Iran: Iranian teacher unionist Esmail Abdi released from jail

published 20 March 2020 updated 3 March 2022

Education International welcomes the release of jailed Iranian teacher unionist Esmail Abdi on 17 March.

Tehran teacher union leader Esmail Abdi was released from Evin prison in Tehran on 17 March. Abdi had been in prison on this occasion since 20 January 2018, having been returned to Evin prison after being released on furlough on 9 January 2018 due to ill health.

Targeted for union activism

Abdi was initially arrested in connection with his union activities for teachers’ rights and to prevent his participation in the 2015 Education International (EI) World Congress in Ottawa, Canada. Abdi was targeted for his union activism and campaign for free and accessible public education for all. He was convicted of national security offences in February 2016 - after organising peaceful protests – and sentenced to six years imprisonment. During his incarceration in Evin Prison, reports indicated that Abdi had been kept in harsh detention conditions and denied communication with his family and lawyer.

Amnesty International

Human rights organisation Amnesty International believes that a new order of the Supreme Leader should apply to Abdi. Indeed, on 18 March, the Iranian authorities announced that pardons would be granted to prisoners convicted of “security” offences who have a five-year prison sentence or less. In addition, those who had been granted leave in recent weeks will not be returned to prison. Many prisoners defined by the authorities as jailed for “security” offences are prisoners held for politically motivated reasons.

Iranian pardonsThe Iranian announcement said the pardons were, in part, to mark the occasion of Nowrouz – the Iranian New Year – which falls on 20 March, and two Islamic religious holidays. It is also partly due to the “sensitive situation” of the country, an apparent reference to the spread of the coronavirus in the country. In recent weeks, Iran has been granting prison leave after payment of bail, as authorities struggle to contain the spread of coronavirus, including in the country’s prisons.

Prisoners of conscience

Responding to this announcement, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther, stressed that his organisation “welcomes the release of anyone detained as a prisoner of conscience, although they should not have been in prison in the first place.

“No one should spend a single day in prison for peacefully exercising their rights, and it is outrageous that so many prisoners of conscience remain unjustly jailed, including human rights defenders and many others detained for taking part in peaceful protests in November 2019 and January this year.”

Amnesty International is again calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience, he concluded.

EI: Release Abdi for good

EI joins in Amnesty International’s call, and urges Iranian authorities to release Abdi for good, as well as all the other wrongfully imprisoned Iranian trade unionists and human rights defenders.