The article published below is abridged from a statement released on October 26 by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association (IUF). To send a protest message to the Iranian government, visit www.iuf.org.
In a drive to destroy the independent union established last year by workers at the giant Haft Tapeh plantation/refining sugar complex in southern Iran, a court on October 12 sentenced six union leaders to immediate prison terms on charges stemming from October 2007.
Three leaders convicted for their union activity last year for "endangering national security" in connection with worker action in 2008 had their sentences overturned on appeal in September.
Two union officers, president Ali Nejati and communications officer Reza Rakhshan, both of who face lengthy prison sentences, were still awaiting the outcome of their appeal on similar charges when the court in the city of Dezful sentenced the six leaders.
Ghorban Alipour, Feridoun Nikoufard, Jalil Ahmadi, Nejat Dehli and Nejati were all sentenced to six months immediate imprisonment and six months suspended sentences over five years; during which time they are barred from union activity.
Mohammad Heydari Mehr received a four-month term, eight months suspended.
Nejati must serve his suspended sentence as prison time, meaning he faces an immediate one-year prison term. Should he lose his appeal on the 2008 conviction, his sentence could stretch to more than two years.
Haft Tapeh workers in recent years have repeatedly had to resort to strikes and other actions to claim huge wage arrears and protest against deteriorating working conditions. The union was officially founded in June 2008 after a 42-day strike to demand long-standing arrears.
The Haft Tapeh union is an IUF affiliate.
Nejati has been refused work at Haft Tapeh and blacklisted from all work in the region since being released in April from a month in solitary confinement. The other Haft Tapeh leaders sentenced on October 12 have now also been turned away from their work and instructed to report to prison.
The regime is clearly determined to crush the union by putting its entire leadership behind bars. The IUF urges all defenders of democratic and trade union rights to mobilise in their defence.