Iran delayed the trial on Wednesday of five people who were arrested while preparing a legal case against senior regime officials over the deaths of thousands during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group of lawyers and activists were detained in August as they prepared to sue Iran’s supreme leader, president, health minister and other officials, accusing them of negligence and incompetence.
Three of the accused are in detention where they were held in solitary confinement for more than three weeks and have been denied opportunities to speak to their lawyers and families, a US campaigning group said.
The three – lawyers Mostafa Nili and Arash Keykhosravi and activist Mehdi Mahmoudian – are also being denied access to their case file detailing the allegations against them, said the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
After their arrest, the five refused to bow to pressure from officials to sign pledges to withdraw their legal action against the Iranian leadership.
The defendants are accused of propaganda against the state and membership of an anti-state group, said CHRI. The group said the trial has been delayed for about ten days.
The arrests are part of an escalating campaign against lawyers that has led to some being jailed on trumped-up charges.
“This case is the clearest example to date of the Iranian judiciary’s determination to completely deny due process to those accused of peacefully challenging the state’s repressive policies,” said CHRI’s executive director, Hadi Ghaemi.
“It wants to strip them [lawyers] of their power because they are the last lifeline of those targeted by the state for peaceful dissent.”
Iran has suffered some of the highest Covid-19 infection and death rates in the world but bans the use of UK and US-produced vaccines, describing them as “completely untrustworthy”.