Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Iran: Prominent Human Rights Lawyer Sentenced to Nine Years in Prison

(July 20, 2011) On July 4, 2011, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, was sentenced to nine years' imprisonment upon conviction on the charge of “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime” and banned for ten years from practicing law and university teaching. According to one account, he has also been sentenced to flogging. (Mohammad Ali Dadkhah Has Been Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison, MAJZOOBAN.ORG (last visited July 18, 2011).) The court also fined him for having a satellite television receiver in his home. Reportedly, “[t]he conviction is seen as an attempt by the government to quell dissidents in light of protests across the Middle East.” (Zach Zagger, Iran Rights Lawyer Jailed for Anti-Government Activities, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (July 5, 2011).) Dadkhah was quoting as stating that he had 20 days to lodge an appeal. (MAJZOOBAN.ORG, supra.)

Dadkhah is a founding member of the advocacy group Defenders of Human Rights Center, which, among other activities, provides pro-bono defense counsel to Iranians accused of political crimes and to prisoners of conscience, support to the families of such individuals, and quarterly and yearly reports on the situation of human rights in Iran. (About the Defenders of Human Rights Center, (last visited July 18, 2011).) His fellow co-founders have been similarly prosecuted for actions against the government; human rights lawyer Mohammed Seifzadeh received the same punishment of a nine-year prison term and ten-year ban on teaching or practicing law. (Zagger, supra.)

Dadkhah had been among those arrested in July 2009 in the aftermath of the June presidential election, as part of the government's crackdown on supporters of the opposition candidate after protesters took to the streets in a mass protest against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but he was subsequently released after posting a bail of about US$500,000. (Iran Puts Top Human Rights Lawyer on Trial: Report, AFP (Oct. 19, 2010).) Dadkhah also represented some of the other activists who had been arrested as a result of their having taken part in the post-election protests. Even before then, he handled some high-profile cases. (Zagger, supra.)

Dissidents and opposition leaders continue to be suppressed in Iran. Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi was placed under house arrest earlier this year. (Id.) It was reported on July 13, 2011, moreover, that prominent Iranian journalist Isa Saharkhiz, currently in prison, wrote a letter calling upon the newly appointed United Nations Human Rights Special Rapporteur Ahmad Shaheed to investigate prison conditions in Iran. Saharkhiz stated, “what is happening in the prisons of the Islamic Republic [of Iran] is a crime against humanity no less than the inhumane measures [implemented by Soviet leader Josef] Stalin in Siberian concentration camps,” and, he contended, “the strategy of this regime is to kill protesting prisoners silently and gradually … for they are afraid of us being alive, even behind these bars and walls.” (Jailed Iranian Journalist Appeals to UN Rapporteur, RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY (July 13, 2011).)

Arrested during the July 2009 crackdown, Saharkhiz was given a sentence of three years of imprisonment, to be followed after his release by a five-year ban on engaging in political and journalistic activities and a one-year ban on leaving Iran after his release, on charges of insulting Iran's supreme leader and “spreading propaganda against the regime.” (Id.)