Member of the One Million Signatures Campaign Arrested on Baseless Charges
UPDATE: (30 April 2009) Maryam Malek was released on 29 April at midnight local time after spending 5 days in detention. Five members of the Mothers Committee of the One Million Signatures Campaign met the spokesperson for the Judiciary and presented their protest letter to the head of the Judiciary. They requested him to release Maryam on 28 April. Malek who was previously ordered to be released on $20,000 bail, was released on a third person guarantee.
(27 April 2009) Maryam Malek, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign and a reporter on legal matters related to family courts, was arrested and transferred to Vozara Detention Center on 25 April 2009, after being summoned for interrogation and charged in the Revolutionary Courts, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
She is charged with “propaganda against the state,” and “membership in the One Million Signatures Campaign.” The magistrate, Mr. Heidarifard, has issued bail in the amount of $20,000 (20 Million Toman), but she was not able to provide such large amount. She is currently being held in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
“This arrest reflects the effort to instill fear among women’s rights activists expressing their rightful demands with respect to women’s rights in public conferences as Iranians debate their political future,” said Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“Officials have to be held accountable for their actions and explain which of Malek’s activities in preparing news reports from family courts, and activities designed to collect signatures asking for reform of discriminatory laws, are considered illegal according to law,” he added.
On 22 April 2009, Malek’s home was searched by three security officers, after which she was served with a summons to appear at the Security Police station. According to the website of Change for Equality, when Malek’s family home was searched, not only her room and personal property, but the rooms and possessions of all the members of her household, including her father and brother, were also thoroughly searched. Officials even searched the contents of the refrigerator and inside the oven. After searching the home, officials confiscated 16 CDs, legal books, handwritten materials, her laptop computer, books and materials related to the Million Signatures Campaign including petition forms, and her personal calendar, which includes information on her meetings and activities.
Malek, a 26-year- old student, has written numerous articles about the violence and social and legal injustices faced by women in the family courts system. After the search of her home on 22 April, in an interview with the website of Change for Equality, Maryam explained: “Instead of tending to their official business, the [officers] intimidated my mother through insults and lies. Mr. Najafi [a security officer present on the scene] told my mother: ‘Ms., if only you knew what your daughter was up to, you would kill her.'” Maryam had been released from the hospital on the day her house was searched. At the time, she was still ill and on bed rest at home.
According to Change for Equality, Maryam Malek reported that during her interrogation by Security Police, “they accused me of many things, and I have denied all the accusations.”
“For years, Iranian security and judicial officials who cannot prove the peaceful activities of women’s rights activists to be criminal have been arresting and prosecuting them on baseless charges,” said Rhodes. “The effect has been to subvert the integrity of the Judiciary and to undermine respect, not only in Iran, but around the world. Such arrests do not diminish the determination of Iranian activists to peacefully and legally seek changes in discriminatory laws.”
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran expresses its concern for the health and physical safety of Maryam Malek, while demanding that judiciary officials immediately release her, and instead identify and prosecute those within the Judiciary who carry out such illegal actions.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran also urged that all sentences issued against women’s rights activists in Iran in the absence of evidence and due process be dropped and all pending cases against them be closed. The Campaign calls again for the immediate release of women’s rights activist Alieh Eghdamdoust, who is currently serving a three and a half year prison sentence for participating in the peaceful protest in Haft-e Tir Square in 2006 in support of reform of discriminatory laws against women.