Amnesty International has written to the Head of the Judiciary in Iran, urging him to ensure that appeals hearings against the convictions and sentences of six women’s rights defenders (WRDs) passed in recent weeks in connection with their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association are heard promptly and impartially.
If the sentences are confirmed at appeal, the organization is calling on the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, to review the cases and to overturn the convictions of the women, all of whom will become prisoners of conscience if imprisoned.
Amnesty International also asked the Head of the Judiciary to ensure that all women’s rights defenders were free to leave and return to the country, in accordance with Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a state party.
All the sentences are suspended, but could be implemented if the women are convicted of a similar offence during the period of suspension. If any of them were to be imprisoned in the future as a result of these sentences, Amnesty International would call for their immediate and unconditional release as prisoners of conscience.
The organisation also urged the Head of the Judiciary to ensure that the flogging sentences imposed on the women are not implemented under any circumstances. Flogging is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, which amounts to torture, and is outlawed under Article 7 of the ICCPR.
The six women received suspended sentences between February and May 2008, in connection with their participation in a peaceful gathering on 4 March 2007 outside a court where five women’s rights activists were on trial for their involvement in an earlier demonstration in June 2006 demanding an end to discriminatory legislation. Thirty-three women in total were arrested at that time. All have been prosecuted under vaguely-worded laws on “security offences”. At least 12 others have been acquitted of all charges in connection with the March 2007 demonstration.
• Marzieh Mortazi Langaroudi received a sentence of six months’ imprisonment and 10 lashes, suspended for two years, in February 2008.
• Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh received a suspended sentence of two years in March 2008. She was convicted of “participating in an illegal gathering and collusion with intent to disrupt national security”.
• Nasrin Afzali received a suspended sentence of six months and 10 lashes after conviction of “disturbing public order” in April 2008. She was acquitted of “participating in an illegal gathering and refusal to obey the orders of the police”.
• Nahid Ja’fari received a sentence of six months and 10 lashes suspended for two years, in April 2008. She was convicted of “disturbing public order” but acquitted of “collusion with the intent of endangering national security and refusal to obey the orders of the police”. During her arrest on 4 March 2007, Nahid Jafari was beaten which resulted in some of her teeth being broken. She later lodged a complaint against those who arrested her in connection with the injuries she received. Her complaint has yet to be investigated by the courts.
• Rezvan Moghaddam received a sentence of six months and 10 lashes, suspended for 3 years, several days later.
• Parvin Ardalan received a sentence of two years imprisonment, suspended for three years, on charges of ” gathering and collusion with the intent of endangering national security.” In March 2008, prior to the issuing of her verdict, Parvin Ardalan was also banned from travelling to Sweden where she was due to collect the Olof Palme Human Rights Award. She was later summoned to Branch 13 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, where she was questioned in relation to her involevement with writing and editing on the websites of Change for Equality and Zanestan. She was also told that she must present invitations to conferences abroad as a precondition for the removal of her travel ban, although Iranian law does not require individuals to seek prior permission to travel. At the end of the court session, Parvin Ardalan was charged with “propaganda against the system”, although she was not detained pending her trial on this charge. Amnesty International is not aware of any date scheduled for her trial.
Amnesty International is calling on the Head of the Judiciary to overturn any convictions that may be confirmed in appeal hearings against the six women’s rights defenders found guilty in recent weeks in connection with the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association while demanding an end to discriminatory legislation in Iran.
Amnesty is also urging the Head of the Judiciary to suspend immediately all sentences of flogging, including any imposed in connection with peaceful activities on behalf of women’s rights, and lift the travel ban imposed on Parvin Ardalan and any other women’s rights defenders who may be prevented from travelling abroad and return freely to Iran.