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Iran: International Unions Condemn Treatment Of Jailed Activist

  • Breffni O'Rourke --> Mansur Osanlu (undated) (Public domain) October 19, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Trade unionists from around the world are calling on the Iranian authorities to release jailed union activist Mansur Osanlu, who is being held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison and is said to be in danger of losing his sight in one eye unless he receives urgent medical attention.

Three months after he was dragged from a bus, beaten, and jailed, Osanlu's health is reported to be deteriorating rapidly. Osanlu's wife, Parvaneh, told Radio Farda that Iranian authorities ignored her urgent pleas for treatment to preserve his eyesight until only very recently.

"The prison doctor who was sent to see Osanlu has said that he must be operated on," she says. "Now prison and judiciary [authorities] should save Osanlu's eye as soon as possible -- otherwise, nothing can be done for his eye. Right after Osanlu's arrest, a few days later, I gave prison officials the medical files regarding his eye condition and I followed the issue regularly. But because judiciary officials attended to his eye condition quite late, his retina was torn."

Union Federation Wants End to 'Persecution'

A spokesman for the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) in London, Sam Dawson, says the ITF is shocked at what he says is "ill-treatment piled upon ill-treatment" of Osanlu, and wants Iranian authorities to abandon their "persecution" of Osanlu and other union leaders. "We would like to see him released immediately -- it's long overdue -- and an end to the persecution of Mansur Osanlu and his colleagues, who include Ebrahim Medadi, who we believe is also ill, and not receiving the necessary medical attention," Dawson says.
"We would like to see him released immediately -- it's long overdue --
and an end to the persecution of Mansur Osanlu and his colleagues." -- ITF spokesman

In September, the ITF sent a representative, Hanafi Rustandi from Indonesia, to Tehran to urge better treatment for Osanlu and the other jailed unionists of the capital's bus union. ITF representatives told Radio Farda that visit was initiated by the Iranian side, which vowed to allow the Indonesian to visit Osanlu in prison to verify that he was in good health.

But Rustandi was prevented from meeting Osanlu, with prison authorities saying he had been transferred to a separate facility for surgery. ITF spokesman Dawson says this turned out to be a "complete lie," and that nothing has been done to improve Osanlu's condition. Dawson finds the situation "unbelievable" the way the union "is being repressed and Mansur being targeted, as are his colleagues and people in other free syndicates and unions."

ITF envoy Rustandi has challenged Iran's ambassador to Malaysia to a televised debate on what he calls the "victimization" of trade unionists in Iran.

Osanlu has been in and out of jail since he helped organize a protest action in the Tehran bus system at the end of 2005. He has suffered a knife attack and at least one other beating, and has spent months in solitary confinement.

Coordinated International Action, Protests

The UN's International Labor Organization (ILO) has already called on Iranian authorities to release Osanlu and drop any charges against him. But ITF representative Mac Urata told Radio Farda that his group is also urging its ILO colleagues to use a visit to Iran next week to demand meetings with Osanlu and Medadi.

"I think it would be very hard for the Iranian authorities to refuse such [a] small encounter between Brother Osanlu [and] Brother Medadi and the ILO mission," Urata says. "I don't think that would go down very well with their public relations, with the international community. If such a thing happens, then what we can do is to keep up the pressure [on] the Iranian government, that we are not forgetting this case and that we are outraged by the latest incidents, when we [were given] false information about Mr. Osanlu's eye surgery."

The ITF has posted a nearly nine-minute video on the Internet chronicling Osanlu's battle for Iranian workers' rights. Urata noted that ITF member bus drivers are already wearing "Free Osanlu" badges. He said federation members in other areas of transportation -- land, sea, and air -- could don similar badges to pressure the Iranian authorities if Tehran continues to persecute unionists.

In Canada, the National Union of Public and General Employees on October 18 called on all unionists to write to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to demand recognition of labor rights, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(Radio Farda's Ruzbeh Bolhari contributed to this report.)
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