Iranian Teacher’s Union Leader Sentenced to Six Years in Prison

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The secretary general of the Teachers Association of Iran, Esmail Abdi, has been sentenced to six years in prison for “propaganda against the state” and “collusion against national security” by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court.

The verdict was issued to Abdi’s lawyer on Tuesday, February 14, 2016, a source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “His lawyer will appeal this decision within 20 days and his family hopes it will be reversed by the Appeals Court,” the source added.

“Mr. Abdi objected to his sentence and said he’s a teacher and had nothing to do with state secrets. What kind of secrets are they talking about? What sort of confidential documents could a teacher have and publish?” a source close to Abdi told the Campaign.

Labor activism in Iran is seen as a national security offense. Independent labor unions are not allowed to function, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are consistentlyprosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.

The source added that Abdi’s role as secretary general of the Teachers Association of Iran came under scrutiny after a May 2015 demonstration by teachers and their supporters in front of Parliament.

“He started getting warnings and summons from the Intelligence Ministry as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. They told him he would be arrested if he continued his activities. At that point Mr. Abdi decided to resign from his position as secretary general. Although his resignation was rejected by the board, in reality he wasn’t active anymore.

Even when the security forces complained about protest gatherings by teachers in April and May [2015], Abdi told them he had no involvement in them,” the source said.Labor protests in the teaching profession occurred frequently in Iran last year, as teachers protested wages that are below the official poverty level in Iran and the fact that their labor leaders were being put behind bars for their peaceful activism.

Abdi was arrested on June 27, 2015, by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization. He was held in solitary confinement for nearly a month in their Ward 2-A at Evin Prison and “interrogated for 15 hours each day,” the source told the Campaign.

Abdi had been previously arrested in 2011 and sentenced to 10 years in prison by Judge Hamidreza Azarpour in Islamshahr for “propaganda against the state” and “revealing national security secrets.” But the sentence was suspended for five years.

In addition to Abdi, four other members of the Teachers Association of Iran are currently serving time in prison: Ali Akbar Baghbani, Rasoul Badaghi, Alireza Hashemi and Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi.

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