Two Iranian lawyers and a civil rights activist were among the group organizing a legal challenge to Iran’s top leader and government over their disastrous response to the pandemic.
But before they could file a complaint, they were captured and sent to prison.
Their case, now known as “health advocates” on Iranian social media, has garnered widespread attention, although their trial in Tehran is closed to the public.
“We were still discussing the complaint and what to do when 15 intelligence agents from the judiciary violently broke into the office and arrested us,” civil rights activist Mehdi Mahmudyan said in a telephone interview from Evin High Security Prison in Tehran, where he is detained. guards together with their co-accused, Mustafa Nili and Arash Kayhosravi, lawyers.
Mr. Mahmoudian was among a group of nine Iranian lawyers and civil rights activists who gathered at their Tehran office one afternoon in August to discuss a draft lawsuit they planned to file against senior officials in the country. He said they planned to sue Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the government on charges of ineffectively managing the pandemic and obstructing vaccine deployment, with Mr. Khamenei’s politically motivated ban on imports of vaccines made in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Mr Mahmoudian, Mr Nili and Mr Kayhossravi are accused of spreading anti-state propaganda and disturbing public order in a trial that began in late October at the Tehran Revolutionary Court, a special court for political cases and political prisoners. They are also accused of creating and belonging to a hostile organization – a reference to a human rights group they created called the Association for the Defense of Citizens’ Rights. If convicted, each of them could face up to 10 years in prison.
In a statement last week, a group of international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and PEN America, called for their immediate release and asked the United Nations to raise their case before the Iranian government.
Iran’s mission to the UN did not respond to questions about the three prisoners.