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Iran Imprisons Labor Leaders

The International Transport Workers' Federation and the International Trade Union Confederation have called on trade unions around the world to protest the imprisonment of two Iranian labor leaders. The two are Mahmoud Salehi, a founding member of the Saqez Bakery Workers' Association and Mansour Osanloo, President of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company.

Mr. Salehi was arrested on April 9th on charges relating to organizing a peaceful demonstration on May Day 2004, and for his trade union activities. Mr. Salehi was supposedly convicted of "conspiring to commit crimes against national security" and was sentenced to one year in prison. He is currently in prison in Sanandaj, the capital of the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, with no access to his lawyer or his family. Amnesty International says Mr. Salehi's medical care is inadequate, and his health is deteriorating.

Mansour Osanloo was first arrested in December 2005, after leading a protest against poor working conditions, low pay, and the government's refusal to recognize the bus driver's labor union. Over the past year and a half, he has spent more time in than out of Evin prison.

Mr. Osanloo's most recent arrest occurred on July 10th. He had just returned from a trip to Europe where he briefed trade unionists on the struggles he and his colleagues in Iran have endured. Abducted from a bus, he was violently beaten before being imprisoned, once again, in Evin.

Heba El-Shazli is regional program director for the Middle East at the A-F-L-C-I-O Solidarity Center in Washington, D.C. She says the Iranian government is acting against independent labor leaders out of fear:

"The day to day life of Iranians is increasingly becoming very difficult. And what these workers are asking for is the right to negotiate, to bargain, the right to be able to advocate and to form an independent union. And I am sure that many other organizations would like to do the same. These are basic economic rights, and they're being forbidden. They're being stopped. But the government will not succeed."

In a written statement, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called recent actions by Iran's clerical regime "an alarming trend of intolerance toward any expression of independent views by the Iranian people." He called on the Iranian government "to improve its human rights situation before more Iranians suffer for attempting to exercise their universal rights and freedoms."