Human Rights Watch condemned the conviction by a court in
Tehran of two Iranian human rights lawyers on charges of defamation and disseminating false
information.

The two lawyers were accused of having produced a videotape of an informant who alleged the involvement of senior government officials and conservative clerics in orchestrating acts of political violence against reformists and dissidents. The man featured in the videotape, Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, a former member of Ansar Hezbollah, was sentenced to two years of imprisonment on the same charges. Mr. Rahami is a prominent lawyer who defended the former minister of the Interior, Abdullah Nouri, as well as 400 students attacked by Tehran police and extremists during peaceful protests for press freedom in July 1999. Ms. Ebadi is well known for her work on children's and women's rights. "This prosecution punishes these lawyers because they are prominent human rights activists," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch.
Moreover, the two lawyers and Mr. Ebrahimi were not allowed a fair trial in accordance with either Iranian or international law. All the defendants were held for weeks in pre-trial detention without access to legal counsel. Mr. Ebrahimi did not have access to legal counsel until the final two hearings in the case and the court did not examine the validity of Ebrahimi's allegations.

The political nature of the trial appeared to be underscored by the publication of the verdict in government controlled media before the defendants or their legal representatives were informed.

Human Rights Watch is calling for the convictions against the defendants to be dismissed. The two lawyers should be permitted to resume their practices and Mr. Ebrahimi should be released from prison. If there is evidence of the involvement of any of the defendants in criminal activities then they should be charged and given a fair, public trial in accordance with international standards.