An Iranian lawyer representing a former lawmaker arrested last week for staging a protest outside Iran's parliament has accused officials of falsely charging his client with conspiracy.
In a Wednesday interview with VOA Persian, lawyer Mohammad Hossein Aghasi said his client Ghasem Sholesadi did not engage in a conspiracy against national security because Sholesadi did not appeal for any other people to join his Saturday protest outside the parliament building in Tehran.
Sholesadi, who served as an Iranian lawmaker from 1988 to 1996 and later worked as a lawyer, had posted a Twitter video on Friday declaring that he would stage the protest the next day. In the clip, he said Iran faced catastrophic economic and political problems and blamed them on the Islamist-ruled nation's system of vetting all candidates for parliament and the presidency.
Iran's unelected 12-member Guardian Council of six Islamist clerics and six jurists is responsible for determining the eligibility of candidates for president and parliament, based partly on the perceived commitment of those candidates to the principles of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Sholesadi, who is in his mid-60s, ended the Friday video by saying he would stand in front of parliament to shout out his and other Iranians' opposition to the Guardian Council, which disqualified his multiple attempts to run for president in recent decades.
Iranian human rights groups said authorities arrested Sholesadi and several supporters who showed up at his Saturday protest — two of them lawyers. They said one of those lawyers was released on bail the next day, but authorities kept Sholesadi and the other lawyer, Arash Keikhosravi, at the Great Tehran Penitentiary.
A Twitter account in Sholesadi's name posted a video clip of Sholesadi and Keikhosravi wearing prison jumpsuits and walking, handcuffed and shackled, to Tehran's Evin prison complex on Tuesday for a meeting with prosecutors. Speaking to VOA Persian, Aghasi said prosecutors initially had charged the two men with disturbing public order, but used Tuesday's meeting to upgrade the charge to the more serious crime of conspiring to harm national security. He said the prosecutors also ordered Sholesadi and Keikhosravi to remain in detention at the Great Tehran Penitentiary for one month.
Aghasi said he told one of the prosecutors that neither Sholesadi nor Keikhosravi had committed a crime of conspiracy. "Sholesadi did not ask anyone else to be present for this protest," he said, referring Sholesadi's Friday video. "Sholesadi's presence and that of the other people there was not a conspiracy of any sort."
Aghasi also criticized Iranian authorities for handcuffing and shackling the two lawyers and detaining them at the Great Tehran Penitentiary. "According to various sources, that prison has harsh conditions and should not be a place to detain someone who has committed a political crime, if they can even be accused of such a crime," Aghasi said. "They also took these men, who are distinguished in this country, to prison in handcuffs and shackles. I asked the prosecutor at least to release the men from their shackles, but they probably were kept on," he added.
There was no comment on the conspiracy case against Sholesadi and Keikhosravi in Iranian state media.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Persian Service.