Background information: In December 2014 Reza Shahabi was summoned to Evin prison’s prosecutor office, while he was still on a medical leave of absence from his prison sentence. He was interrogated about a protest by prisoners in section 350 of Evin prison on April 17, 2014. Subsequently, a case was initiated against him related to that protest and was passed to the Branch 26 of Revolutionary Court. In May 2015, he was prosecuted and condemned to one year in prison. Branch 26’s Appeals Court has upheld the above sentence on December 11, 2015 and since then an enforcement order has been sent to the Evin Prison.
Reza Shahabi, a board member of Vahed Syndicate, became a member of the founding board of the Vahed Syndicate in 2004 and was subsequently voted as a board member of the Syndicate by members in a general assembly on June 3, 2005. He and other Syndicate members have been defending their colleagues’ rights indefatigably and because of their labor activism they have been constant targets of harassment and intimidation by the security and intelligence forces and company’s security force. Shahabi was arrested in 2005 because of his participation in Bus drivers’ strike, in Tehran’s Region 10, and expelled from work after his release from custody. While his case was pending at the Ministry of Labour, he was active defending his colleagues’ rights and his union. He was given legal authorization to represent his coworkers who were dismissed on false pretexts in Labor ministry’s Boards of Inquiry and Disputes Board. He finally was able to obtain a court ruling in his favor and returned to work in June of 2009. After his return to work Shahabi became a constant target of many attacks, harassment and plots by the Bus Company’s management hell bent on expelling him from his job.
Because of Shahabi’s activism, his contacts with other drivers, encouraging them to join the Syndicate, helping them out in pursuing their demands and cases, he was greatly disfavored by Tehran Bus Company’s management and security. On June 12, 2010, he was physically assaulted and arrested, while he was still inside the bus he was driving (with more than 30 passengers witnessing the attack) all based on trumped up charges. After he was severely attacked, his house was ransacked by security forces and he was sent to the Ward 209 of Evin prison. He spent the next nineteen months in solitary confinement under very harsh circumstances based on an arrest warrant of temporary nature. Although the court had set a bail of sixty million Tomans for his release and his family had come up with the bail, but because of pressures from intelligence forces he was still held in prison and not released. During his incarceration, Shahabi’s neck and spinal cord were greatly damaged, and his left side was damaged severely and almost paralyzed. Since his repeated requests regarding his situation went unanswered, he was forced to go on a hunger strike and after carrying out his hunger strike for twenty two days he was transferred to hospital. He finally received surgery for his neck disks, on July 24, 2012, but was immediately returned to the ward 350 of Evin prison. After a few days the neck area which he was operated on got infected.
After spending twenty two months in “temporary” incarceration, Shahabi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, five years’ ban from trade union and social activities and 7 million toman fine, with charges of “gathering and colluding against national security”, “spreading propaganda against the system” and “forming groups” by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran in March 2012. The above sentences were upheld by branch 36 of the appeals court on July 3, 2012.
In response to the harsh and illegal conditions he was subjected to in prison, Reza Shahabi had no option but to go on hunger strikes four separate times, for seven days, twenty days, thirty days and the last one for fifty two days (in June 2014) after his illegal transfer to the Rajaee Shahr Prison. After his last hunger strike which lasted for 52 days, he was transferred to a hospital in Tehran, due to his critical physical conditions and severe fatigue and drop in blood pressure; and after his body was in a condition to undergo surgery he had another operation on his back disks on September 2, 2014.
Although Shahabi has been on medical leave (from prison) due to heavy surgeries on his neck and back, he was summoned to show up, on February 7, 2016, to the intelligence ministry’s office of investigations. After three hours of interrogations, he was informed that a new file has been opened against him. He was accused of inciting workers and disturbing public opinion and order, because according to his interrogator Shahabi had gone to the Ministry of Labor (to pursue his request to return to work which has been denied despite the Iranian government’s report to the ILO that he was currently free and has returned to work); furthermore he was accused of going to City Hall for union related actions, and that he has been collecting membership dues from Syndicate members and distributing Vahed Syndicate’s newsletters.
Based on legal medical examinations, by the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization, Reza Shahabi is still on medical leave of absence, but because of continued pressures and intimidations he has been forced to be living outside of Tehran, away from his wife and children.
The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company demands a stop to all harassment and intimidation against Reza Shahabi and calls for his immediate and unconditional freedom, his unconditional return to work with the payment of compensation for severe damages he suffered during his incarceration.
Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company
Esfand 6, 1394 (February 25, 2016)