By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- Iran has jailed the lawyer of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who was sentenced to death for "apostasy from Islam" before being released unexpectedly last month, Christians and rights activists confirmed Tuesday, October 2.
Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a prominent human rights defender, was called to begin a nine-year prison sentence at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on Saturday, September 29, on trumped-up charges his supporters said.
The lawyer, who co-founded Iran’s Center for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), was already sentenced last year after being convicted of charges including “membership of an association [CHRD] seeking the soft overthrow of the government” and “spreading propaganda" against the Islamic regime "through interviews with foreign media.”
He was also banned from practicing law and teaching for 10 years.
His imprisonment comes as a fresh setback for the Church of Iran movement of Nadarkhani. Though the pastor was released, several other leaders of congregations remain behind bars and need advocacy, the Church told BosNewsLife.
Dadkhah's troubles with Iran's judiciary began in July 2009 when he, his daughter and three associates were reportedly accused of “keeping weapons, opium as well as documents” that illustrated links with foreign “enemies”.
He was released some two months later after posting bail of around $500,000, but eventually sentenced on July 3, 2011 by the 15th Branch of the Revolutionary Tribunal, trial observers said.
“I thank God that I did not get a worse sentence than this...,"Dadkhah explained at the time in published remarks.
"I am not at all worried about these sentences, because I have acted lawfully and in defense of my homeland...It is natural for someone who takes a step in the direction of law and order to be treated badly by those who are against law and order.”
International rights group Amnesty International (AI) has called for his unconditional release and fair treatment of the prisoner.
"Pending his unconditional release, the authorities must also ensure he is protected from torture or other ill-treatment, that he is provided with all necessary medical care and receives full and unrestricted access to his family and a lawyer of his choice," said Ann Harrison, AI's deputy program director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Dadkhah, who is believed to be held in Section 350 of Evin prison with other political prisoners, was "tortured" and otherwise "ill-treated" during his previous imprisonment there in 2009 when he was held for 74 days - the majority of it spent in solitary confinement, according to local Christians and rights investigators.
CSW said the detention was part of Iran’s "on-going assault on civil society" which so far "resulted in the detentions of over 45 journalists, activists and human rights defenders."
The group's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston told BosNewsLife that the "imprisonment of Mr Dadkhah is a clear miscarriage of justice and further proof that Iran’s campaign against civil society continues to gather pace."
There was no known immediate reaction from Iranian officials, but Iran has in the past defended its judicial policies, saying they are aimed at defending the values of the Islamic nation.