Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The Council for Coordination of Teaching Syndicates (The Council here forth) has issued a statement protesting the sentence imposed on Mohammad Habibi, a teacher’s union activist. The Council has cited the verdict as an example on which to evaluate judicial fairness in Iran. The Council has also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Habibi, adding: “The judge’s ulterior motive in this verdict is to send a warning to society: if you pursue justice, you will face prison and lashings.”
The full text of the statement has been translated to English by HRANA:
Ninety days have passed since the unlawful and violent arrest of Mr Mohammad Habibi, a member of the board of directors of the Teachers’ Union Association of the Province of Tehran. The arrest has appalled teachers and society at large, and the move is widely condemned by conscientious people after another.
Each element of Mr Habibi’s story, from the way he was arrested on May 10th to the legal process he went through and location in which he was detained, is evidence of an extrajudicial will to impose on this jailed teacher an unlawful ordeal. The denial of his bail, as well as the request from the IRGC Intelligence unit to unlawfully transfer him to Tehran, demonstrate a lack of due process and an infringement on the rights of the accused. Sadly, his story doesn’t end there. Mr Habibi was also denied urgently necessary medical attention. Coupled with the deplorable conditions of the Great Tehran Penitentiary, such negligence could end in tragedy if the status quo persists.
Based on reliable information obtained by the Council, the family of Mr Habibi has stopped at nothing to fight for his rights. They have pursued his case by writing letters and visiting with officials in person. Thanks to their efforts, it can be said with certainty that authorities on the highest level are aware of the appalling situation Mr Mohammad Habibi is in. They know of the distress that Mr Habibi’s ordeal has inflicted on the Iranian teaching community. Nevertheless, in an unprecedented and unjust verdict from Judge Ahmadizadeh who presides over Branch 26 of the [Tehran] Revolutionary Court, Habibi was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison, two years’ ban on his social activities, a two-year travel ban, and to crack down even harder, 74 lashings.
It is as if the judge intended with his verdict to put society on guard, sending the message that if you pursue justice, you will face prison and lashings. It is as if the judge sought to say to those oppressed, frustrated, and fed-up with corruption and rising prices, that authorities won’t lay a hand on thieves or embezzlers, and seek only to imprison people, especially teachers, who fight for freedom and justice.
In our view, these due process violations are so stark that an investigation into Mohammad Habibi’s ordeal could provide a clear measure of the judiciary’s integrity.
Therefore, we ask independent jurists and legal experts to investigate this matter so that the Judiciary might respond to the teachers’ inquiries and concerns:
– We would like to know on what basis the agents [who came to arrest Mr Habibi] put a gun to his head while handcuffing him?
– We would like to know what or who allowed plainclothes agents to drag Mohammad Habibi on the pavement after beating him?
– We would like to know on what basis and how the investigators first set the bail, only to deny it later and send the case to the court?
– We would like to know why the judge denied the bail and returned Mr Habibi to the Great Tehran Penitentiary?
– We would like to know why Mohammad Habibi was not transferred outside of the prison for medical attention, despite the coroner’s confirmation that he needed care?
These are the unanswered questions that have preoccupied most of our minds.
Our last question is, why and how can a judge increase a punishment already imposed? The maximum penalty for collusion is five years in prison; for propaganda against the regime, one year; and one year for disturbing the public peace. The judge did not adhere to these maximums, and instead extended Habibi’s prison sentence from one and a half to ten and a half years, even though the maximum punishment for all of the charges against him could only amount to seven and a half years.
How odd a degree of hostility and rancor for those who are responsible for the education of our children.
The Council adamantly condemns the sentence of Mr Habibi and demands his immediate release until his case is heard by an appeals court. The teaching community does not abide charges against jailed activists and requests exoneration of Mr Habibi by an appeals court. We believe that the imprisonment of union activists is the epitome of treating civic activities as security threats. In a political climate like this one, with teachers confined to prison, it is futile to speak of solving education problems. Consequently, union activists, with their imprisoned colleagues in mind, will start this school year in a new, different way.
The Council for Coordination of Teaching Syndicates
August 7, 2018
In mid-July, a group of teachers met with the Minister of Education’s advisor in Union Affairs and delivered a letter in defense of Mohammad Habibi. In the letter, the signatories expressed concerns about Mr Habibi’s health and asked for his transfer to Evin Prison.
In June, a letter signed by 6,500 teachers and civil activists demanding the release of Mr Habibi was delivered to the Iranian Parliament.
On May 10, 2018, the Council urged teachers to assemble in protest. In Tehran, several of those who responded to the call were arrested and transferred to Evin Prison, and all but Mr Habibi were released on bail three days later.
Mohammad Habibi was previously arrested and jailed for 44 days in March 2018 and was released on a bail of approximately $50,000 USD.