We reported last month that Iran halted the stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. And while this may seem like cause for celebration, an uneasy cloud of uncertainty has shrouded this potential victory. We still fear that Ashtiani may be hanged, as charges against her have surfaced in connection to the murder of her husband.
Mostafaei is defending Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was sentenced to death by stoning.
But this is not the only unsettling development for those involved in the case. Yesterday, we denounced the arrest of Mohammad Mostafaei’s wife and brother-in-law, Fereshteh and Farhad Halimi, urging the Iranian authorities to stop harassing Mostafaei.
Mostafaei, a leading human rights lawyer, is defense counsel for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose sentence of death by stoning for alleged adultery recently provoked wide an international public outcry and is a focus of continuing protests and worldwide demands for clemency.
He was issued with a summons on July 21 requiring him to go to a branch of the Prosecutor’s Office in Evin Prison. He went there on July 24, was questioned for at least one hour and then was released. Later, however, he received a further summons by telephone. The same evening, his wife and her brother were arrested and have been detained since.
Mostafaei’s current whereabouts are not known. On the evening of July 24, he wrote on his Facebook account: “it is possible they will arrest me.”
Amnesty International is urging its membership to appeal to the head of the Iranian Judiciary and other authorities to stop harassing Mostafaei and release Fereshteh and Farhad Halimi.
After spending one week at in Evin prison in Tehran, Mohammad Mostafaei — the attorney famous for defending juvenile offenders in death penalty cases in Iran — was released on July 1 on a one billion rial bail (more than $100,000). Mostafaei was arrested the previous week for his human rights activism during the Iranian protests, which erupted in the wake of the announcement of Iran’s election results in mid-June. The accusations against him include charges of conspiracy and propaganda, as well as an alleged intention to harm “state security,” even though his activities have been entirely peaceful and guided by his dedication to human rights in the country.
After his release, Mostafaei publicly thanked his supporters and fellow activists across the world and said that this experience has strengthened his resolve to fight against injustice. However, Mostafaei is still in direct danger of prosecution, imprisonment and even torture for defending and publicly expressing his beliefs. A potential conviction and incarceration would be a huge blow to human rights in Iran. It will also be a major setback in the fight against the execution of juvenile offenders in the country, which Mostafaei has led for so long.
In the midst of all of the political and social turmoil in Iran right now, activist and lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei was arrested this afternoon and taken away by plainclothes officers while out with his wife and daughter. The arrest was most likely related to his human rights activites connected with the recent protests, but he is most well-known for his work representing juveniles facing the death penalty. The officials searched Mostafaei’s home and his office after arresting him and then took him away to an undisclosed location. His family has not been informed of his whereabouts.
Mohammad Mostafaei is a lawyer who, among other things, represents those on death row who were juveniles at the time of their crimes. He currently has 25 such cases. As a signitory of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Iran has agreed not to execute anyone for a crime committed before the age of 18, but they have ignored this agreement many many times. By Amnesty International’s count, Iran has executed 18 child offenders since 2007.
Several juvenile offenders are currently at risk of execution in Iran, including Mohammad Reza Haddadi and Naser Qasemi, and Mehdi Mazroui.
It is important for the Iranian government to know that others are watching how they treat their citizens, particularly those who work in defense of human rights. And it is important for Iranian human rights defenders to have our support. Mostafaei is, in many cases, the only hope his clients have of being spared their life, but there is little that he can do from behind bars. Please urge Iranian leaders to release Mostafaei, and to permit others to speak out without fear of persecution.