Sunday, February 22, 2009

An independent workers union in southern Iran is challenging a legal case against them by the Revolutionary Court and they need your support, now!

In June last year, five thousand workers at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Plantation and Industry Company in the Iranian city of Shush formed an independent trade union following a 46-day strike. The Haft Tapeh workers have had to resort to repeated strike action to fight for their basic workplace rights, including regular payment of wages.

The strike last year began when thousands of workers from every department downed tools to protest two months without wages. A petition to the provincial labour department with thousands of signatures triggered mass arrests and repeated interventions by police, security forces and Revolutionary Guards. A mass demonstration on June 16 by workers and their families ending at an assembly which elected officers of an independent trade union.

Now the government is seeking to crush the union through potentially lengthy prison sentences for 5 elected leaders, charged with acting against "national security" in connection with last year's strike and the formation of the union. The five leaders are Ali Nejati, President, Feridoun Nikoufard, Vice President, Mohammed Heydari Mehr, Representative for Industry Affairs, Ghorban Alipour, Secretary, and Jalil Ahmadi, Member of the Board of Directors.

The 5 elected union leaders were summoned to the Revolutionary Court on December 20, 2008 and charged with acting against national security.unions worldwide have condemned these charges as groundless and called on the government to immediately and unconditionally drop the charges. . . Other independent union leaders in Iran, including Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi of the Tehran Bus Union, have been imprisoned on the same charges.

The verdict was scheduled to be delivered on February 17 in a typically despotic and arbitrary manner by the court - the plaintiff did not even bother to appear before the judge nor present serious "evidence". However, the determination of the union leaders and their lawyer turned what was scheduled to have been a perfunctory sentencing into a five hour debate whose only conclusion was to continue the hearing. The next session is scheduled for February 22.

also,A number of other well-known worker activists are under persecution for taking part in strikes and/or other labour activities. Six leading members of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, namely, Ata Babakhani, Saeed Torabian, Abbas Najand-Kouhi, Ali Zadeh Hossein, Davoud Razavi and Yaghoub Salimi, have been sentenced to 6 to 14 months’ prison for taking part in the 2006 strike, while Mansoor Ossanlou and Ebrahim Madadi remain in prison. Teacher activist Farzad Kamangar has been sentenced to death and scores of students have been imprisoned for protesting against repression and gender-segregation.
In the mean time,On Wednesday 18th February, two women workers were flogged, following their conviction by a court in Sanandaj for taking part in last year’s May Day celebrations. Susan Razani received a 9 months’ suspended sentence and 70 lashes and Shiva Kheir Abadi 3 years’ suspended sentence and 15 lashes.

Two other workers in the same case, namely Abdullah Khani and Seyyed Ghaleb Hosseini, have been sentenced to 91 days’ prison and 40 lashes and 6 months’ prison and 40 lashes each, respectively.

Last year the regime in Iran carried out flogging sentences on four other workers also for taking part in May Day rallies, precipitating widespread condemnations and protests in Iran and internationally.

The floggings are part of an ongoing persecution of labour activists, amid worker protests over pay and conditions and the right to freely organise and strike. On Sunday 15th Feb leading unionist Taha Azadi, who is on the executive board of the Free Union of Workers in Iran, appeared before a court in Cangan on charges of ‘acts against national security’ and ‘publicity against the system’. Mr Azadi was arrested last year for taking part in a May Day rally in the industrial zone of Asalouyeh and has already spent 47 days in prison. The court has deferred announcement of its decision and sentencing to a later date.

The International Labour Solidarity Committee of WPI requests labour and human rights organisations and individuals around the world to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the outrageous flogging of workers by the regime in Iran and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained. Please send your letters of protest to the following offices of the Islamic Republic, with copies to us:

Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei
Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street
Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Tehran, Iran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue,
Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Iran

Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St.,Vali Asr Ave.,
South of Serah-e Jomhouri,
Tehran, Iran

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