Labor Activists Put on Trial After Hundreds of Workers Protest Unpaid Wages

Tehran - Labor activists Jafar Azimzadeh and Shapour Ehsani-Rad have been put on trial for allegedly inciting workers to strike. The first day of their trial was held on August 29, 2016 at Branch 101 of the Second Criminal Court in the city of Saveh, 76 miles southwest of Tehran. 

“This case doesn’t have any legal foundation,” an informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Mr. Azimzadeh was already prosecuted and jailed for all the charges mentioned in this case. You cannot prosecute someone twice for the same crime, but the security establishment is not very concerned about following the law or respecting rights; they recycle these cases to make it easier to prosecute those who continue their activities.”

On March 1, 2015 Azimzadeh, the president of the Free Workers Union of Iran, was sentenced to six years in prison for “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state” by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court. After the Appeals Court upheld the sentence Azimzadeh reported to Evin Prison in Tehran on November 8, 2015, but he wastemporarily released on June 30, 2016 following a two-month hunger strike.

Mohammad Ali Jedari Foroughi, the attorney representing Azimzadeh and Ehsani-Rad, also a member of the Free Workers Union of Iran, told the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) on August 29 that his clients have been charged with “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state.” The next session of their trial has been scheduled for September 5.

Iranian law prohibits the re-prosecution and interrogation of individuals on the same charges.

Azimzadeh and Ehsani-Rad have been accused by the Safa Rolling and Pipe Mills Company of provoking its workers to go on strike, according to a statement issued by the union.

After working for 16 months without health and work safety insurance and for four months without paid wages, approximately 1,000 workers protested by going on strike on April 21, 2015 for more than a month.

Following the strike, Azimzadeh and Ehsani-Rad were arrested in late May 2015 and detained for 18 and 26 days respectively before being released on bail. 

In its statement, the Free Workers Union of Iran condemned the authorities’ prosecution of workers as enemies of the state for attempting to improve labor conditions. “The actions by the security and judicial institutions are an insult to the general public and millions of workers and teachers,” it said.

Independent unions are not allowed to function in Iran, workers are routinely fired and risk arrest for striking, and labor leaders are prosecuted under national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.

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