Unprecedented Three-Year Sentence for Women’s Rights Activist Implemented
(3 February 2009) The Iranian Judiciary should immediately release imprisoned women’s rights activist, Alieh Eghdamdoust, and end its prosecution of all women’s rights activists.
The authorities arrested Eghdamdoust on 31 January 2009 in her hometown of Foman, north of Iran, to begin serving a 3-year prison sentence. Neither she nor her lawyers were informed about the results of her appeal, which was decided nearly a year ago in contravention of Iranian laws, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said.
“This arrest, as well as the detention Nafiseh Azad during the last three days, signal a crackdown on peaceful and legal activities by women’s rights activists, with authorities apparently going out of their way to show a disregard for their rights,” said Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “ There is no other logic to explain implementing a prison term sentence which was kept from the defendant and her lawyers for a year.”
Iranian authorities have stepped up attacks on women’s rights activists who are peacefully exercising their basic rights in recent days. Security agents detained Nafiseh Azad, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, 30 January 2009 while she was collecting signatures in support of changing discriminatory laws. Judiciary agents violently raided Azad’s home on 3 February in Tehran, beating her husband, Vahid Maleki, and another women’s rights activist, Elnaz Ansari. The agents seized Azad’s personal property and laptop.
Security agents previously arrested Eghdamdoust, along with 70 other women’s rights activists protesting in Haft Tir Square, Tehran on 12 June 2006. She spent one week in detention, refusing to post bail because she did not accept that she had broken any laws. She was later summoned to the Intelligence Offices in Tehran on 19 September 2006, and charged with “acting against national security through participating in an illegal gathering and disturbing public order” by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court on 6 June 2007. The presiding judge, Mr. Salavati, sentenced her to three-year mandatory prison term for participating in an “illegal gathering” and four-month suspended prison term and 20 lashes for disturbing public order, based on articles 610 and 618 of the Islamic Penal code.
Her attorneys appealed the lower court’s sentence. Nasim Ghovani, one of the attorneys who represent Eghdamdoust, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that neither Eghdamdoust nor any of her attorneys had been informed of the result of the appeal.
“I received a call from Alieh in Foman at 2pm on 31 January. She told me that agents from the Implementation of Sentences Department came to take her to Tehran to begin serving her prison term,” Ghovani said. She and another attorney for Eghdamdoust later found that the appeals court had upheld her three-year sentence for “acting against national security” about one year ago.
Ghanavi said, “If we had been informed before, we could have applied for legal possibilities, including Article 18 of the amendment to the Penal Code to prevent the implementation of the sentence. We don’t know why we haven’t been informed.”
Jila Baniyaghoub, a journalist who was also arrested in June 2006 at Haft Tir Square, reported on her website that during her trial, Eghdamdoust was asked by the judge why she participated in the protest. She responded by saying, “You should participate as well. Why didn’t you defend your daughters and wife’s rights by attending the legal peaceful gathering?”
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran calls the Iranian Judiciary to investigate and prosecute the officials who unlawfully withheld information about Eghdamdoust’s appeal from her attorneys. The authorities should immediately release Eghdamdoust and end persecution and prosecution of peaceful women’s rights activists.
“The authorities should protect the rights of women’s rights activists under Iranian and international law, not imprison them,” Ghaemi said.