Women’s Rights Activists Remain in Prison without Justification
Moghadam and Karami in their twelfth day of detention for planning New Year visits
(6 April 2009) Two women’s rights activists, imprisoned since 26 March 2009 after being arrested on the street as they embarked on making New Year visits, are being held without any legal justification and despite promises by judicial officials that they will be released.
Khadijeh Moghadam and Mahboubeh Karami are held in Tehran’s Evin Prison without having been arraigned. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran called on the Judiciary head, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, to order their immediate release and put an end to illegal actions by his subordinates.
The Campaign is seriously concerned about the detainees’ health and safety and the continuing lack of transparency and judicial irregularities in their case.
“At first the authorities told the detainees’ families their release would be postponed because of New Year holidays. Then they made several hollow promises that their release was imminent,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.
“With each passing day, these activists who are not guilty of any crime, are deprived of their liberty. At the same time, security and judicial officials guilty of detaining them without reason get away with total impunity,” he added.
Twelve members of the Mothers for Peace and One Million Signatures Campaign were detained on 26 March 2009, as they sat in their cars at a street corner in Tehran. Ten activists were released on bail on 29 March, but Moghadam and Karami were kept in prison without any explanation.
On 5 April, the ten released activists were arraigned at the Security Prosecution Court of Tehran. Tehran’s Deputy Public Prosecutor for Security, Mr. Heidarifard, formally charged them with “disturbing public opinion” and “disruption of public order.”
The ten defendants were accompanied with their lawyers during the arraignment procedures. In an unprecedented development, the defendants were questioned in the presence of their lawyers. The Campaign welcomes this procedure, which accords with Iranian and international norms and should be available to all defendants.
All ten defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges and are subject to further prosecution. A date for the court hearing has not been set. The names of the ten defendants are: Delaram Ali, Leila Nazari, Farkhondeh Ehtesabian, Bahara Behravan, Ali Abdi, Amir Rashidi, Mohammad Shoorab, Arash Nasiri Eghbali, Soraya Yousefi and Shahla Forouzanfar.
Moghadam and Karami were also due to be arraigned during the same hearing on 5 April. However, they were not transferred from prison to the court house. Houshang Pourbabai, who along with Shirin Ebadi represents Mahboubeh Karami, told the website of Change for Equality: “The Deputy Prosecutor said the detainees [Karami and Moghadam] will be brought to the courthouse for arraignment tomorrow morning (6 April) and that they will be released after posting bail.”
Moghadam and Karami, however, remain in prison and the officials’ promises to their lawyers and family are in stark contrast to their actions. On 6 April, the authorities reneged; Moghadam and Karami were not brought to the courthouse for arraignment and posting bail.
The Campaign called on Ayatollah Shahroudi to order the dropping of all charges against the twelve activists and to order an investigation and prosecution of agents responsible for detaining these activists and continuing the detention of Moghadam and Karami.
The Campaign notes that making private New Year visits is by no means a crime in Iran. The charges brought against the twelve activists, “disturbing public opinion” and “disruption of public order,” lack credibility and, being arbitrary, violate Iranian and international legal standards as the activists were simply sitting in their cars at the time of their arrest.
“These detentions cast a large shadow on the credibility and independence of the Judiciary. Allowing security agents impunity to violate the rights of innocent citizens under the guise of legal proceedings, tarnishes the integrity of the entire judicial system. It is time for the Iranian leaders to take responsibility for these actions and put an end to continuing injustices,” Ghaemi said.