An Iranian lawyer who raised questions about the death in custody of a young client has himself been sentenced to three years in prison - with 74 lashes. According to pressure group the Center for Human Rights in Iran, Mohammad Najafi has been sentenced for 'disturbing the state' and 'publishing falsehoods' after advocating for a young client who died in police detention.

Najafi began his sentence in the western city of Arak on 28 October. 

In January 2018, he had told media outlets about the case of Vahid Heydari, 22. He had suggested that the authorities were trying to cover up the real reason for Heydari’s death by claiming he had committed suicide. 

Officially the judiciary are responsible for ensuring the safety and well being of detainees held in state custody but no one has been investigated or held responsible for the death. Instead Judge Ghasem Abdollahi of the Appeals Court in Markazi Province upheld the three-year prison sentences and 74 lashes for Najafi and activists Ali Bagheri and Abbas Safari. 

'I have been a lawyer and writer for years and during this time I have been repeatedly charged and acquitted,' Najafi said in May this year. 'The authorities themselves have told me that they are trying to grind me into oblivion.'

Najafi's lawyer has filed a complaint with the Iranian Supreme Court.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran describes itself as an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization working to protect and promote human rights in Iran. The group has also raised new concerns about imprisoned defence lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, saying she has been barred from receiving visits from her children and other family members in Tehran's Evin Prison. 'First the Iranian authorities imprisoned Sotoudeh for defending human rights and now they’re harassing her in jail by taking away the few rights she has left, including visits with her children,' said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director.