The Iranian lawyer who recently helped rescue a Christian pastor from execution due to his religious beliefs has reportedly been imprisoned in one of the country’s harshest and most dangerous prisons.
“Iran’s government has cracked down on anyone whom it could classify as politically against the regime, including Christians, other religious minorities, and those who defend human rights,” said Tiffany N. Barrans, international legal director for the American Center for Law and Justice.
Barrans told EWTN News on Oct. 3 that the lawyer’s sentence “reflects the regime’s disdain for Dadkhah’s representation of prisoners of conscience,” as well as his “public stance on the protection of human rights.”
On Oct. 1, the D.C.–based law center said that it had received reports that Iranian human rights lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah had been placed in Iran’s notorious Evin prison in a ward reserved for political prisoners.
Dadkhah recently represented Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor who received a death sentence for apostasy and spent three years in prison before being released and acquitted in early September.
Defending human rights in Iran for more than three decades, Dadkhah has represented thousands of clients and trained other attorneys to do so as well. He also helped found the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, which was shut down by Iranian authorities in 2008.
According to the American Center for Law and Justice, Dadkhah has “successfully overturned the death sentences of nearly 20 other clients convicted of apostasy in Iran in the last year alone.”
Because he offered legal services free of charge to those in need, the Iranian regime considers him to be “aiding and abetting” in their alleged crimes, the organization explained.
Due to his human rights work, Dadkhah was convicted of “spreading propaganda” and “membership of an association seeking the soft overthrow of the government” in July 2011. He received a nine year prison sentence and a 10 year ban on practicing law.
While he had initially worked out an agreement to avoid serving the sentence and continue representing Nadarkhani, Barrans believes that the regime may now be enforcing his imprisonment because much of the international focus on Iran turned away after Nadarkhani’s release.
Reports of Dadkhah’s imprisonment have led to concern over his treatment and calls for his release.
A spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights issued an Oct. 2 statement decried the imprisonment, which appears to “reflect a disturbing trend apparently aimed at curbing freedom of expression, opinion and association.”
The statement pointed to the arrest and imprisonment of Dadkhah, as well as that of other lawyers, human rights advocates and independent media, which “make a key contribution in democratic societies and must be allowed to carry out their work without facing intimidation, harassment, arrest and prosecution.”
“We urge the Government of Iran to promptly release all those who have been arrested for peacefully exercising their fundamental rights,” it said.
“He should never have been put on trial for his legitimate human rights activities - the Iranian authorities must overturn his conviction and sentence and release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Ann Harrison, deputy Middle East and North Africa program director at Amnesty International.
“Pending his unconditional release, the authorities must also ensure he is protected from torture or other ill-treatment, that he is provided with all necessary medical care and receives full and unrestricted access to his family and a lawyer of his choice,” she said.
The American Center for Law and Justice applauded these statements and called on other members of the international community to join in the call for the lawyer’s release.
“It is essential that we continue to sound the alarm for the release of all prisoners of conscience and those who defend human rights who are wrongfully imprisoned,” said Barrans.
She explained that the victory in Nadarkhani’s case “would not have been a reality without the diligent work of his attorney.”
“We must stand with those who defend our fundamental freedoms, for without brave attorneys like Dadkhah, the state of religious persecution will certainly deteriorate quickly,” she said.