Earlier this month, Iranian human-rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei helped draw the world's attention to the plight of his client, a woman who faced imminent stoning for adultery. Now, according to human-rights activists, he is in hiding himself for fear of retribution.
Mostafaei, who is in his late 30s, had been arrested before in connection with his human-rights work. He told CNN that he knew the risks he was taking when he ran a publicity campaign for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two who was convicted of adultery in dubious circumstances and sentenced to be stoned to death. The campaign, which was taken up by figures from the British foreign secretary to Lindsay Lohan, worked—in the short term. The Iranian judiciary said the sentence would be temporarily reconsidered.
But last Saturday, Mostafaei was apparently brought in for questioning at Evin, a prison where inmates are allegedly beaten and tortured. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran told CNN that the government was targeting him because of his role in the Ashtiani case, and the international embarrassment it caused.
Mostafaei has not been seen since. According to associates, he is now out of Evin and in hiding. Agents who came to capture him took in his wife and brother-in-law instead, according to Sky News, and charged them with trying to help Mostafaei avoid arrest. According to CNN, the agents then called his wife's father and told him that the pair would be released as soon as the lawyer turned himself in.
Human-rights activists are condemning Mostafaei's treatment, and the decades-long sentence he could face. "The Islamic Republic must be forced to stop harassing and intimidating Mr. Mostafaei and others like him in their legal efforts to pursue justice," the International Committee Against Execution told Sky News.
The Iranian judiciary will release its final verdict on Ashtiani next week, when the stoning sentence may be reinstated. It is likely that Mostafaei will no longer be free to work for her.