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Stop Repression of Iranian Sugar Workers' Union!

Posted to the IUF website 18-Feb-2009

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An independent workers union in southern Iran is challenging a legal case against them by the Revolutionary Court and they need your support, now.

In June last year, five thousand workers at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Plantation and Industry Company in the Iranian city of Shush formed an independent trade union following a 46-day strike. Official organizations created by the government (Workers House and Islamic Labour Council) have for years utterly failed to protect the workers and their conditions. The Haft Tapeh workers have had to resort to repeated strike action to fight for their basic workplace rights, including regular payment of wages.

The strike last year began when thousands of workers from every department downed tools to protest two months without wages. A petition to the provincial labour department with thousands of signatures triggered mass arrests and repeated interventions by police, security forces and Revolutionary Guards. A mass demonstration on June 16 by workers and their families ending at an assembly which elected officers of an independent trade union. The Haft Tapeh union is now a member of the IUF.

Now the government is seeking to crush the union through potentially lengthy prison sentences for 5 elected leaders, charged with acting against "national security" in connection with last year's strike and the formation of the union. The five leaders are Ali Nejati, President, Feridoun Nikoufard, Vice President, Mohammed Heydari Mehr, Representative for Industry Affairs, Ghorban Alipour, Secretary, and Jalil Ahmadi, Member of the Board of Directors.

The 5 elected union leaders were summoned to the Revolutionary Court on December 20, 2008 and charged with acting against national security.The IUF and unions worldwide have condemned these charges as groundless and called on the government to immediately and unconditionally drop the charges. Other independent union leaders in Iran, including Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi of the Tehran Bus Union, have been imprisoned on the same charges.

The verdict was scheduled to be delivered on February 17 in a typically despotic and arbitrary manner by the court - the plaintiff did not even bother to appear before the judge nor present serious "evidence". However, the determination of the union leaders and their lawyer turned what was scheduled to have been a perfunctory sentencing into a five hour debate whose only conclusion was to continue the hearing. The February 22 session also failed to deliver a verdict.

The union thanks all those who have written the government over the past few weeks. However, additional pressure is urgently needed to get the authorities to unconditionally drop all charges. CLICK HERE to send a message to the Iranian state and judicial authorities, calling on them to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the Haft Tapeh union leaders.