In the wake of a massive influx of detainees following protests in several Iranian cities at the end of 2017, more than 150 lawyers have called on Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani to stop restricting the detainees’ access to legal counsel.
“As you are aware, widespread arrests have been carried out by security and law enforcement agencies during protest gatherings in recent days and the judiciary, under your direction, is subsequently responsible for the detainees,” said 155 lawyers in a letter published on January 22, 2018.
The signatories include prominent Iranian human rights lawyers Nasrin Sotoudeh, Abdolfattah Soltani and Mohammad Seifzadeh.
Continued the letter: “To help attorneys implement the law and protect the rights of every detainee, which should certainly be your concern as well, and to resolve past and present problems arising from the Note to Article 48 of the Criminal Procedure Regulations, it is our expectation that you take the necessary steps to help lawyers accept requests to represent the detainees.
According to the letter, the Note to Article 48 permits judicial authorities to delay an individual’s access to a lawyer by up to a week in cases involving alleged “crimes against the country’s domestic and foreign security.” Detainees suspected of committing such crimes are also prevented—before the charge is proven—from choosing a lawyer of their choice and restricted to picking one from a list approved by the judiciary chief.
“The judiciary has not published its approved list and when lawyers ask to be on it, they are told to send a request to the judiciary chief for approval,” a lawyer familiar with the issue told the Center for Human Rights on Iran (CHRI) on January 22.
“But in many cases, the names of prominent human rights lawyers don’t get approved and when they are, it’s months too late and the interrogators have already forced suspects to confess,” added the lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The reason I cannot speak to you on the record is that I don’t want to be prevented from representing the protesters,” added the lawyer. “Perhaps I will be able to represent at least a few of them for free.”
“Lawyers have a primary responsibility to inform the public but my colleagues and I are always carrying this fear and feeling of being under pressure,” added the lawyer.