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Concern over detained Iranian labor unionist Reza Shahabi is growing as his family has not heard from him since late June, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Alireza Navaei of the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran told Radio Farda on August 10 that "Shahabi's family has repeatedly inquired about him at the Tehran's prosecutor's office, but to no avail. Even his lawyer cannot find out how he is doing."

Shahabi, a board member of the Tehran Bus Workers' Union, was arrested by security officials on June 12, the anniversary of last year's disputed presidential election. He is being held in section 209 of Tehran's Evin prison, which is run by the Intelligence Ministry.

Navaei added that since political prisoners in Iran, including labor union activists, have been subject to persecution and torture in jail, Shahabi is also at risk.

Navaei told RFE/RL that Shahabi played a key role in reinstating a number of Tehran bus workers after they were dismissed or suspended following a strike in 2005.

Britain's National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers recently launched a campaign demanding the Iranian government to release Shahabi.

The Tehran Bus Workers' Union, which was dissolved after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, was revived five years ago.

Since then its more than 17,000 members have faced arrest, threats, and dismissal from work. Many members have also claimed that they have been deprived of many of their social and medical rights.

Iranian officials have also imprisoned bus union leaders Ebrahim Madadi and Mansur Osanlu, who is serving a five-year term. Union spokesman Said Torabian was released from jail on bail on July 20.
Mohammad Mostafaei at a news conference in Oslo, Norway, where he has applied for asylum, on August 8
Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi has said that a human rights lawyer who fled Iran last month, charging that officials were harassing him for his vigorous defense of a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, is accused of "financial fraud."

Mohammad Mostafaei defended Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose case has garnered international attention and whose sentence has been indefinitely suspended.

"This lawyer had been under prosecution for a long time," Dowlatabadi said, "that's why he ran away to foreign countries."

In an recent RFE/RL interview, Mostafaei said he fled Iran after officials detained close relatives, including his wife. Mostafaei told RFE/RL that he had been questioned over his work -- including his defense of juvenile offenders on death row -- and a bank account that he says he set up to help pay blood money to their victims' families.

In an interview today, Mostafaei rejected the accusation by the prosecutor and said that opening an account for charity purposes is not a crime.


Amnesty International spokesman Drewery Dyke has called the exile of Mostafaei a blow to human rights in Iran.

In recent years, a number of lawyers defending sensitive cases have come under pressure by Iranian judicial authorities.

Dowlatabadi on August 10 accused "counterrevolutionary websites" of having launched a "psychological war" against the Iranian judicial system by publishing what he described as false news and rumors.

"For example," Dowlatabadi said, "a prisoner was quoted saying that he had been 'dishonored,' but after an investigation the individual said the [allegation] was not true."

He was apparently referring to the case of jailed journalist Abdolareza Tajik, who reportedly told his sister that he had been "dishonored" in prison in the presence of a deputy prosecutor.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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