Lawyer who defended Christians summoned to prosecutor’s office

Lawyer who defended Christians summoned to prosecutor’s office

A lawyer who has represented several Iranian Christians in court has been summoned to the prosecutor’s office in the city where he used to live and work.

Iman Soleimani, whose previous clients include former prisoners of conscience Joseph Shahbazian and Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh – both of whom were sentenced to 10 years in prison for their involvement in house-churches – has been told he must come to the General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office in Bandar-e Mahshahr on Tuesday, 16 January.

Bandar-e Mahshahr, a port city at the northern tip of the Persian Gulf, is not far from Dezful, where Mr Soleimani once defended a number of other Christian converts who were forced to undergo religious “re-education” sessions with an Islamic cleric.

One of those converts, Esmaeil Narimanpour, was recently re-arrested and remains in custody.

Mr Soleimani also previously defended three converts who were sentenced to five years in prison for their participation in house-churches, and whose trial he was highly critical of.

“I’ve been involved with this case from the beginning,” Mr Soleimani wrote on Twitter, “and volumes of unspoken stories could be written regarding the shortcomings of how the arrest and preliminary investigations took place, the illegal proceedings in the Revolutionary Court in Rasht, and even the way my defendants were wrongfully condemned for someone else’s interview about them with Iran International.”

Mr Soleimani has been summoned previously to answer questions regarding his work, and his latest summons highlights once again the challenges facing lawyers who represent clients whose charges relate to alleged breaches of “national security”, as is the case for many arrested Christians.

Many other lawyers have been arrested and in some cases imprisoned in Iran in recent years for their defence of prisoners of conscience including Christians. Recent examples include Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Amirsalar Davoudi, Babak Paknia, Bahar Sahraian, and Mustafa Nili, all of whom had defended Christians in court.

As a result of the personal danger involved in representing Christians, many Christians testify that they have found it hard to find a lawyer willing to defend them.

“We looked for a lawyer, but no-one was willing to represent us due to the nature of our charges,” said one arrested Christian convert, Touraj Shirani, in his recent Witness Statement.

Another, Sanaz Karami, put it this way: “After I was released on bail … I went to several places to find a lawyer, but most weren’t willing to represent ‘security’ cases. They said: ‘These cases are full of trouble and failure, and it’s impossible for us to win!’ The only lawyer who agreed to take on the case wanted a high salary, but my husband’s uncle said: ‘Don’t bother! It’s obvious he can’t do anything to help; he just wants to take your money and later say, ‘I tried my best but unfortunately it didn’t work.’”