics, U.N. Says
The New York Times
By NICK CUMMING-BRUCE
Oct. 2, 2012
GENEVA — Iranian authorities have embarked on a “severe clampdown” on journalists and human rights advocates, the United Nations human rights office said Tuesday, drawing attention to a broadened pattern of arrests and actions against critical voices.
A spokesman for Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, expressed concern about a nine-year jail term that Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a prominent human rights lawyer, began serving on Saturday for “membership in an association seeking to overthrow the government and propaganda against the system.” Mr. Dadkhah was reportedly taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.
“The case against him is widely believed to be linked to his work as a human rights defender,” the spokesman, Rupert Colville, told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday.
Mr. Dadkhah has defended a number of high-profile political and human rights advocates and a Christian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for apostasy, but acquitted and released last month after a new trial. Mr. Dadkhah also gained prominence as co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iranwith Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel laureate who fled Iran in 2009 and has lived in exile since then.
Mr. Dadkhah was sentenced in July 2011, and an appeals court upheld the sentence last April. His sentence was accompanied by a 10-year ban on practicing law or teaching, Mr. Colville noted, part of a “disturbing trend apparently aimed at curbing freedom of expression, opinion and association.”
The pattern included the arrest in the past 10 days of two children of Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president of Iran, whose relations with Iran’s current leadership have been strained. On Sept. 22, his daughter Faezemi Rafsanjani, a former member of Parliament, began serving a six-month jail sentence that Mr. Colville said was apparently linked to her participation in an opposition rally in February 2011. Mr. Rafsanjani’s son Mehdi Rafsanjani was detained at the Tehran airport two days later as he returned from three years in exile to face charges linked to his role in mass protests over the outcome of the 2009 presidential election.
Mr. Colville also cited a number of threats to freedom of expression that took place last month. In one, the independent daily newspaper Shargh was closed and its managing editor, Mehdi Rahmanian, was arrested after it published a cartoon the government said was insulting to the memory of Iranian soldiers who fought in the Iran-Iraq war. A summons has also been issued for the cartoonists responsible, Mr. Colville said.
In addition, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, press adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was sentenced to six months in jail for insulting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And the Tehran bureau chief of the Thomson Reuters news agency, Parisa Hafezi, was charged with spreading lies and false propaganda. Iran’s Press TV reported last week that a court would issue a ruling in the case in early October.
“The ongoing arrest and detention of media professionals and intimidation of media organizations is deeply worrying, especially given we are now entering the run-up to the June 2013 presidential elections” in Iran, Mr. Colville said.