Rupert Colville

The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has called for the immediate release of political activists and prominent journalists jailed in Iran.

The UN website reports that OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville condemned the arrest and intimidation of dissidents in Iran and said the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders and media groups in the run-up to the upcoming presidential elections in June 2013 is of grave concern.

Colville referred specifically to the arrest of Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s press advisor and the head of state news agency IRNA, who has been sentenced to six months in prison for insulting the leader, and also to Parisa Hafezi, the director of the Reuters office in Iran, who is accused of publishing falsehoods.

Colville also spoke of the arrest of Mohammadali Dadkhah, a human rights lawyer who was sent to prison on September 29 to serve out a nine-year sentence for “membership in an association aiming at toppling the regime and propaganda against the regime.”

Dadkhah is a co-founder of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Iran. Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel Peace laureate, is the other founder of the centre, which is now outlawed in Iran.

Colville also refers to the arrest of Faezeh and Mehdi Hashemi, the children of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is the head of Iran’s Expediency Council and a former president.

“Lawyers, human rights defenders and independent media make a key contribution in democratic societies and must be allowed to carry out their work without facing intimidation, harassment, arrest and prosecution,” Colville said. “The arrests and harsh sentences imposed on such figures reflect a disturbing trend apparently aimed at curbing freedom of expression, opinion and association, which are guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a State party. OHCHR urges the Government of Iran to promptly release all those who have been arrested for peacefully exercising their fundamental rights.”