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Iranian Labor Union Leader Jailed

The head of a labor union at a sugarcane factory in southern Iran has been jailed for six months for spreading rumors, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Reza Rakhshan, chairman of the Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Factory Workers Syndicate, was found guilty by the Ahvaz Appeal Court, his union said in a statement on December 1.

The union criticized the sentence as "harsh and unjust," adding that the charges against Rakhshan were based exclusively on his lawful activities in discharging his duties as chairman. It also said that in order for a charge of "propagation of rumors" to be tried in court, there has to be a claimant, which was not the case with regard to Rakhshan.

The court cited as material evidence an article published by Rakhshan one year ago titled "We Are One Family," in which he condemned the arrest of several other members of the syndicate's board and pressure exerted by the authorities on their families. Rakhshan argued that such actions violate Iranian laws and humane principles, and demanded a halt to such harassment and the right for his imprisoned colleagues to receive visits from their families.

Three other union members were sentenced to six months in jail in November for showing disrespect to the country's supreme leader.

Ali Nejati, Rakhshan's predecessor as board chairman, was similarly imprisoned in 2009 on charges of acting against the regime and national security.

Board members Fereydoon Nikoofard, Qorban Alipour, Mohammad Heydarimehr, and Jalil Ahmadi were jailed that same year for six months on charges of engaging in syndicate activities that threatened national security and the Islamic order.

The 3,000-member labor union has organized a number of protests and sit-ins in recent years.

Leading members of other Iranian trade unions, including the Tehran Bus Drivers Union's Mansur Osanlu, have also been arrested and imprisoned.