News

Jailed lawyer who helped Christian convert demands retrial

Jailed lawyer who helped Christian convert demands retrial

Amirsalar Davoudi (Center for Human Rights in Iran)

A human rights lawyer who helped an imprisoned Christian convert with his failed bid for a retrial is now seeking a retrial of his own.

Amirsalar Davoudi was sentenced in June to 30 years in prison for “collaborating with an enemy state through interviews,” “propaganda against the state,” “insulting officials,” and “forming a group to overthrow the state”.

The US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said the “trumped-up charges” related to his work defending prisoners of conscience – one of whom was the Christian convert Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, alongside whom Mr. Davoudi is now incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

“The state does not like lawyers to be independent and puts pressure on those who defend political cases for free, or for a very low fee to cover the cost of the judicial tax,” an unnamed source told CHRI. “They want lawyers to charge a lot so that the political prisoners won’t be able to afford legal counsel. In effect, they want to put lawyers in a bind.”

Mr. Davoudi, who is 28 years old, was arrested (one year ago tomorrow) before he had the chance to submit Nasser’s retrial petition, so one of his deputies stepped in. 

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh has served two years of his ten-year sentence. (Article18)

After the petition failed, Nasser wrote an open letter from prison, questioning why involvement in house-churches was considered an “action against national security”, and saying he could not understand why he had been given such a long prison sentence – of ten years – as Christians are one of Iran’s “recognised” religious minorities.

“Today marks more than two years since I have been detained in prison for the fabricated charge of acting against national security by running house churches,” he wrote, “even though religious ceremonies are part of our religion.”

Nasser, who is 57 years old, was sentenced to ten years in prison in May 2017 and failed with his appeal six months later.

Mr. Davoudi decided not to file an appeal in his own case as, according to CHRI’s source, he “totally rejected the sentenced” and believed he had “not done anything that would require an appeal”.

Instead, he has filed for a retrial. This means that legally he has the right to be released on bail until the outcome of the judicial review – though it is by no means certain his request will be granted.

CHRI’s source said: “There are no proper legal procedures for political prisoners. They’re arbitrary. We just hope that [Mr. Davoudi] is treated according to the law … and released until the completion of the judicial review.”

Two other human rights lawyers have been given long custodial sentences in Iran over the past year.

Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced in March to 38 years in jail and 148 lashes on charges including an allegation she helped to set up house-churches, while Mohammad Najafi faces a total of 19 years in prison, having received a series of additional jail sentences since his incarceration last October.

Meanwhile, Yousef Nadarkhani and two fellow Christian converts currently serving ten-year prison sentences on national-security-related charges – Mohammad Reza Omidi and Saheb (Zaman) Fadaee – have been granted their own request for a retrial, though they too have yet to be granted bail and remain in Evin Prison.