Protesters arrested in Iran face a justice system stacked against them

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A young Iranian man accused of lighting a trash can on fireplace throughout a protest may face dying row for “waging warfare in opposition to God.”

Two feminine journalists who helped break the story of Mahsa Amini — the 22-year-old girl who died within the custody of Iran’s “morality police” — have been in jail since late September, accused with out proof of being CIA brokers.

In a listening to with out his lawyer, a 22-year-old protester was sentenced to dying for committing “corruption on earth,” his mom mentioned in an online plea. After an uproar, the judiciary denied that a sentence had been issued.

That is what justice seems like in Iran, the place the trials of protesters, bystanders and chroniclers of the present rebellion have begun. There may be little expectation of due course of in a judicial system dominated by the safety companies and stacked in opposition to the accused.

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Greater than 15,000 Iranians have been arrested and a number of other hundred killed in practically two months of protests, the activist information company Hrana estimates. The demonstrations that started in response to the alleged police killing of Amini have cascaded right into a broad motion in opposition to the nation’s clerical leaders. Authorities have demanded harsh punishments for protesters, whom they name “rioters,” and have sought guilty the unrest on overseas powers.

A few of the detained are launched with a positive. Others are tried in a legal court docket. However political prisoners usually face the scary revolutionary courts, a parallel system created to guard the Islamic republic, mentioned Hadi Enayat, a political sociologist specializing in Iranian legislation.

The revolutionary courts are infamous for “egregious violations of due course of,” mentioned Tara Sepehri Far of Human Rights Watch. The state “makes use of the trials as one other aspect of shaping their narrative concerning the protests.”

In late October, Iran’s judiciary mentioned it had indicted about 1,000 folks in Tehran and would maintain public trials within the coming weeks. As previously, rights teams anticipate they are going to be sham trials, counting on fabricated proof and confessions made underneath duress or torture. Detainees have been accused of committing violence and killing Iranian safety forces with little or no proof, they are saying.

How these trials unfold may supply hints about Tehran’s political calculus — whether or not it would proceed with its crackdown to include the protests, or additional escalate its repression in an effort to stamp them out fully.

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There may be debate inside Iran’s safety circles, mentioned Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior coverage fellow on the European Council on Overseas Relations, over whether or not “to shock and awe the streets to scare them away from protesting,” or prioritize “containing the menace with out having to resort to the mass executions that we noticed within the Eighties” throughout post-revolution purges.

“I believe the system is type of caught between what’s the proper strategy,” she mentioned.

This stress broke by means of on Nov. 5 when hard-line lawmakers, who dominate Iran’s parliament, issued a statement calling on the judiciary to “deal decisively” with the “instigators of latest riots” and punish “enemies of God” — a authorized cost that can carry the death penalty.

Iranians had been outraged. Three days later, the parliamentary spokesperson backtracked, claiming that “Western media” had misconstrued the lawmakers’ phrases; the harshest punishments — which may embrace the dying penalty — can be reserved for many who “spilled blood,” he mentioned.

Iran is among the world’s main executioners. Not less than 314 folks had been executed in 2021, according to Amnesty International, although the true determine is probably going greater. Dying sentences issued for political prisoners are typically commuted or by no means carried out, although the menace stays.

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Iran’s authorized system is predicated on a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic legislation. Corruption and abuse are rampant within the legal courts, although years of worldwide advocacy have led to some incremental reforms, mentioned Hossein Raisi, a former lawyer in Iran and now a human rights professor at Carleton College in Ottawa.

However finally the “Iranian judiciary system is the ‘supreme chief’ judiciary system,” he mentioned, referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the pinnacle of Iran’s theocratic authorities.

Iran’s first supreme chief, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, created the revolutionary courts as a stopgap system to purge opponents after ousting the nation’s ruler, the shah, in 1979. They’ve since change into a key characteristic of the Islamic republic, permitting regime loyalists to manage the levers of justice. The revolutionary courts work intently with the intelligence wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, the supreme chief’s parallel safety drive.

The revolutionary courts depend on one decide, as a substitute of the panel of judges utilized in legal courts. Judges are usually clerics or have been educated at a state-run college. Political prisoners have restricted or no entry to their attorneys and can’t see the alleged proof in opposition to them.

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The Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC’s intelligence wing are sometimes concerned in interrogations and proof assortment, in violation of Iranian legislation, mentioned Raisi. However throughout instances of unrest, he mentioned, authorities drop all pretense of following legal process.

“Sadly, all the pieces that occurs within the room is predicated on police or IRGC or common intelligence officers,” he mentioned. “After they don’t need to hearken to folks, they really ban all types of the rights of the accused,” he added.

Earlier than leaving Iran, Raisi was a part of a small and ever-shrinking group of unbiased attorneys who tackle human rights circumstances and symbolize political prisoners. These attorneys are underneath fixed stress and menace of arrest, mentioned Raisi. When protests escape, they provide authorized assist to households of detainees and sometimes tackle circumstances professional bono. In latest weeks, 24 attorneys have been arrested, based on Hrana.

First, Iran came for a rights activist. Then for his family and friends.

Throughout the 2009 Inexperienced Motion — when thousands and thousands of Iranians protested electoral fraud — Raisi requested different attorneys in his hometown of Shiraz to volunteer. Solely seven did. However in latest weeks, greater than 40 attorneys within the southwestern metropolis have provided to tackle circumstances of detained protesters, he mentioned.

“That is so lovely,” mentioned Raisi.

However as demonstrations proceed, and arrests improve, will probably be tough for attorneys to maintain up.

Raisi mentioned judicial authorities successfully “copy and paste” fees, “like an software for all branches throughout the nation.” Frequent fees have included propaganda and unlawful gatherings in opposition to the state.

The revolutionary courts had been key to Khamenei’s repression of the Green Movement. After a violent crackdown in 2009, lots of of protesters, together with key activists and reformist politicians, had been tried, and a number of other folks had been executed. The courts had been additionally used for protesters after durations of unrest in 2017 and 2019.

By controlling the authorized system, and different establishments, Iran’s management has “decapitated the reform motion,” mentioned Enayat, the political sociologist.

“Folks have fully misplaced religion in reforming the system, because it hasn’t labored,” he mentioned

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