The lawyer of two jailed Iranian workers from a steel factory in the southern city of Ahvaz said that her clients were denied the right to legal representation.
Farzaneh Zilani, who represents Karim Siahi and Gharib Havizavi, said that her clients were not allowed to talk to her.
Other jailed Iranian workers including Behzad Alikhani, Mostafa Abiat, Kazem Heidari, Meisam Ali Ghanevati and Taregh Khalfi are also denied lawyers.
More than 40 Ahvaz workers were detained in violent midnight raids between December 16 and December 18 during their weeks-long strike. Thirty five of the workers were released on bail but seven workers, considered the most active during the protests, are still in prison.
One day after the arrest of the workers, a Khuzestan provincial official defended the arrest and said that the workers had “broken the law”.
The Khuzestan Governor’s Political and Social Deputy implied that striking Ahvaz steelworkers violated the law by carrying out strike action and that the arrest of the more than 40 workers was the natural consequence of their actions.
Other Ahvaz officials promised that they would follow up the release of the remaining seven Iran National Steel Group workers. Despite this, another worker was detained in his home on January 3.
Mohammad Reza Neimatpour was transferred to the 20th Branch of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court and then to Sheiban (central Ahvaz) Prison.
Mohammad Ali Jedari, a lawyer who represents some of the workers confirmed Neimatpour’s detention and said that he would use all legal means at his disposal for the release of the workers.
There are growing concerns regarding the abuse and torture of the jailed Iranian workers following reports that labor activist Esamail Bakhshi was severely tortured while in prison.
In a statement published on its Telegram channel, the workers of the National Steel Group said that government and provincial officials were responsible for the safety and health of the prisoners and demanded their unconditional release.
Families of the jailed Iranian workers and a number of the steel factory workers have been gathering outside the Khuzestan Governor’s Office for weeks demanding the jailed workers’ release.
On Saturday, the protesters held placards with the names of the prisoners on them. They also held a large banned which read, “Workers belong in the factory, thieves in prison.”
The workers of the Iran National Steel Factory, which is based in Ahvaz, protested for more than one month on the streets of Ahvaz. The protesters gathered outside government buildings including the National Bank and the office of the representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader in Khuzestan demanding their wages, and the termination of the National Bank’s ownership of the factory.
Iran’s Labor Code does not grant citizens the right to form independent unions, despite Iran’s ratification of the UN’s International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and membership in the International Labor Organization.
Workers are regularly threatened, detained, tortured and even sentenced to flogging, despite their legitimate demands and protests to current conditions which has robbed them of more than 80% of their purchasing power.
The Iran National Steel Industrial Group, a lucrative complex established in 1967 during the Shah’s reign, has an almost 4,000-strong workforce.
The steel complex was nationalized after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and later sold in a questionable transaction to Amir Mansour Aria, aka Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, who was executed in 2011 on charges of embezzling nearly $1 billion.
The company was then transferred by the court to the National Bank of Iran, and in October 2017, the bank sold the complex to Abdolreza Mousavi, the owner of a major soccer club in Ahvaz and two hotels in Kish Island in the Persian Gulf. Mousavi is also the managing director of Zagros Airlines.
The factory soon became idle under the new owner and stopped paying its workers’ salaries, which led to numerous protests. Workers complained that Mousavi did not intend to keep the factory running, and alleged that equipment was being removed from the complex.
The authorities announced in May 2018 that the ownership was once again transferred to the National Bank but the factory is still not working up to its full capacity which has angered the workers.