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15 Iranian MPs urge Judiciary Chief to stop crackdown on journalists and activists

In a short speech to parliament on 1 September, Iranian legislator Parvaneh Salahshouri severely condemned the recent moves to punish journalists, artists and activists with long prison sentences. The next day, a group of MPs signed a letter urging Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi to reverse the long prison sentences issued against several people who were arrested during a Labour Day rally in Tehran on 1 May 2019.

“There are young women inside prison crying for justice these days,” said Salahshouri, a prominent reformist and former leader of the Women’s Faction in Parliament, in her speech.

Marzieh Amiri, a reporter for the reformist Shargh newspaper in Tehran, was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison and 148 lashes by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court on 25 August, under several charges including “assembly and collusion against national security,” “disturbing public order” and “propaganda against the state.”

Atefeh Rangriz, a workers’ rights activist, was sentenced to 11.6 years in prison and 74 lashes after being arrested at the Labour Day rally. Fellow activist Neda Naji, who was also arrested at that rally, is in Evin Prison awaiting trial.

Parvaneh Salahshouri pointed out that “What is regrettable is that those found guilty [government officials] of embezzlement… have been given only 15 years in prison. Is this Islamic justice?”

Salahshouri also referred to the detainment of film and theater photographer Nooshin Jafari, “whose cries for justice have gone viral on social media.”

While addressing parliament in September last year, Salahshouri protested against the interference of the armed forces in state affairs, against the corruption and the clerics, who instead of dealing with poverty, corruption, and other social issues, are more concerned about women’s appearances she said.

“Unfortunately, however, some of our clerics care less about poverty, about corruption, about the youth leaving Islam, or about embezzlement of public funds than they care about women’s hair or about women riding bicycles,” she said.

In March 2019, when Ebrahim Raisi was appointed to head the judiciary by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, he acknowledged the public’s concern over arbitrary arrests and the imprisonment of individuals for their peaceful actions.

“According to public opinion polls, the people are still concerned about the implementation of justice. More than ever, the people demand to see the implementation of justice at various levels,” he said.

The day after Salashouri’s speech, she and 14 other MPs sent a letter to Raisi reminding him that peacefully attending demonstrations is not a crime.

“Recently people have been disturbed by the heavy sentences imposed on a number of journalists, including Marzieh Amiri, Atefeh Rangriz and Neda Naji, for being present at the Labour Day gathering by workers in front of Parliament,” said the letter.

“If they were prosecuted for being present at a gathering, that is not a crime,” continued the letter. “And if they have been found guilty of covering a gathering, they were only doing their professional duty. The same can be said of the way civil activist Nooshin Jafari has been treated.”

Since 4 August, Jafari has been in detention under unspecified national security charges. On 21 August, her friend released a tearful audio message containing Jafari’s voice that has raised serious concerns for her safety. Jafari’s sister, Shahrzad Jafari, was arrested on 1 September after posting several tweets criticising the authorities’ treatment of Jafari.

More than 200 artists have signed a petition published on social media, raising their concerns about Jafari’s detention, including reports that she has been pressured to make a false confession.

The letter to the Judiciary Chief was signed by the following Reformist MPs: Salahshouri, Tayebeh Siavashi, Hamideh Zarabadi, Mahmoud Sadeghi, Elias Hazrati, Gholamreza Heydari, Ali Nobakht, Ghasem Mirzaie Nikoo, Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh, Mostafa Kavakebian, Farajollah Rajabi, Mohammad Reza Tabesh, Bahram Parsaie, Alireza Rahimi, and the independent MP Ali Motahari.

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