Iranian diplomat detained for three months without lawyer: sources

(Reuters) – A senior Iranian diplomat linked to Iran’s reformists, who has been detained at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison for three months, has been denied access to his attorney for the entire time, sources familiar with the case told Reuters on Monday.

Bagher Asadi, who was previously a senior diplomat at Iran’s U.N. mission in New York and most recently a director at the secretariat of the so-called D8 group of developing nations in Istanbul, was arrested in mid-March in Tehran for unknown reasons, sources said last month.

“He has a lawyer but he has been denied access to him for three months,” a source familiar with the case told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “He (Asadi) has not been given the papers to sign by the authorities so he can see his lawyer. It’s just a way of denying him (the lawyer) access to his client.”

Another source confirmed the remarks. Iran’s U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The first source said that Asadi’s lawyer is Houshang Pourbabaee, a prominent Iranian attorney who has represented other Iranian reformists.

The sources said that denying Asadi access to a lawyer during three months of detention was a violation of basic human rights and widely accepted norms for justice.

According to the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, a document adopted at a U.N. meeting in 1990, “All persons are entitled to call upon the assistance of a lawyer of their choice to protect and establish their rights and to defend them in all stages of criminal proceedings.”

Iran’s judiciary and Foreign Ministry have confirmed the 61-year-old Asadi’s arrest but given no details as to why he was being held. The sources who spoke to Reuters about Asadi’s detention say it may be linked to Friday presidential election in Iran.

On the positive side, a source said that Asadi had been moved out of solitary confinement at Evin Prison. The source gave no details regarding his current confinement conditions.

A February report by U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, described a number of cases of alleged torture and abuse at Evin Prison, including beatings and solitary confinement.

In January 2004, Asadi wrote an opinion piece that ran in the New York Times in which he made clear his affinities with the reformist philosophy of Mohammad Khatami, who was then Iran’s president.

Iran’s reformists have been sidelined since conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidential election in 2005, succeeding Khatami. Ahmadinejad will be stepping down in August, having served two terms. Reformist candidates have been barred from running in Friday’s election.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Asadi in 2003 to a panel of eminent persons on U.N. relations with civil society.

U.N. rapporteur Shaheed said in March that Tehran’s silencing of journalists and opposition leaders could jeopardize the legitimacy of the presidential election.

Opposition leaders Mehdi Karoubi and Mirhossein Mousavi, both candidates in the 2009 election, are under house arrest following mass protests over alleged fraud in the re-election of Ahmadinejad that year.

By Reuters


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