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UN rights office condemns Iran crackdown on dissidents

Representatives for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] voiced their concern Tuesday over Iran's recent crackdown on activists speaking out within the nation. The OHCHR is most notably concerned by the September arrest of human rights lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah. According to a statement [press release] by the OHCHR, Dadkhah has been sentenced to nine years in prison for "membership of an association seeking to overthrow the government and propaganda against the system." In addition to his prison sentence, Dadkhah has also received a 10-year ban [UN News Centre report] on legal practice and teaching. Ali Akbar Javanfekr, who had been the press adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile], was also arrested last week for having "insulted" the Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei [official website]. Also last week, government forces shuttered an independent newspaper, the Daily Shargh, and arrested the newspapers director, Mehdi Rahmanian, for its publication of a cartoon that officials claimed "'insulted the values of the revolution." According to Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the OHCHR, "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." Colville also noted the timing of this crackdown is particularly troubling in the buildup to next year's presidential election.

Accusations against Iran for engaging in politically motivated arrests are not new. Last month the daughter of Iran's former president, Faezah Hashemi [The Iranian profile], was detained after being sentenced [JURIST reports] to six months for spreading propaganda. Faezah Hashemi is one of several opposition figures that have been detained and charged in connection with the wave of civil unrest following the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad. In December Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced opposition figure [JURIST report] and former Iranian foreign minister Ebrahim Yazdi to eight years in prison for attempting to act against national security. Yazdi was also banned from civic activities for five years in the closed-door trial reportedly held in early November. Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi said last year that approximately 100 people imprisoned for their participation in the massive 2009 presidential election protests have been pardoned and released [JURIST report] by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official profile]. In March 2011 Iranian opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and Mehdi Karroubi [NYT profile; JURIST news archive] and their wives were arrested and jailed [JURIST report].

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