Amnesty International Calls for Fair and Open Trials in Iran

Amnesty International noted that 'Despite repeated assurances by the authorities that the accused are being given a fair trial, proceedings in this closed trial fall far short of international standards for fair trials.'

The organisation has long standing concerns about the continuing pattern of arbitrary arrest, prolonged incommunicado detention and unfair trials before 'special' courts such as Revolutionary and Press Courts, and Special Court for the Clergy. Trials before these courts consistently fail to meet minimum international standards for fair trial and have resulted in the imprisonment of numerous prisoners of conscience.'

The accused were arrested without warrant between January and March 1999 and have been detained, possibly without charge for over one year, in Shiraz and Isfahan. They were denied any access to lawyers and relatives for approximately five months.

Amnesty International is particularly concerned that the accused were denied their right to have legal counsel of their choice and by the court's use of televised confessions. 'Iran has failed to comply with the obligations it has undertaken by its ratification of human rights treaties to ensure fair trials for all accused persons.' the organisation said.

'The broadcast on state television of a videotaped ‘confession' by Hamid Tefileen clearly undermines the presumption of innocence. Any conviction or sentence based on such ‘confessions' made to media and under these circumstances would be in violation of international human rights law.' Amnesty International said. The organisation expressed grave concern that the 'confession' made by Hamid Tefileen and later by Sharokh Paknahad may have initially been made in jail before being repeated in court and later broadcast on state television.

Nine other individuals have reportedly been detained in connection with the cases brought against the 13 Jewish Iranians. They are reportedly Muslim, but their identities and the charges against them have not been made public. Amnesty International has called upon the authorities to clarify the status of these individuals.

In July 1999 hundreds of students were imprisoned following closed and summary trials in Revolutionary Courts. Unfair trials in the Press Court and Special Court for the Clergy continue to result in the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience.

The recent arbitrary arrests of journalist Akbar Ganji, lawyer Mehrangiz Kar, publisher Shahla Lahiji and student representative Ali Afshari reflect an alarming increase in human rights violations and a further clampdown of freedom of opinion, expression and association in the country.

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