In Iran, attorneys who defend political dissidents and who strive to uphold the rule of law are being targeted by the regime. Their ability to practice their profession is being hobbled by imprisonment, lengthy government bans, and exile.
One of the most prominent still in Iran is Nasrin Sotoudeh, lawyer for Nobel laureate and exiled Iranian attorney Shirin Ebadi and other Iranian human rights activists. Ms. Sotoudeh was sentenced in January to 11 years in prison, a 20 year ban on foreign travel, and a 20 year ban on practicing law.
A similarly harsh sentence of 10 years in jail and a ban on teaching was recently meted out to Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, attorney and co-founder of the Center for Human Rights Defenders. Mr. Dadkhah is the lawyer for Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death on the charge of apostasy.
The lawyer for another Iranian sentenced to death -- this time by stoning – has also been imprisoned. Attorney Javid Houtan Kiyan took up the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman who was convicted of adultery in dubious legal proceedings. He assumed the case after her first lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, was forced to flee Iran after Ms. Ashtiani's plight garnered international attention. Mr. Kiyan was arrested in October 2010, and remains in detention. There are credible reports he has been severely tortured.
The list of lawyers persecuted and jailed for trying to uphold the rule of law for clients targeted by the regime continues, including three lawyers, Mostafa Daneshjoo, Farshid Yadollahi, and Amir Eslami, who defended the persecuted Gonabadi dervishes, and Khalil Bahramian, the defense attorney for five Kurdish-Iranian political prisoners who were hanged in Evin prison in May 2010. All these lawyers were sentenced to months in prison; Mr. Bahramian has also been banned from practicing law for 10 years.
Tehran's attempts to deprive Iranians of effective legal representation are reprehensible. The United States commends those human rights lawyers still practicing in Iran despite persecution and calls on the Iranian government to uphold its own constitution, and live up to its international obligations to support the rule of law for all citizens in Iran.