AFP: Iran's conservative-controlled parliament on Wednesday blocked a plan to define political crimes which would have clarified the status of political prisoners, said the student news agency ISNA.
The parliament, or Majlis, blocked a proposal that asked the government to give a legal definition of political crimes. AFP

TEHRAN - Iran's conservative-controlled parliament on Wednesday blocked a plan to define political crimes which would have clarified the status of political prisoners, said the student news agency ISNA.

The parliament, or Majlis, blocked a proposal that asked the government to give a legal definition of political crimes.

The proposal had been put forward by the reformist government before most reformists were barred from contesting elections last February and they subsequently lost their majority.

Human rights activists say a legal definition of political crimes is required so that those who are convicted because of their political beliefs are not punished under common law.

"If political crime was defined, many of those who are imprisoned today for undermining state security would be free today," legal expert Ali Najafi Tavana told ISNA.

"The magistrate cannot treat as a thief or a murderer someone who acted through personal conviction," he said.

The crime of undermining state security is frequently used to imprison those opposed to the Iranian regime.

Iranian courts, considered a bastion of conservatism in the Islamic Republic, deny that political prisoners exist in Iran as political crimes are not defined.

However, justice ministry spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said in April that some prisoners could at some point be deemed political, proof, he said, that Iranian society is free.