Arak HEPCO Strikers Sentenced to Suspended Imprisonment and Lashings

Posted on: October 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Fifteen workers from the Heavy Equipment Production Company (HEPCO) in Arak who staged rallies in protest of delayed wages in May 2018 have been sentenced to one year in prison and 74 lashings each for “disrupting the public peace through participation in an illegal gathering.”

Judge Akbar Rezvani of Arak Criminal Court No. 2 Branch 106 recently issued the sentences, which will be suspended over five years.

HRANA previously reported the identities of the defendants: Majid Latifi, Behrouz Hassanvand, Hamidreza Ahmadi, Amir Hooshang Poorfarzanegan, Morteza Azizi, Hadi Fazeli, Abolfazl Karimi, Farid Koodani, Majid Yahyaei, Amir Fattahpour, Yaser Gholi, Amir Farid Afshar, Mehdi Abedi, Ali Maleki, and Behrouz Velashjerdi.

Some of the protestors’ prison terms were compounded by additional charges: Fazeli, Afshar, and Karimi stand threatened by a year and six months’ additional prison time; Hassanvand also faces an additional year in prison [should he re-offend within the five-year suspension period].

Judge Rezvani also added six more months onto the sentences of [Latifi, Ahmadi, Poorfarzanegan, Koodani, Fattahpour, Gholi and Velashjerdi], charging them with “aiding in disrupting public peace.”

The collective verdict acknowledged economic hardship as a motivating factor in the strikers’ offenses, thus justifying a suspended sentence based on Articles 46 [“Suspension and Execution of Punishment”] and 38 [“Mitigating Factors”] of the Islamic Penal Code.

HRANA previously reported on ten striking workers who received subpoenas, quoting one HEPCO worker who saw the irony in the court summons, saying that strikers had already exhausted all other avenues of communicating their needs. “They have previously voiced their guild’s demands in letters to governmental and judiciary establishments such as the provincial governments, the local satellite office of the Supreme Leader, county governments, and security establishments.”

Below is an excerpt of the strikers’ verdict sheet:

1. Majid Latifi, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering” and six months in prison for “abetting and inciting workers of HEPCO to assemble and disrupt public peace, inducing propaganda against the regime.”

2. Behrouz Hassanvand, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering, producing sensationalized rhetoric for biased individuals, displaying insolence toward police officers [thereby] inducing conflict and disruption to public peace,” and one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.”

3. Hamidreza Ahmadi, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace by participating in rallies and rhetoric for biased individuals” and six months in prison for “aiding in disrupting public peace through inciting workers to propagandize against the regime.”

4. Amir Hooshang Poorfarzanegan, sentenced to six months in prison for “aiding in disrupting public peace through inciting workers to attend the gathering,” one year in prison for “disrupting public peace [thereby] inducing propaganda against the regime,” and 74 lashings for “aiding in disrupting public peace.”

5. Morteza Azizi, represented by attorney Seyed Saeed Mirmohammadi, was sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering” and six months in prison for “leading an illegal gathering of workers inducing propaganda against the regime.”

6. Hadi Fazeli, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering,” six months in prison for “aiding in inciting workers to disrupt public peace” and one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime via voice, video, and text broadcasts.”

7. Abolfazl Karimi, represented by attorneys Seyed Farhad Bathaei and Fatemeh Karimi, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering,” six months in prison for “aiding in disrupting public peace through inciting workers to attend a gathering inducing disruption of public peace,” and one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime through the printing, publishing, and display of protest banners.”

8. Farid Koodani, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering” and six months in prison for “aiding in disruption of public peace inducing propaganda against the regime.”

9. Majid Yahyaei, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering.”

10. Amir Fattahpour, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering” and six months in prison for “aiding in disrupting public peace through inciting workers to attend a gathering inducing propaganda against the regime.”

11. Yaser Gholi, represented by attorney Seyed Saeed Mirmohammadi, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering” and six months in prison for “aiding in disrupting public peace through planning worker gatherings in the Tehran Privatization Organization[…] inciting workers to attend a gathering inducing disruption of public peace, and propaganda against the regime.”

12. Amir Farid Afshar, represented by attorney Seyed Saeed Mirmohammadi, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering,” six months in prison for “aiding in disrupting public peace through inciting workers and biased individuals to disrupt public peace” and one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime through the creation of the HEPCO Telegram channel.”

13. Mehdi Abedi, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering.”

14. Ali Maleki, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering.”

15. Behrouz Velashjerdi, sentenced to one year and 74 lashings for “disrupting public peace through participation in an illegal gathering” and six months in prison for “aiding in disrupting public peace by inciting workers to a commotion in cyberspace.”

Trucker Strikes: Threat of Death Penalty Casts Shadow on 261 Detainees

Posted on: October 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Since Iranian truck drivers announced a new wave of strikes on September 22nd, 261 striking drivers in 19 different provinces have been arrested. As authorities threaten detainees with the worst, their tenacious movement continues to push forward, obtaining small victories along the way.

Iranian General Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri recommended harsh punishment for the detained drivers, previously assessing the strikes as a form of banditry, which he iterated “can be punishable by death.” Ghazvin Prosecutor Mohsen Karami announced that 17 of the detained drivers were being charged with “creating insecurity” and “disturbing public order,” and has called for the death penalty.

In a press release, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) expressed concern over these threats. “ITF affiliates globally are urging the Iranian government to listen to their truckers’ demands. It is economic solutions that are needed. Not threats of executions.” Transportation unions in the US and Canada, along with multiple news agencies and international federations, have gone public with similar concerns and statements of solidarity with the truckers.

Strikers’ demands have, in some respects, made significant headway. The High Council of Transportation Coordination recently approved a measurement tool for freight transport rates known as the tonne-kilometre (tkm) method, which would ensure more regulated compensation. “Adopting the tonne-kilometer system[…] put an end to 40 years of dispute between truck drivers and companies,” Malek Nakhyi, one of the drivers who will put the new system to use, told Tasnim news agency. “This measure will be a blessing to the Iranian transport industry.”

In talks with news agencies, state authorities claim to already have resolved the tire shortage, i.e. one of the truckers’ most pressing demands. However, Head of the Truckers’ Guild Association Ahmad Karimi told Iran Labour News Agency (ILNA) that only 50 thousand tires have thus far been distributed into a market that is in urgent need of 300 thousand more. “One of the truck drivers’ issues [with the system] is that the tires have no fixed price on the market, and representatives [of tire producers] set the price arbitrarily,” he added.

One truck driver told HRANA that a channel in Bandar Abbas ran a “false” broadcast of customs officials inspecting tires purchased in Iraq and Azerbaijan, with the claim that it was footage of tires being distributed to drivers.

The Truckers’ Guild Association listed 15 demands in its call to strike on September 22nd, among them an increase in pensions, the lowering of tire and auto-part prices, a 70% increase in the freight rate, cheaper insurance premiums, the elimination of go-betweens at terminals, and punishment of officers who arbitrarily demand bribes from drivers.

Truck Drivers Begin Strikes in Mashhad and Isfahan

Posted on: August 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – A number of truck drivers have begun strikes in Iran’s second and third largest cities, Mashhad and Isfahan.

on August 25th, truck drivers who work for a department of the Mashhad municipality responsible for collecting dust and construction materials gathered in front of the department to make their demands. A number of truck drivers in the central city of Isfahan also stopped work and gathered on Shapur Street.

Lack of attention to their demands by authorities, severe livelihood problems, low wages and high repair costs are among the reasons behind the strikes.

Videos published on social media show truck drivers also striking in the southwestern city of Ahvaz. HRANA is in the process of confirming these reports.

HRANA had previously reported on the truck drivers’ strikes in the month of June and the reaction of authorities.