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Iranian NGO Criticizes Alleged Rights Abuses

Mohammad Seifzadeh

Mohammad Seifzadeh

One of Iran's leading human rights organizations has issued a report criticizing the country's treatment of opposition activists, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The Tehran-based Human Rights Defenders Center (DHRC) says in a report that from September 2009 to March 2010, Iran executed 17 opposition activists and arrested more than 500.

The DHRC also reports that 13 publications were temporarily closed or had their licenses revoked during this period.

Mohammad Seifzadeh is a prominent Iranian lawyer who, along with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, helped found the DHRC in 2001.

Seifzadeh told Radio Farda on May 21 that the DHRC report focuses on the events following the disputed presidential election in June when people staged peaceful protests against the government. The demonstrations continued but often became violent when protesters were confronted by security forces.

Seifzadeh described the challenges for those trying to evaluate the extent of Iran's crackdown on opposition activists.

"We don't have exact statistics as our sources have been restricted," he told Radio Farda. "But from the legal point of view, if someone commits a crime, he should be summoned according to Article 32 of [Iran's] constitution. The course of law was not followed [during the crackdown] and instead of conducting open trials in the [public] courts, [defendants] were tried by the revolutionary courts."

The Iranian government has maintained that those protesters arrested had violated the law.

Seifzadeh said that "according to Iranian law, Article 27 of the constitution, people can stage peaceful demonstrations without any prior permission."

Seifzadeh described a debate over the right to protest that took place before Iran's powerful Assembly of Experts. This body, which oversees the work of Iran's supreme leader, considered a proposal to require prior permission to stage a demonstration.

But the assembly rejected such a requirement.

"Now [the government] says protests and demonstrations are against the security of the country," Seifzadeh said. "So they arrest people belonging to different political parties and groups."