WASHINGTON - An Iranian lawyer defending a female dissident recently freed on bail in Iran says he fears his client may have been killed after going missing last week.
Speaking to VOA Persian from Tehran Friday, Mohammad Hossein Aghasi said 33-year-old Maryam Faraji disappeared after leaving her home in the capital July 5. He said he and Faraji’s family investigated and found that she never reached her intended destination or made phone calls to friends or relatives, leading them to suspect the worst.
Faraji, a graduate student of management and a financial officer of a private company in Tehran, was arrested in early January for taking part in weeklong anti-government protests that swept Iran at the time, mostly outside the capital. Authorities charged her with illegal assembly and harming national security and sentenced her in April to three years in prison with a two-year ban on leaving the country. She had been freed on bail, awaiting the outcome of an appeal, when she disappeared.
Aghasi emphasized that he was not “pointing a finger” of blame at Iranian authorities for whatever happened to Faraji.
In recent years, Iranian authorities have harassed and detained other legal defenders of dissidents after determining that those lawyers themselves violated national security. International rights activists have denounced Iran’s treatment of those lawyers.
“When I went to a court to represent Faraji and appeal against her sentence, the court system initially did not accept me as her representative,” Aghasi told VOA Persian. “But after exerting a lot of effort, the court agreed, and I filed the appeal in her case.” He said he could not share any further details of Faraji’s situation because they were classified.
Iranian authorities arrested about 3,700 demonstrators who joined the late December to early January protests, according to information shared by lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi days later. The mass protests have inspired frequent and mostly smaller gatherings of anti-government demonstrators across Iran including the capital in the months since.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian Service.