After a six-hour hearing, he was acquitted of the capital charge of apostasy, convicted instead of evangelizing Muslims, and sentenced to three years in prison. He was then released on time served. (Nadarkhani was originally arrested in October, 2009, for protesting the government’s decision to force all children, including his, to study the Quran in school.)
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Iranian government didn’t let the grass grow under their feet. Nadarkhani’s attorney, renowned human rights lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, was arrested last week.
Dadkhah has spent the last thirty years defending human rights and the rule of law in Iran. Nadarkhani was only one of almost 20 clients whose death sentences for apostasy Dadkhah was responsible for getting overturned in the past year.
Now Dadkhah has been sentenced to nine years in prison, banned from practicing or teaching law for 10 years, and fined either $2350 or $1,900 and five lashes with a whip, his choice. He is being held in Tehran’s Evin Prison. When he was there in 2004, he was, according to Amnesty International, “tortured and otherwise ill-treated” and kept primarily in solitary confinement.
Both the United Nations and Amnesty International have demanded his release.
Dadkhah is co-founder, with Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shirin Ebadi and three others, of Iran’s Defenders of Human Rights Center (CHRD). The Center was forcibly closed by the Iranian government in 2008. Dr. Ebadi fled Iran in 2009. She has been in exile ever since. And, according to Amnesty International, Dadkhah is the fourth member of the organization’s leadership to have been imprisoned in the last 18 months:
Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent lawyer and co-founder of the CHRD who has been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison since his September 2011 arrest, is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence. Another lawyer and founding member of the CHRD, Mohammad Seyfzadeh, is currently serving a two-year sentence.
Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience imprisoned for their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association.
Narges Mohammadi, the executive chairperson of the CHRD and mother of two young children, began serving a six-year prison sentence in April 2012 and was granted temporary medical leave on 31 July 2012 to obtain medical treatment, including for seizures and temporary loss of vision.
Dadkhah works for many of his clients free of charge. The government says that by working pro bono, Dadkhah is “aiding and abetting” enemies of the regime in their alleged crimes.
And what does Dadkhah say?
I see it as my duty to behave as a lawyer and defender of human rights. The rest, as the saying goes, is out of my hands.
That’s a man with a clear-eyed grip on life.