Six labor rights prisoners who have all received harsh sentences in Iranian Revolutionary Courts, have been released on bail pending the decision of their appeals.
Marzieh Amiri, Shargh Daily’s journalist who was covering the labor protests of 1 May 2019 when arrested, was released on bail from Evin prison on 26 Oct 2019. Friends and family members had gathered outside of prison singing when she came out of the door.
Atefeh Rangriz, a social justice researcher and labor rights activist who was arrested on the same day as Amiri, was also released from Gharchak prison.
Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amirgholi, and Amir Hossein Mohammadi Fard, three members of the editorial board of the Gaam Magazine who were arrested in connection with covering the protests of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Workers, were also released on bail.
Sepideh Gholian, student and labor rights activist who was instrumental in spreading the news of the protests of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Workers, was also picked up by her family from Gharchak prison. Her brother, Mehdi Gholian announced the news and also mentioned that she was out on bail pending the decision on her appeal.
Gholian, Allahyari, Amirgholi, and Mohammadi Fard have each been slapped with 18 years of prison time and they have all asked for the court of appeals to review their sentencing. Judge Mohammad Moghiseh of Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Marziyeh Amiri to 10.5 years in prison and 147 lashes for covering the 2019 May Day protests. The same judge sentenced Atefeh Rangriz to 11.5 years of prison and 74 lashes.
Many labor rights defenders and workers remain in prison including Neda Naji and Asal Mohammadi, another member of the editorial staff of Gaam magazine. Neda Naji’s partner, Jamal Ameli wrote on Twitter that Naji’s trial will take place in November.
Esmail Bakhshi a representative of the workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Complex also remains in prison with preliminary sentencing of 14 years and 74 lashes.
The “Independent Workers’ of Haft Tappeh Channel” on the messaging app Telegram announced late Saturday night that prison authorities have been obstructing the release of Eshmail Bakhshi by not accepting the initial bail amount set by the Iranian Judiciary. The Channel also writes that the bail set for Bakhshi is a hefty amount.
The Iranian Judiciary authorities have been increasing the amount of bail set for many labor prisoners. Last week Atefeh Rangriz went on a hunger strike in Gharchak prison to object the fact that authorities kept changing the conditions of her bail and increasing the amount the minute her family was able to provide the bail money. Her bail ultimately was increased five times.
The “Independent Workers’ of Haft Tappeh Channel” is now reporting that the Judiciary officials and prison authorities are doing the same to Esmail Bakhshi, increasing the amount of bail and keeping him in prison.
Most labor prisoners released on bail, have received sentencing for bogus national security charges including “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security,” “cooperating with hostile groups” as well as “disrupting public order.” In reality, however, the labor rights defenders had taken part in labor protests or were covering labor issues as journalists.
Iran has witnessed an increase in the number of workers’ protests and strikes in the past two years, mostly due to the worsening of economic conditions, raising prices, unpaid wages, and benefits. Labor issues have become “sensitive issues” and both security forces and the Judiciary have been targeting protesting workers, labor rights defenders and journalists that cover labor issues.
By targeting representatives of workers, activists who support workers’ cause and journalists who cover workers’ issues, Iran is suppressing valuable ties between groups within the civil society that hold the government accountable to the neglect of economic issues in Iran.
All of the individuals released on bail on Saturday have to still wait and see how the appeals court would rule against them. So far, the appeals courts have not been lenient on other labor rights defenders. Sentences of members of the Free Union of Iranian Workers (FUIW) for example where upheld. Parvin Mohammadi of FUIW was sentenced to one year in prison and the appeals court did not change her sentencing.