IBA Human Rights Award for Jailed Iran Lawyer

Iranian human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani wins this year’s Human Rights award from the International Bar Association. The prize was announced at the IBA Annual Conference in Dublin.

Abdolfattah Soltani

Soltani is the co-founder (with Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi) of the Defender of Human Rights Centre. He also established the National Peace Council. Soltani has provided pro-bono legal advice and counsel to students, workers, teachers, religious and ethnic minorities, human rights activists and women activists. Included in that list is Shirin Ebadi, seven Baha’i leaders in Iran, represented by Soltani when many other lawyers were too afraid to take on the case, and Baha’i’ online university teachers and professors.

The award was received on his behalf by his daughter, Maedeh Soltani, and his lawyer, Mahnaz Parakand, both of them now living outside Iran.

Ms Soltani told The Irish Times her father’s office had been broken into and he was arrested in September of last year, when he was preparing to defend members of the Baha’i faith. He was sentenced to 13 years and is being sent to a prison 1,200km from Tehran, making it difficult for his family to visit him, she said. He was also mistreated in prison, but this abated after he received an award from the Nuremberg Human Rights Office.

In a letter read to the conference by Ms Parakand, Mr Soltani said: “The ugly truth is that the political establishment in Iran, in many cases by using a few non-independent judges, has turned the whole judicial system into a tool for implementing their own wishes. They are using these courts as a heavy hammer to suppress the legitimate and legal demands of the population.”

Over the last decade, Soltani has been persistently persecuted by the Iranian authorities for his human rights activities as a lawyer, and for peaceful protest. He is currently serving a 13-year sentence, in Borazjan prison 1000km from his family in Tehran, on various charges, including ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security.’ He was also banned from practising law for 20 years.

Soltani is also the co-founder of Iranian Campaign Stop Child Executions. The IBA award for outstanding contribution by a legal practitioner to human rights recognises personal endeavour in the field of law that makes an outstanding contribution to the promotion, protection and advancement of human rights and the rule of law.

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