Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel Peace laureate, says the jailed members of Iran’s Human Rights Defenders Centre are being intimidated and pressured into making coerced confessions against their organization.
The Human Rights Defenders Centre of Iran was an NGO established by a group of Iranian lawyers to concentrate on human rights cases in their country. The members of the organization, which is now banned in Iran, have been targeted with fierce persecution over the past three years, especially after the controversial presidential elections of 2009.
Today it was announced that Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent member of the Human Rights Defenders Centre, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison and a 20-year ban from practising law.
Shirin Ebadi, one of the founders of the centre who is now based outside of Iran, reports: “Abdolfattah Soltani and many other collaborators with the Human Rights Defenders Centre have been pressed one-by-one by the interrogators, in interrogation sessions that have always been private [without the presence of a lawyer], to testify against our organization and myself.”
Ebadi adds that the jailed defenders centre members are being pressured to state that because the centre worked many human rights cases pro bono, then it was actually receiving cash payments from foreign embassies.
The Nobel Peace laureate also reports the interrogators have told his colleagues that if they agree to do a recorded interview saying the Nobel Peace prize was awarded to Ebadi for political reasons to pursue regime change in Iran, they will be allowed to leave the country.
Ebadi also indicates that the jailed lawyers have refused to comply with the wishes of their interrogators.
Abdolfattah Soltani has reportedly told Ebadi that if he refuses to do as his jailors wish, then a fate like that of Nasrin Sotoudeh awaits him.
Sotoudeh, another human rights lawyer linked to the Human Rights Defenders Centre, has been jailed since 2010 and sentenced to six years in prison and a 10-year ban from practicing law.
Nargess Mohammadi, Abdolreza Tajik and Mohammad Seifzadeh have also been persecuted for their connection with the Human Rights Defenders Centre.