After acid attacks and execution, Iran defends human rights record

NPR reports: Iranian officials attacked the latest United Nations report on its human rights record Friday, blasting what they called efforts to impose a Western lifestyle on the Islamic republic.

But for Iranians and others who hoped President Hassan Rouhani would begin to turn around his county’s human rights record, the U.N. report provided a depressing but not surprising answer. It said executions in Rouhani’s first year in office had increased to what U.N. Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed called “alarming” levels.

Coming days after a woman was executed for killing her alleged rapist, and after several acid attacks against women in the city of Isfahan, Shaheed’s report portrayed Iranians as suffering from an opaque justice system, regular oppression of women and religious persecution.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, attacked Shaheed for including in his report people who had been charged as terrorists. He told state television that someone with “the high-flown title of U.N. rapporteur shouldn’t act as a Voice of America showman.”

“I think such words in this report devalue the entire report,” Larijani says. “I strongly advise him to resign from this post conclusively, because his background as a rapporteur is very poor.”

Shaheed and other rights advocates say Rouhani, who promised human rights reforms during his election campaign, is hampered by the country’s fractured political system. With hardliners well-placed in parliament, the judiciary, the security services and religious establishment, Rouhani and his supporters can only try for improvements on the margins.

Faraz Sanei of Human Rights Watch says one good example is the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a well-known defense attorney who formerly worked with the exiled Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Sotoudeh was arrested on what Sanei calls trumped-up national security charges and given a six-year prison term. After Rouhani took office, she was released halfway through her term. Then came the backlash: Sotoudeh was barred from practicing law, then briefly arrested again at a demonstration on behalf of the acid attack victims from Isfahan. [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports: A British-Iranian woman detained in Iran for trying to watch a volleyball game has been sentenced to one year in a notorious prison, according to her family and lawyer.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, a law graduate from London, was found guilty of spreading “propaganda against the regime” following a secret hearing at Tehran’s revolutionary court.

Ghavami has been detained for 127 days in prison since being arrested on 20 June at Azadi (“Freedom” in Farsi) stadium in Tehran where Iran’s national volleyball team was scheduled to play Italy. Although she had been released within a few hours after the initial arrest she was rearrested days later.

Speaking to the Guardian, Ghavami’s brother Iman, 28, said the family felt “shattered” by the court verdict.

“We are really disappointed because we felt she would get out on bail immediately. She’s been through a lot and now it’s a full-year sentence and she’s already served four months,” he said.

No reason was given for the conviction, although Ghavami had been accused of spreading propaganda against the regime, an unspecific charge often used by Iran’s judiciary. [Continue reading…]

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