11:59 GMT +319 November 2019
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    Human Rights Watch director, Sarah Leah Whitson (R)

    Rights Watchdog Urges Iran to Allow Fair Legal Representation for Detainees

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    Iran should remove legal restrictions on access to lawyers, including independent legal defense, for people charged with national security and political crimes, a prominent human rights watchdog said in a report on Thursday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that it had documented several instances over the past year in which people detained in Iran had been denied access to lawyers during investigations or forced to change their legal advocate under pressure by judiciary officials.

    "While Iran claims the new criminal code has improved defendants’ rights, these efforts are meaningless if parliamentary amendments completely undermine the spirit of fair judicial proceedings," the HRW quoted its Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, as saying.

    Iran’s law on criminal procedures stipulates that those charged with national security crimes are allowed to choose a lawyer while under investigation, although such access may be delayed for up to a week. However, amendments passed three days before the law went into force in 2015 restrict the rights of people charged with such offenses, requiring them to select a defender from a pool of lawyers approved by the head of the judiciary.

    "Defendants having access to the lawyer of their choice is a crucial safeguard for guaranteeing a fair trial in Iran. Iran should immediately address this problematic provision in the law and take effective action against abuses committed in its judicial system," Whitson said.

    According to the HRW, Iran has consistently failed to prevent torture in detention as means to gain evidence. This makes access to a lawyer from the time of an arrest an important safeguard against abuses in detention, the watchdog said.

    On July 6, the Iranian bar association published an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani opposing the amendments to the criminal procedures law, however they received no response from the authorities.

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    detainees, Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson, Iran
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