The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defender and student activist Arash Sadeghi, detained in Iran for over a month. Arash Sadeghi has been the victim of routine arrests and brutal treatment in prison since 2009, when he was a postgraduate student at Allameh Tabataba’i University. He was first arrested in July 2009 for his involvement in pro-democracy protests that followed the 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
From that point on, Arash Sadeghi’s story goes downhill. He was accused of organizing a student protest at Allameh Tabataba’i University and of having contact with families of political prisoners. He was charged with “gathering and colluding against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system” eight months after his arrest in 2009. He denies all charges. From 2009 until today, Arash Sadeghi has been repeatedly tortured and mistreated in detention, including being held in incommunicado detention for long periods of time. As a result, he lost around 20 kilos (he weighed 50 kilos in October 2013 after his release.) He also had been banned from resuming his studies in Allameh Tabataba’i University.
Today marks the 48th day of his latest arbitrary arrest. On 6 September 2014, Arash Sadeghi was arrested at his workplace in Tehran. The men who arrested him took him to his house, searched his possessions and seized laptops, CDs and other personal items. He has since been held in solitary confinement in Section 2A of Tehran’s Evin Prison, without access to a lawyer. He has only been allowed to make brief phone calls to his father. Until now, Arash faces no charge and is still denied the presence of his lawyer.
The GCHR is very concerned about Arash Sadeghi especially given his previous experiences in Evin prison. He has reported high levels of torture such as being hung from the ceiling by one leg and left hanging for up to five hours at a time, being beaten so severely that his shoulder was dislocated twice and his teeth were broken, and being forced to lick a soiled toilet bowl. He said interrogators had kicked him and punched him in the face while he was blindfolded, harming his eyes and causing him temporary loss of vision.
We also are concerned that he was arrested this time in connection with his critical posts on Facebook about the authorities, and due to interviews he had given to the media about his experience in detention. Arash Sadeghi may require medical attention for injuries he says he has sustained from torture and other mistreatment throughout the years, including his dislocated shoulder.
The GCHR is alarmed that the arrest of Arash Sadeghi might be part of an ongoing trend of harassment against human rights defenders in Iran. This detention silences human rights defenders and violates their right to freedom of expression, especially the ones who are standing up for national issues that are based on international human rights standards.
Based on the above, the GCHR strongly believes that Arash Sadeghi’s ongoing detention is directly related to his human rights activities in Iran, and as such, calls on the Iranian Judiciary and Iranian authorities:
- To release Arash Sadeghi immediately and unconditionally, as he appears to be detained solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,
- To ensure that he is no longer held in solitary confinement and that he is allowed regular family visits and access to a lawyer of his choosing,
- To ensure the physical and psychological integrity and security of Arash Sadeghi, which includes providing any necessary medical attention he might need,
- To guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds the Iranian government that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, to freely publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) 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.”
Also we remind the Iranian government of the following:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states under:
Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 9: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 10: Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Under Article 48 of Iran’s amended Code of Criminal Procedures, which came into law in April 2014, “an accused [person] can request the presence of a lawyer at the onset of detention.” However, according to the Note to the Article, if the accused has been detained on suspicion of committing certain offences including organized crime, crimes against national security, theft and drug-related offences, he or she will not be allowed access to a lawyer until up to a week after arrest.