Teachers’ Rights Activist Facing 14 Years Behind Bars for Peaceful Advocacy

Imprisoned teacher’s rights activist Mahmoud Beheshti-Langroudi is sentenced to 14 years in prison after the confirmation of his latest prison sentence, his son told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). Langroudi is currently behind bars at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, serving his term for a separate conviction.

On September 25, 2017, Branch 36 of the Appeals Court upheld a five-year prison sentence issued against the activist for the charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state.”

“My father joined teachers’ rights activities in 1999 and since has never given them up. The charges that have been repeated in all legal cases against my father are assembly and collusion against national security and anti-regime propagation. My father is demanding that these unreasonable convictions be suspended until he is tried in an open court in the presence of a jury in accordance with Article 168 of the Constitution,” Abouzar Beheshti-Langroudi told CHRI.

According to Abouzar, his father was detained in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2015 and has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

“In every case brought against my father there are charges such as participating in rallies or membership in banned organizations. But these charges are problematic because based on Article 27 of the Constitution, taking part in peaceful gatherings is legal. Also, the ITTA has been operating under an official license since 1999 and has never been banned,” said Abouzar.

He also expressed concern that his father might go on hunger strike to protest the new conviction even while suffering from the impact of previous hunger strikes, including the loss of his gallbladder and part of his liver. From April to May 2016, Beheshti-Langroudi went on a 22-day hunger strike that led to his release on May 11, 2016, pending the outcome of his appeals.

He was first arrested on March 14, 2007 for participating in a rally with thousands of teachers in front of Iran’s Parliament aimed at protesting new state employment regulations. For that he was handed a four-year suspended prison sentence for the charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state.”

In April 2010 he was arrested again for protesting the mistreatment of his imprisoned colleagues after they were arrested by agents of the Intelligence Ministry, and was held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison for two months before being released on bail. Beheshti-Langroudi’s trial, which lasted less than eight minutes, was held in June 2013 at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court who sentenced him to five years in prison for “colluding against national security” and “propaganda against the state.”

In September 2015, Beheshti-Langroudi was arrested a third time by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Intelligence Organization for his peaceful activities and a year later sentenced to another five years in prison for “colluding against national security” and “propaganda against the state.”

Labor activism in Iran is seen as a national security offense. Independent labor unions are not allowed to function, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are consistently prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.