Human rights lawyer Mohammad Najafi, serving 3-year sentence in Iran

Iran’s regime has issued more threats against leading human rights lawyers who are being held as political prisoners.

Mohammad Najafi has appeared before a Revolutionary Court in northern Iran, facing four additional charges that could add years to his sentence.

The lawyer has appealed against a punishment of three years and 74 lashes, imposed in October, for remarks to media that prison authorities tried to cover up the death of a detainee.

Najafi’s client Vahid Heydari was arrested during protests earlier this year. After publication of his comments, the attorney was convicted of “disturbing the state” and “publishing falsehoods”.

Najafi’s attorney Payam Derafshan said after the threat of more charges, “[He] has only expressed an opinion that may not have been palatable to many people. A security crime is when someone resorts to arms and threatens the country. But political crimes are verbal expressions of a humanitarian concern that many may not agree with.”

The allegations include “forming a group consisting of more than two members for the purpose of disturbing national security in the country”; “propaganda against the state in favor of anti-state organizations”; “insulting the Supreme Leader by chanting ‘Death to the Dictator’”; and “cooperation with enemy states through the transfer of news and information, including interviews with foreign media”.

Derafshan responded, “Instead of charging him with serious crimes, we should be grateful when someone expresses his opinion and spreads information about a suspicious death.”

Pressure on Sotoudeh

Since the mass protests after the disputed 2009 Presidential election, the Iranian regime has imprisoned scores of lawyers, including prominent defenders such as Nasrin Sotoudeh.

Sotoudeh, held from 2010 to 2013, was rearrested this June over her defense of women who took off the mandatory hijab head covering. Her husband Reza Khandan said she is now being denied visits with her two children.

Khandan has now been charged by authorities. He refused to appear at a Revolutionary Court in Tehran last week, demanding a public trial.

The activist also says the court has rejected his chosen lawyer, refusing any meeting to review the case.

Khandan was detained in Evin Prison on September 4, over his interviews and news on social media about Sotoudeh.

His lawyer Mohammad Moghimi said the charges are “assembly and collusion against national security”, “propaganda against the state”, and “encouraging prostitution by promoting non-observance of the hijab”.

Among the evidence are badges against compulsory hijab law, found in a raid on Khandan and Sotoudeh’s home.

Last month UN experts called on Iran to free human rights defenders and lawyers who have been detained, “We urge the Government to immediately release all those who have been imprisoned for promoting and protecting the rights of women.”

Sotoudeh and Khandan with their children after her release from prison in 2013: