Iranian Human Rights Activist Jailed


Prominent Iranian human rights activist, Narges Mohammadi, has been sentenced to 11 years in jail after being found guilty by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court of three charges: acting against national security, membership of a group whose "object is to disturb the security of the country", and propaganda against the regime.

The Court called Narges Mohammadi’s activities "lies", and said that her aims were to tarnish the country’s reputation. She was sentenced to five years in prison for "assembly and collusion against national security," five years for "membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC)," and one year for "propagating against the regime".

Mohammadi, who is the deputy head of DHRC, said in a statement to the BBC that she will challenge the sentence, declaring, "I am neither political nor a seditionist and do not accept such a sentence for myself".

Security forces stormed Mohammadi’s home on 11 June 2010 in the middle of the night and detained her without a warrant. She was taken to the notorious Evin prison and kept in solitary confinement and then released on bail a month later. She was hospitalised immediately on her release.

The DHRC was co-founded by prominent Iranian lawyers and human rights activists and is headed by Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Ebadi told Amnesty International this week that "Iran’s judiciary has lost its independence and has become a puppet of intelligence service interrogators".

"All of Narges Mohammadi’s activities were related to human rights and this angered security officials," Ebadi said. "Narges continued her activism with deep conviction but the court ignored her defence and sentenced her to 11 years in prison. It is an unjust sentence and is inconsistent not only with human rights provisions but also with Iran’s own laws."

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, said
"It is inexplicable how Narges Mohammadi, a long-standing and dedicated human rights activist, should be subjected to such an absurd verdict for her totally legitimate work".

Mohammadi has campaigned in support of transparent elections and an end to the death penalty for offenders under 18 years old. In a statement published by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran she wrote:

"The DHRC was a civil organisation that was established in 2000 by obtaining an licence from the Interior Ministry. According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, activities of parties, societies, and organisations are allowed. Additionally, Iran has accepted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 9 of Iran’s Civil Law considers international covenants as binding as internal laws. Therefore, according to domestic laws and international commitments, the DHRC was a legal organisation that performed human rights activities." 

In a telephone interview with Deutsche Welle she stood by her beliefs. She said that even though she had been sentenced to 11 years in prison, even "a 100-year sentence will not dissuade me from doing my duty for society, humanity and freedom of thought and speech".

Mohammadi, a recipient of the Alexander Langer Award in 2009, also heads the National Council of Peace in Iran, a broad coalition against war. It includes writers, artists, lawyers, social activists, women, students, representatives of ethnic minorities and political groups opposed to any military or terrorist actions and preventive armed conflicts against Iran.

Other founders of the DHRC and many other activists have also been arrested since the controversial 2009 presidential election in Iran. While the country tells the international community that it cooperates with domestic and international human rights groups, human rights activists like Narges Mohammadi continue to be targeted.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.