Iran: prison for transit union leaders

An appellate court in Tehran confirmed a five-year sentence against imprisoned union leader Mansur Osanlu Oct. 30. The court also upheld a two-year prison sentence against another senior member of Osanlu’s union, Ebrahim Madadi, for acting against Iran’s national security. Osanlu, head of the Syndicate Workers of the Tehran Bus Company, has been incarcerated at Tehran’s Evin prison since July, when he pulled from a bus, beaten, and abducted. Madadi was detained along with four other union members in August after they visited Osanlu’s home.

Hassan Nayeb Hashem, a Vienna-based member of the Society to Defend Human Rights In Iran, condemned the sentences, saying, “Osanlu was detained illegally after he distributed leaflets in which he called for the syndicate’s rights to be safeguarded and also for higher wages for workers. He was kidnapped and arrested, he was beaten up. The actions against him are against international laws” on human rights. The charges against Osanlu reportedly include “propaganda against the system and acting against national security.”

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is also calling for both men’s release. An ITF spokesman in London, Sam Dawson, condemned the sentence against Osanlu as “outrageous and utterly deplorable.”

Osanlu had been jailed and threatened in the past in connection with his labor activities. His latest arrest came shortly after his return from an international labor gathering in London. In interviews with Iran’s Radio Farda, Osanlu’s wife and colleagues have called the charges against Osanlu baseless.

Student protests

Iranian dissidents and rights activists say the government has stepped up its pressure on labor activists, intellectuals, students and others in the past year. The apparent crackdown has prompted several student protests in recent weeks, including a demonstration against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he spoke at Amir Kabir University earlier this month.

Several students were detained Oct. 30 at Alameh Tabatabai University as protesters shouted slogans against Ahmadinejad and called for the release of fellow students who have been imprisoned. Protesters held banners that read “Ahmadinejad, Release Our Colleague” or “Freedom Is Our Absolute Right.” Reports of the number of participants ranged from 50 to several hundred.

Three students from Tehran’s Amir Kabir University—Ehsan Mansuri, Majid Tavakoli, and Ahmad Ghasaban—were given sentences of up to three years earlier this month on charges of printing anti-Islamic images in four student newspapers. (RFE/RL, Oct. 30)

See our last posts on Iran and the labor struggles in the Islamic Republic.