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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Imprisonment Shines Light On Revolutionary Courts

By Abu Mousa

The sentencing of British-Iranian journalist Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to five years imprisonment on "secret charges" has focused international attention on the secrecy and inherent injustice of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court system.

Running parallel to the conventional penal courts, trials in Revolutionary Courts are held in secret to prosecute drug smuggling and political and religious crimes, including blasphemy, espionage, "war with Allah" and "threatening national security". The Iranian regime is believed to have accused Nazanin, a journalist visiting family, of conspiracy to overthrow the regime.

As in all Revolutionary Court cases, the evidence was never presented - if it ever existed - and lawyers lacked confidential access to their client and were probably unable to represent her during the trial. Nazanin was held in insanitary conditions and in solitary confinement, unable to communicate with her family, including her young daughter.

Nazanin is suffering the fate faced by all political dissidents and religious minorities who are perceived to be a threat to the regime. It is by virtue of her British citizenship that this kangaroo court gave her just five years imprisonment. Most jail sentences are lengthy and often defendants are sentenced to death.

Nazanin's supporters should not be complacent. Often a trial will be followed by further trials, lengthier sentences and even the death penalty, sometimes based on forced confessions - shown on Press TV - following weeks of torture, including broken bones and rape (male and female prisoners are targeted). Prisoners are also subjected to indiscriminate beatings by guards, deprivation of food, refusal of medical care, diseases that are epidemic in insanitary conditions and lack of access to toilets. Her life remains in serious danger so long as she is on Iranian soil.

The world should act not just on behalf of this innocent journalist who was simply travelling to Iran to meet her relatives. Her security can only be guaranteed by international action against the Islamic Revolutionary Court system, which perpetuates human rights abuse and falls well short of the basic international judicial standards.

The international community needs to take a stand on behalf of all victims of this institution of the most grotesque injustice. It cannot simply make an exception of Nazanin's case and forget about the thousands of others who suffer in the dungeons of prisons like Evin.

For example, the case of Fahima Ismaili Badawi, an Ahwazi Arab woman who has been imprisoned for over a decade. She was sentenced to 15 years by the Revolutionary Court on spurious charges in relation to her executed husband Ali Matourizadeh's political activities. She gave birth to their baby girl Salma soon after her imprisonment.

In 2010, she was forced to confess to various crimes against national security on Iran's English language channel Press TV, possibly motivated by her desire to leave prison and be reunited with her daughter. Her efforts have so far failed to bring her closer to freedom or Salma. In June, reports emerged that she had been beaten unconscious by guards and appeared to have sustained minor brain damage. She has a further five years to go before she completes her sentence.

Nazanin and Fahima do not know each other, but are sisters in oppression and persecution and represent just two of the thousands and thousands of victims of the Revolutionary Court system.

This week, a relative of two Ahwazi Arab brothers executed on the orders of the Revolutionary Courts called for the arrest of two judges involved in ordering the death sentence. There is no doubt that any conviction in this system is unsafe and that all Revolutionary Court judges should be placed under international sanctions and arrest warrants be issued.

It is very easy to find these religious judges. When on holiday, they can be found in Dubai's red light district sleeping with prostitutes and snorting cocaine - "crimes" for which these disgusting hypocrites sentence others to death.