Prominent Human Rights Activist Detained and Kept from Seeing Vice President of German Parliament
Human rights activist Narges Mohammadi was detained by security agents for several hours as she tried to meet with the Vice President of the German Parliament, Claudia Roth, in Tehran on the afternoon of January 25, 2015, according to Saham News. She was released at midnight, after she was interrogated and threatened with imprisonment. Roth, who visited Iran for five days last week, told Deutsche Welle Persian upon her return to Germany that “we realized security agents are present everywhere; [therefore] the discussions and meetings we had in mind did not take place. We were unable to meet with human rights activists. Severe fear and control ruled.”
During her visit to Iran, Roth met with Mohammad Reza Aref, a reformist former government official from the Khatami administration, and expressed concern about the house arrests imposed on Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi. Roth’s statements angered hardliner politicians and media, who said her questions represented interference in the host country’s domestic affairs and demanded that the Foreign Ministry take swift action by summoning the German Ambassador.
This is not the first time the Iranian government has taken action to prevent Narges Mohammadi from talking to foreign diplomats who asked to meet with her in Tehran, or to punish her after the fact. In a collaboration between the Intelligence Ministry and the Iranian Judiciary, Mohammadi was served seven notices and summonses from Evin Prison Courts following her March 2014 visit with then EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran. Mohammadi told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that she has since been informed of three charges: “In December I was informed of my third charge. According to the Intelligence Ministry interrogators, I was accused of ‘membership in the anti-security group Step by Step to Stop Death Penalty campaign,’ for my activities to abolish the death penalty. My case is at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court now, and I am awaiting my trial date.”
“I do not accept any of the charges raised against me in Branch Two of Evin Prison Courts or by the Intelligence Ministry interrogators, and rejected all these charges during my last defense. I believe they have fabricated a case against me that cannot have any legal justification or support,” Mohammadi told the Campaign. “All my activities have been in the civil area, and I believe it is the right of every citizen of every country to freely carry out his or her civil activities. Therefore I believe that I have not committed any crimes or illegal acts…I wrote letters to Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Alavi [the Intelligence Minister]. I object to my charges” she added.
In a January 19, 2015, letter to Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi described the summonses and notices Mohammadi had received, and asked Shaheed “to use all legal avenues to relieve the spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Center of persecution.”
Describing almost a year of interrogations between March 2014 and January 2015, Mohammadi told the Campaign, “I met with Ms. Catherine Ashton, the former EU foreign policy chief on March 8, 2014, and I was interrogated on March 15, 2014. I received the first notice in May 2014, which made it clear there is a case and charges against me. After interrogations, I was informed of the charges of ‘collusion and assembly with the intent to disrupt national security,’ and ‘propaganda against the state’ in August 2014.”
The reasons for the charge of “collusion and assembly with the intent to disrupt national security” were described as Mohammadi’s visit with Catherine Ashton, resuming activities of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, activities in the area of women’s rights, especially working with the Women’s Citizenship Center, and her other civil activities. She was informed that the charge of “propaganda against the state” was a result of her interview with foreign media and publishing her articles on websites.
Mohammadi was arrested in 2009 and charged with propaganda against the state. She was sentenced to eleven years in prison in October 2011 on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center,” and “propaganda against state,” but her sentence was reduced to six years in prison at the appeals level. Due to severe illnesses in Zanjan Prison, she was released in 2013 for medical reasons on bail of 600 million toman (approximately $200,000). Mohammadi’s passport was confiscated at the airport in 2009, and she has been banned from foreign travel since then.
In a November 2014 letter addressed to President Hassan Rouhani, Narges Mohammadi asked him to remain committed to the promises he made to the Iranian nation. Referring to her interrogations at the Evin Prison Courts, Mohammadi wrote, “Some of the questions posed to me were about my presence in riots. When I objected and asked them to clarify the instances, the interrogators referred to a gathering of civil activists in front of the Parliament building to object to acid attacks [against women], and to bring the attention of Members of the Parliament to the issue, as well as a sit-in by our Kurdish and Sunni brothers and sisters in front of the Ghezel Hessar Prison, and the Gonabadi Dervishes. They asked me questions about this issue in writing.”