LONDON: Iran’s judiciary has convicted at least 24 protesters on what Human Rights Watch has called “vaguely defined national security charges,” according to a statement from the group.
Prison sentences range from six months to six years for the 24 people, who were among 50 arrested on August 2 during anti-government protests in Tehran.
According to the HRW statement citing sources close to the case, Iranian prosecutors charged them with “assembly and collusion against national security” due to “participating in a protest without a permit that disrupted public order.”
On October 28, authorities also arrested a human rights lawyer over the reporting of a protester’s death in detention.
In the sentencing of at least two of the people, including 19-year-old Saba Kordafshari, the evidence presented by the prosecution was based entirely on social media posts they made about the protests.
Two sources reported that prosecutors and prison officials “denied the detainees access to a lawyer” throughout the investigation and that the protesters were pressured into pleading guilty.
Michael Page, deputy director of HRW Middle East said: “Iranian government officials repeatedly advertise to the world that the repeated protests in the country signal that there are real freedoms in Iran, while these same protesters languish in prison for years.
“Prosecuting peaceful protesters will only add fuel to Iranians’ boiling frustration and discontent with the situation.
“Countries that engage with Iran should press authorities for independent investigations into the proliferating number of abuses committed by Iran’s repressive intelligence and security apparatus,” Page added.
On July 31, protests against poor economic conditions and corruption that began in the city of Esfahan spread to other cities, including Karaj in Alborz province and the capital Tehran.
According to official government reports, at least 30 people have been killed in widespread demonstrations since January.