IRAN: Heavy sentence against human rights defender Nargess Mohammadi must be overturned

Press release
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Paris-Geneva, September 29, 2016. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT partnership) strongly condemns the heavy prison sentence upheld in appeal against the arbitrarily imprisoned human rights defender Ms. Nargess Mohammadi, Spokesperson and Vice-President of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC) and recipient of the medal of the “City of Paris”, and calls for an end to the ongoing judicial harassment against her.

On September 28, 2016, Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals upheld the sentence which had been issued on May 18 against Ms. Nargess Mohammadi. The Court of Appeals asserted in its ruling that pursuant to Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, the maximum sentence against her should be implemented against her, i.e. 10 years of imprisonment.

On the same day, Ms. Mohammadi’s husband, Taghi Rahmani, reported that during a hearing on September 19, the court had accepted the request of her lawyers to submit new evidence, but then rushed to impose the new sentence before receiving the evidence.

On May 18, 2016, Ms. Nargess Mohammadi had been notified of a new sentence issued by Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolution Court against her[1], totalling 16 years in prison consisting of five years for “assembly and collusion to commit crimes against national security”, one year for “spreading propaganda against the State”, and 10 years for “establishing and running the illegal splinter group LEGAM”[2]. Under the above-mentioned Article 134 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code, she was required to serve the highest sentence, i.e. 10 years of imprisonment.

Ms. Mohammadi has been facing continuous judicial harassment related to her human rights work, in and out of prison, including repeated summons, interrogations and trials for several years.

On April 21, 2012, she had commenced serving another six-year prison sentence but had been released on bail on July 31, 2012 for medical reasons, as she suffered from muscular paralysis and lung complications. On May 5, 2015, she was arbitrarily re-arrested,allegedly in order to serve the remainder of the same six-year prison sentence, although she was still suffering from the same diseases [3]. Ms. Mohammadi was particularly targeted after she met with then European Union (EU) High Representative Ms. Catherine Ashton in Tehran during her visit in March 2014, which prompted the charge of “spreading propaganda against the State” in the new case.

In October 2015, Ms. Mohammadi, after suffering nervous attacks, was transferred from the prison to the hospital, where she was kept under round the clock watch and was chained hand and foot to her bed. Such chaining and surveillance within the healthcare facility appear to be an inhuman and degrading punishment for her activities promoting human rights[4].

The Observatory urges once more the Iranian authorities to release Ms. Mohammadi immediately and unconditionally, since her detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning her human rights activities, as well as to guarantee in all circumstances her physical and psychological integrity.

The Observatory finally urges the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which has received an official communication regarding Ms. Mohammadi’s case, to urgently issue an Opinion on her situation, and reiterates its calls to the EU and the French Government to intervene on Ms. Mohammadi’s behalf.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

For more information, please contact:

FIDH: Mr Arthur Manet / Ms. Audrey Couprie: +33648059157 (Paris)
OMCT: Mr. Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui / Ms. Chiara Cosentino +32 2 218 37 19 (Brussels) / Ms. Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva)

[1] See Observatory Press Release of May 20, 2016
[2] LEGAM (“Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty”) is a group of human rights activists, which campaigns for the abolition of death penalty in Iran. It has never been declared illegal. Ms. Mohammadi joined LEGAM after it was established.
[3] See Observatory Press Release of May 5, 2015.
[4] See Observatory Press Release of October 19, 2015.

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