IRAN: Detained American hikers' lawyer says he might resign
Masoud Shafii, the Iranian lawyer representing the two Americans -- Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer -- held in the Islamic Republic on espionage charges, told Babylon & Beyond in an interview Sunday that he might resign as defense counsel for the two men if he is not granted access to his clients in jail.
"I am really unhappy for my clients, and I will submit another request for meeting my clients in jail," he said during the interview at his office in Tehran. "If my request is not heeded as before, then I might think of withdrawing from defending and resign as their defense lawyer. I might express openly and officially all my reasons for resigning at a press conference or through other methods. Because I have been waiting for 21 days now to receive the official notification to be told when I can meet my clients."
Below is the full interview with Shafii.
First, I answer the second part of your question. No, not at all. There was no evidence. I was waiting to see evidence or documents. There were two charges: espionage and illegal entry (trespassing). My clients were given enough time to defend themselves. I think it took three hours to defend through the court-approved translator, and I am happy for my clients as they were given plenty of time to argue for their innocence. But when it was my turn to defend, Judge Abulfazal Salavati did not give me time.
Were you barred from speaking to us outside the court?
Legally speaking, no one can bar a defense lawyer to interview with the media. But as the judge announced that the trial would be held behind closed doors, I had to abide by Act 188 of the penal code and not reveal the details of the trial. However, Press TV (a state-run Iranian English-language news network) was inside the court and carried the news.
If the trial was held behind closed doors and you and Swiss diplomats were barred from being in attendance, then why was Press TV inside?
You should ask Press TV and not me, and ask why all local and international media were barred except for Press TV, which was allowed inside a court that is not open.
Could the judge handle the case better legally?
According to Act 209 of the penal code, the judge could separate the cases of Bauer and Fattal from Sarah's [Sarah Shourd, a third hiker detained along with the two men, who was released last year] case as absentee and accomplice and issue the verdict for Bauer and Fattal.
You told The Times previously that the judge promised that you would have access to your clients in jail. Have you met them since Feb. 6?
No, it pricks my conscience as I cannot fulfill my legal responsibility. The judge told me on Feb. 6 at the end of the trial that I would be able to "meet the clients with enough time to converse with them very soon." But since then, more than 20 days have passed and I have not been able to meet them in jail as I was promised. Once, I went back to court and the judge told me that an official notification had been delivered to me. If the courier was supposed to deliver on foot as the couriers or mailmen used to do 2,000 years ago, I would have received the official notification a long time ago.
Why was Mr. Salavati appointed judge of the trial?
I don't know. You should ask him. I know there are plenty of well-experienced judges in the Iranian judiciary, including him. But I think they are making a simple case complicated and that they have wasted 19 months of my clients' time in jail. Even if they were found guilty for trespassing, they have already completed their sentence.
-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran
Photo: Masoud Shafii. Credit: Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters