Iran: Nobel Laureate Defamed on Iranian TV, Colleague Arrested

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

An Iranian state television program defamed human rights lawyer and Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi in a heavily edited program on 10 June, and an associate and spokesperson for Ebadi’s organization was detained, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported today.

On the very same day, the Islamic Republic agreed to a recommendation to respect the rights of human rights defenders at the conclusion of the Universal Periodic Review of Iran’s human rights practices at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“It is emblematic of Iran’s contempt for human rights that, on the day its human rights record was examined by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Ebadi was smeared on state TV and her associate arbitrarily detained,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.

“These baseless attacks on Ebadi and her colleagues on the eve of the anniversary of the election demonstrate her indispensible role in exposing Iran’s grave human rights violations on the international stage,” he added.

Ebadi’s husband, Javad Tavasolian, was arrested in July 2009, and subjected to physical and psychological abuse. He was videotaped while in detention and coerced to make defamatory statements about her. He informed Ebadi about his ill-treatment after his release.

At the time of her husband’s arrest, Ebadi announced members of her family, if arrested, should not to hesitate to make false “confessions” against her since the only reason for their harassment and detention would be to pressure her to stop her human rights advocacy.

The television show featured a videotaped “confession” by Tavasolian, in which he made unflattering comments about his wife, her political beliefs, and her profession as a human rights lawyer. In the program, Tavasolian appeared nervous and his body language was a clear indication of his discomfort during the interview.

Narges Mohammadi, spokesperson for the Defenders of Human Rights Center(DHRC), the independent organization founded by Ebadi and others, was arrested at her home around midnight on 10 June. No information has been made available about her whereabouts or charges against her. Mohammadi, a mother of two children, is a leading human rights defender. The Campaign believes that the timing of her detention, within hours of airing the show, is an attempt by Iranian authorities to prevent her from publicly responding to the shameful television program and challenging their false narrative.

Iranian authorities have put Ebadi under intense pressure over several years. The DHRC was raided and shut down in December 2008. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah and Abdol Fattah Soltani, both founders of the organization, were arrested after the June 2009 election.

In December 2009, Dr. Nooshin Ebadi, Shirin Ebadi’s sister and a professor and medical researcher, was arrested and held without charge for 17 days. She was threatened with the loss of her university position in an apparent attempt to pressure Shirin Ebadi to cease her advocacy for human rights. In addition, the government has frozen all of Shirin Ebadi and her husband’s assets, bank accounts, and pensions.

Shirin Ebadi has been abroad since shortly before the disputed 12 June 2009 presidential election, and has consistently advocated for Iran’s compliance with its international obligations. Ebadi has also urged the international community to focus on the problem of Iran’s severe human rights abuses, and to not allow questions about Iran’s nuclear development program to divert attention from human rights in the country.

For decades, security forces in the Islamic Republic of Iran have used forced confessions, broadcast over state television, to justify the arbitrary detention of political, civil society, and human rights activists. Often, those under pressure or in detention not only confess to their “crimes,” but also launch charges against others, paving the way for further crackdowns carried out by security forces against their colleagues.

In the past year, following the unrest after the presidential elections, video confessions have become regular events in Iranian society. Mass trials of arbitrarily detained political and social activists, who are denied access to their lawyers, have been televised. Videotaped roundtables in which political activists, still in prison but seemingly of their own will and in unexpected turnarounds, retract positions they have publicly held for decades and make accusations against their colleagues and political parties. Recent examples include televised or printed statements by reformist politicians Mohammad Atrianfar and Mohammad Ali Abtahi, as well as prominent activist Abdollah Momeni.

“Such cheap defamations are tactics of a weak government, resorting to shameful methods in an attempt to silence criticism of its human rights record,” Ghaemi said.

“Ebadi has shown over and over again that she will not be intimidated by such cheap tactics and will bravely continue her advocacy,” he added.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran called for the end to persecution of Shirin Ebadi’s family and for the immediate release of all imprisoned human rights defenders, including Narges Mohammadi, Emad Baghi, Shiva Nazarahari, Kouhyar Goudarzi, Bahareh Hedayat, Milad Asadi, and Mahboubeh Karami.

11 June 2010