Seven Labor Activists of Haft Tappeh’s Case Sentenced to 110 Years in Prison and 74 Lashes, Combined
On September 7, 2019, the Revolutionary Court of Tehran sentenced Esmail Bakhshi to a 14-year prison term and 74 lashes and Mohammad Khanifar to six years imprisonment. In addition, Sepideh Gholian, Amir Amirgholi, Amir Hossein Mohammadifard, Sanaz Allahyari, and Asal Mohammadi were sentenced to 18 years in prison, each. Their trial was held in the Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, in August. Ali Nejati’s case is still open.
The collective court session for the detained labor activists of Haft Tappeh’s case was initially scheduled for August 3, 2019 at the Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran led by judge Moghiseh. However, the session was postponed to a later date and was held one-by-one.
According to the verdict issued by the Branch 28 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court led by judge Moghiseh, Esmail Bakhshi was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for the charge of “assembly and collusion aimed to act against national security”, two years imprisonment for “insulting the Supreme Leader”, two years imprisonment for the charge of “spreading falsehood”, one years and half in prison for the charge of “propaganda against the state”, and 1.5 years in prison and 74 lashes for the charge of “disrupting the public order”.
Sepideh Gholian, Amir (Ali) Amirgholi, Amir Hossein Mohammadfard, Sanaz Allahyari, and Asal Mohammadi, each were sentenced to seven years in prison for the charge of “assembly and collusion aimed to act against national security”, another seven years in prison for the charge of “membership in Gam group”, one year and a half in prison for the charge of “propaganda against the state”, and two years and a half for “spreading falsehood”. According to the article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, each should serve the sentence for the charge with the highest penalty which is seven years imprisonment on the charge of “assembly and collusion aimed to act against national security”.
Mohammad Khanifar was sentenced to five years in prison for the charge of “assembly and collusion aimed to act against national security” and a one-year prison term for the charge of “propaganda against the state”. According to the article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, Mohammad Khanifar should serve the sentence for the charge with the highest penalty which is five years imprisonment on the charge of “assembly and collusion aimed to act against national security”.
The protests of the workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane industrial complex started on March 28, 2018 in front of the Shush governor compound. Subsequently, the prosecutor’s office of Shush summoned several workers. The workers went to the prosecutor’s office three days later but were informed that their session was rescheduled. On the same day, 10 protester workers were arrested. The Haft Tappeh Sugarcane industrial complex union reported the strike of more than five hundred workers of this company from July 29, 2018 and these protests periodical continued till August 2018. The protesters demanded an end to the privatization of the company and alleged houses to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, firing the executive board members of the company, and sustain the current director of the company. In November 2018 these protests were accompanied by protests of the workers of Iran National Steel Industrial Group (INSIG) and continued till late December. Esmail Bakhshi and Ali Nejati are two prominent labor activists of Haft Tappeh Complex who have been arrested during the protests.
Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November and was released on bail in December 2018. He was charged with “disruption of public order”, “assembly and collusion against national security”, and “participation in forming a group”, “intended to disrupt public security”. On December 2, 2018 he reported his return to his workplace. On January 4, 2019, Esmail Bakhshi wrote an open letter and spoke out about abuse and torture he suffered in detention from the Intelligence Department authorities during his detention. After that, Sepideh Gholian, a civil rights activist who was arrested during workers protests supported him. Bakhshi and Gholian have been rearrested after the broadcast of their under-torture confessions on the national television. They have been transferred from Sheiban and Sepidar prison in Ahvaz to Evin prison in Tehran on April 28, 2018 for their court hearing.
On August 10, 2019, the trial of Sepideh Gholian was held at the Branch 28 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. In this session Sepideh Gholian claimed that she was subjected to abuse during her interrogation and was forced to confess therefore she does not approve her accusation. Sepideh Gholians attorney, Jamal Heydari Manesh, stated that his client was under pressure during her arrest and interrogation and she was falsely accused. He emphasized that defending the workers’ right is not a crime but one the rights of his client.
Ali Nejati, who is a labor activist and a member of the managing board of the labor union representing employees of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company, was arrested by the security forces on November 29, 2018 on the charges of “disrupting public order”, “collusion and assembly against national security” and “cooperation in establishing a group intended to disrupt peace and security”. He was transferred to the Shush prison on December 24, 2018. He was taken to the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Baghaei Hospital due to the deteriorating health for his heart. He is suffering from heart disease and a prolonged detention had a dire health consequence and even endangered his life. In January, his family reported about his inappropriate detention condition. Nevertheless, his verdict was changed to release on bail, and he was temporary released on January 28, 2019.
The members of “Gam”, a labor right defendant magazine was arrested by the security forces. On January 16, 2019, Amir Amirgholi was arrested in city of Babolsar and was transferred to the ward 209 of Evin Prison. He was transferred to Ahvaz’s Intelligence department on February 18, 2019 and then transferred to quarantine ward of Sheiban Prison in Ahvaz. Currently, he is in ward four of Evin Prison. Sanaz Allahyari and her husband Amir Hossein Mohammadifar, were arrested on January 9, 2019. Mohammadifar was transferred from the ward 209 in Evin Prison to the ward 4 and Allahyari was transferred to the woman ward of Evin Prison.
Asal Mohammadi, labor activist, was arrested at her home by security forces on the charge of supporting workers’ protests on November 22. On January 5, 2019, she was released on 400 million Tomans [4000 dollars] bail. She was rearrested on August 4, 2019 by judge Moghiseh order. Reportedly, she could not afford the updated set bail of two billion Tomans [200 thousand dollars].
Mohammad Khanifar was arrested during the mass arrest on November 19, 2019 during the protest of workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane and he was released on January 26, 2019. On January 29, he was summoned to Shush’s Intelligence department and was rearrested there. He was released on bail on January 29, 2019. His trial session for another part of this case was held on February 12, 2019 in the Shush Court. In this session his incitement was about the charge of” unauthorized demonstration demanding the change of management of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcan Agro-Industry and the release of Esmail Bakhshi”.
Haft Tappeh was founded in the 1960s in the city of Shush, in Khuzestan Province. It is the oldest sugar factory in Iran. Since 2015 due to the privatization deal based on article 44 of the constitution was transferred to the present owners. It has four thousand workers and employees and is located 15 kilometers south of the Shush city.