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HRW Urges Iran To 'Immediately And Unconditionally' Release Rights Defender Mohammadi


Narges Mohammadi (file photo)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned a new prison sentence handed to prominent Iranian human rights defender Narges Mohammadi and called on Tehran to "immediately and unconditionally" release her.

"Iranian authorities' cruel detention and prosecution of Narges Mohmmadi only one year after she was released from an earlier prison term and then piling on more unfair prison sentences are clearly intended to crush her into silence at all costs," Tara Sepehrifar, senior Iran researcher at HRW, said in a statement released on January 28.

A court sentenced Mohammadi to six years in prison for "assembly and collusion to act against national security," and to two years in prison and 74 lashes for "acting against national security and disrupting public order," her husband, Taghi Rahmani, told HRW on January 27.

The sentence also included a two-year ban on membership in political parties and "activities in social and digital platforms," as well as two years of internal exile in Iran.

Rahmani said his wife's trial lasted no longer than five minutes and the judge specifically mentioned her recent nomination by two Norwegian parliament members for the Nobel Peace Prize and her efforts to shed light on Iran's use of prolonged solitary confinement against political prisoners.

In a letter published on January 27, Mohammadi said that the prosecutor informed her of the new accusations on November 22 and she was taken to the prosecutor's office on December 24 to be informed that she would be formally charged.

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi condemned the "unjust" sentence against Mohammadi.

"Narges has not done anything against the law and the sentence against her must be dropped," Ebadi said in a January 28 interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

“International prizes shine light on the work of those who win these prizes and the Islamic republic fears the attention because it wants to continue its oppressive policies without the world watching," the exiled rights defender said.

Mohammadi was arrested in November 2021 after she attended the memorial for a man killed by Iranian security forces during nationwide protests in November 2019.

Last week, she was transferred from Tehran's Evin prison to the Gharchak women's prison near Tehran.

Before imprisonment, Mohammadi was the vice president of the banned Center for Human Rights Defenders in Iran.

She has been repeatedly jailed and harassed by the authorities.

In May 2021, a Tehran court sentenced her to 2 1/2 years in prison, 80 lashes, and two separate fines on charges that include "spreading propaganda against the system."

In 2016, she was sentenced to 16 years in prison on charges that rights groups said were solely related to her human rights activities.

Following her release from prison in October 2020 after her sentenced was reduced, she continued to criticize human rights abuses in Iran, and accused prison authorities of sexually harassing her and other female prisoners.

In March 2021, Mohammadi was among a group of activists who filed an official complaint against the use of solitary confinement against political detainees.

"People like Narges Mohammadi are the ones who work to bring Iranian civil society together," Sepehrifar said. "Governments that are engaging diplomatically with Iran should make sure to press the government to stop its relentless crackdown against human rights defenders," she added.

A journalist and an engineer, she has been awarded several prestigious prizes, including the American Physical Society's Andrei Sakharov Prize in 2018 for outstanding leadership in upholding human rights.

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