May Day honors the contributions that hard-working men and women make to society everywhere around the world. In Iran, those who advocate peacefully on behalf of their fellow workers are likely to wind up spending May Day in prison.
Reza Shahabi is a trade unionist and the treasurer of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed). He has been held in detention since his arrest on 12 June 2010. In April 2012, he was sentenced to six years in prison and a five-year ban on public activity. His sentence was handed down by Judge Abolghassem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court who is notorious for the harsh sentences he hands to peaceful civil society and political activists. Mr. Shahabi was convicted under charges of “propaganda against the system” and “gathering and colluding against national security.”
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Authorities have arrested two leading members of a trade union in Iran that is not recognized by Iranian authorities. Saeed Torabian and Reza Shahabi are currently detained at unknown locations, where they are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. It is speculated that these two men’s arrests are connected to the June 12th anniversary of the disputed 2009 presidential election. Both men were arrested, while authorities searched their homes and confiscated their computers and cell phones.
Saeed Torabian and Reza Shahabi are both members of the The Union (or Syndicate) of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed), which was banned after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The union activities resumed in 2004, although the union itself is not legally recognized.
Despite the fact that the union is not recognized by Iranian authorities, the arrests of Saeed Torabian and Reza Shahabi are unlawful. Iran is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political, Article 22 (1) of which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests,” and to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 8 of which guarantees the “right of everyone to form trade unions and join the trade union of his choice”.
An enforced disappearance facilitates the use of torture and other ill-treatment, and Amnesty International is concerned about the conditions of these two men. Saeed Torabian and Reza Shahabi are believed to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their peaceful trade union activities.
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