Campaign for Equality members Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi remain behind bars even though Amnesty International deems them to be prisoners of conscipublished on Sunday, July 06, 2008
AI Index: MDE 13/085/2008
20 June 2008
Further Information on UA 297/07 (MDE 13/130/2007, 07 November 2007) and follow-up (MDE 13/063/2008, 14 April 2008) - Prisoner of conscience / Fear of torture or other ill-treatment
Ronak Safarzadeh (f)
Hana Abdi (f), aged 21
Hana Abdi has been sentenced to five years' imprisonment, to be served in exile in West Azerbaijan province, in the small town of Germi, on the border with the Republic of Azerbaijan, while Ronak Safarzadeh is in custody awaiting a further trial session. Amnesty International believes both women are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association, and that the charges brought against them are politically motivated.
According to Hana Abdi’s lawyer, Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj convicted her of "gathering and colluding to commit a crime against national security." The lawyer representing both women expressed further shock and dismay at this sentence, the maximum for this offence, which he believes is inappropriate, but said that the trial judge has often given inappropriate sentences. He said he would appeal, and hoped this might lead to the sentence being overturned.
Ronak Safarzadeh has been charged with moharebeh (enmity against God), which can carry the death penalty, in connection with bomb attacks in Sanandaj. According to the lawyer, Ronak Safarzadeh's "confessions" were made under duress during the three months she spent in solitary confinement at a detention facility run by the Ministry of Intelligence in Sanandaj, and were therefore inadmissible in court. He has also said that prison guards were present at all his meetings with the women, despite his objections.
Both women are active members of the Campaign for Equality, which is seeking an end to legalised discrimination against women, and of the NGO Azar Mehr Women's Organization of Sanandaj, which is affiliated to the Campaign for Equality.
In February 2008, the Head of Azar Mehr, Negin Sheikholeslami, said that in a phone call to the two women, "[they] stressed that they had not committed any crime. They had only sought justice and their only crime was to work for the equality of human beings - human beings who are discriminated against in this country because of their gender or ethnicity.” She said they had told her, "We are only seeking our human rights, and as citizens we are asking that our rights be respected … we have spent several months under intolerable conditions for crimes which we have not committed, and despite all the false accusations against us … based on what we have witnessed during our time in prison and in our discussions with female prisoners [we] have come to believe more than ever before in the justness of our demands and our cause… we are not terrorists, and our activities were only intended to address and rectify gender and ethnic discrimination, and our aim is to bring peace and reconciliation to our country and between our people. Don’t forget about us."
Dozens of Campaign for Equality activists and supporters have been arrested because of their activities for the Campaign, some while collecting signatures for the petition aiming to end legal discrimination against women in Iran. The authorities have frequently refused permission to hold public meetings, and Campaign activists usually hold their meetings in the homes of sympathizers. The Campaign's website, and other websites associated with the women’s movement in Iran, have often been blocked by the authorities.