Thursday, October 13, 2005

Public Accusations and Secret Defenses

Shirin Ebadi, Rooz Online: a "reformist" website
Based on Iran’s constitution, all court hearings are to be public, except in very rare legal situations. A public trial means that everyone, whether a representative of the public or an ordinary citizens is free to attend the court sessions, but this a measure that has not been observed in many of the judicial cases.

In fact what really takes place regarding those who are legally charged in Iran is completely different from what the law proves. It seems that for some Iranian officials, the meaning of a public hearing is nothing but the reading of the list of charges against a person and the release of this list to the media. In some of these cases, judicial officials do not even bother to prove the accusations in the court.

What Abdol Fattah Soltani’s case went through is precisely this type of violation. He was accused of espionage by a number of judiciary officials, an accusation that has not even been reviewed in any legal court. READ MORE

Mr. Soltani's stature will not be diminished by such illegal accusations and methods. But what is happening only shows the clear violations that the judiciary officials themselves are engaging in in this case.

The accusations against Mr. Soltani are clearly illegal and baseless and what is needed is his unconditional and immediate release and formal apology. And if the judicial officials insist on putting him on trial, the least that can be expected from justice is to immediately hold a public and transparent court hearing where the accused can hire a defense attorney and publicly defend himself.

It is completely unacceptable that the judicial officials have charged a jailed lawyer with the harshest accusations, and illegally disseminate this accusation in the mass media while at the same time deny him his right to have a public hearing for those very charges.

Those authorities who are mistreating Abdol Fattah Soltani with such illegal steps should not forget the problems that came up when they were dealing with the case involving the nationalist-religious activists. No one has forgotten that neither of the serious security accusations against the 40 activists of the group were or could ever be proven in a court of law.

Should we not learn from the past?