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Society & Culture

“Only One Article In The Constitution Matters”

February 20, 2015
Mehrangiz Kar
3 min read
“Only One Article In The Constitution Matters”
“Only One Article In The Constitution Matters”

“Only One Article In The Constitution Matters”


The Revolutionary Court has gone to great lengths to block lawyer Masoud Shafiei from defending jailed Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian. Recently, when Shafiei gave an account of what Judge Salavati, well known for his role in prosecuting journalists following the 2009 Green Movement, has done to block him, Mehrangiz Kar was reminded of her own experience as a lawyer in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Over a series of three articles, Kar recalls three incidents that summarize her experience of practicing law in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Read articles two and three here.


The brothers of a political prisoner visited my office on a daily basis. They told me their brother only trusted me and wouldn’t allow them to enter into negotiations with another lawyer. Over and over, I urged them that, in order to save their brother, they must find an attorney who had good relations with the judge. Every day, they went away, only to return. The defendant wouldn’t listen to them because he honestly believed that the judicial system still had some integrity.

Eventually, I became tired of repeating the same advice over and over, and I was persuaded. I told them to take the relevant documents to their brother to grant me power of attorney. At that time, the doors of Evin Prison were still open to most lawyers. Now, they’re only open to regime favorites. Then, lawyers didn’t feel that talking to the media was the only way they could report violations in the judicial system. Now, it is a common occurrence; often a lawyer’s last resort and the only defensive tool at his or her disposal.

When the brothers went to get his signature, the Revolutionary Court interrogated them, and asked questions about me. They gave them the business cards of other lawyers. Once again, the prisoner refused.

After witnessing this, one of the Revolutionary Court’s Haj Aghas [someone in a high judicial position] called me. He was polite and cordial, but said, “Before visiting the prisoner and before he can sign the power of attorney, you must come here and pass the test.”

“What test?” I asked. “The bar exam,” he answered. “Years ago, when you gentlemen were not here yet, I passed the bar exam,” I said.

He told me he meant Islamic Jurisprudence and sharia law. I said all defense lawyers have good knowledge of the Islamic Penal Code.

“We’re not talking about the penal code,” he said. “Our judges mainly rely on Article 167 of the constitution.” The Article states that a judge must decide each case on “the basis of codified law,” but, in the absence of this, he must deliver his judgment on “the basis of authoritative Islamic sources and authentic fatwa.”

“Do you observe just one article of the constitution?” I asked.

 “When you have the whole thing, you also have the parts,” he replied. I asked him about Article 168, which says: “Political and press offenses will be tried openly and in the presence of a jury, in courts of justice.” He interrupted me, dismissing me with a laugh that made me feel sick. “You all walk under the banner of Article 168, but it isn’t worth a penny.”

After that, I gave up. The next day, when the brothers of the accused came to my office and again offered me a lot of money and insisted they hire me as their attorney, I refused categorically. I told them to go to one of the three lawyers whose business cards were distributed in the Revolutionary Courts.

The author’s husband, journalist Siamak Pourzand, took his own life while under house arrest in 2011. 


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