Iran has a reputation for the savage justice. Recently, it jailed cartoonist Atena Farghadani for 12 years. Her crime was to depict politicians who restricted access to birth control as cows and monkeys. An online appeal to get support has led to a number of striking images by other cartoonists, but it has also focused attention on the case, and the most shocking detail has emerged in the last 24 hours- that her defence lawyer has himself been sent to the Raja'i Shahr prison after visiting Atena at Evin prison yesterday. Apparently, he was seen shaking her hand.

After his client had already served nearly 6 months' in the notorious Gharchak prison, Moghimi had been urging a reduction of her sentence to 7.5 years in line with the recommendation implicit in Article 134 of the New Islamic Penal Code that only the single maximum sentence should be served. Instead, Atena was sentenced to almost twice that time. Her offences include "assembly and collusion against national security," "propaganda against the state," as well as "insulting the Supreme Leader, the President, Members of the Parliament, and the IRGC (or Revolutionary Guards)". In a video statement, Atena explained that she had been ordered to strip by these Revolutionary guards and had resisted. For a country obsessed with female modesty, this is in itself a shocking revelation.

There remain just a few days in which Atena Farghadani can appeal against the sentence. Such an appeal will be harder with her own defence lawyer behind bars. She is now on hunger strike.

Moghimi had argued that, rather than undermining the Revolutionary state, his client was actually working to 'prevent vice and promote virtue,' as laid out in Article 8 of the Iranian Constitution. She was doing this by openly criticizing corrupt officials and mocking them in her drawings, which, in any case, were shown only on facebook and social media. "According to our laws," he said, "activities on social networks on the Internet are not recognized as crimes." He observed, moreover, that in democratic countries, cartoons mocking those in power are "accepted practice".

But Atena faced Judge Abolghassem Salavati, a man famous for harsh sentencing. Last year, he had Mohsen Amir-Aslani executed for questioning the veracity of Jonah and the whale. He is also due next week at the second hearing of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaiain, accused of spying. So far, details of the case against Rezaiain have been vague and the initial hearing was behind closed doors in May. But it does not look good.

At the beginning of May, a prominent Defence Lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, appeared in court before Salavati to defend his client Arjang Davoodi. But when the sessions opened, he was told that he himself was on trial and Salavati added, "Your sentence has been finalized by the appeals court." This is a topsy-turvy system.

The case of Atena Farghadani echoes that of Atena Daemi, who was arrested in October 2014, and had been protesting on facebook against the compulsory hijab in Iran. Omid Alishenas, Ali Nouri and Asveh Rostami still face similar charges and were arrested at the same time.

While Iran has a deserved reputation for the barbarity of its criminal system, there is a theory that the current high-profile cases are intended by a cabal of judges in the revolutionary courts to undermine the more conciliatory tone of the new President Hassan Rouhani, and to upset the nuclear talks between Tehran and the West. #Lawsuit #Government