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HRW: New sentence for rights campaigner spotlights Tehran’s assault on civil society

LONDON: Human Rights Watch has slammed Tehran for leveling a new charge against a human rights defender just a year after she was released from jail, arguing that it “demonstrates Iranian authorities’ commitment to crush any grassroots human rights efforts.”

Narges Mohammadi, a rights defender, was sentenced to six years behind bars earlier this month 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 told HRW.

The trial, he said, was held behind closed doors — and lasted no more than five minutes.

Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “Iranian authorities’ cruel detention and prosecution of Narges Mohammadi 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.”

She continued: “People like Narges Mohammadi are the ones who work to bring Iranian civil society together. Governments that are engaging diplomatically with Iran should make sure to press the government to stop its relentless crackdown against human rights defenders.”

Iran has long been criticized for its treatment of Iranians who are perceived to have voiced discontent with the regime or who advocate for any change, big or small.

In early January, Iranian poet and filmmaker Baktash Abdin died of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while serving a six-year sentence in Iran’s notorious Evin prison.

At the time, Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders placed the blame for his death squarely at the feet of the Iranian government.

He “had been unjustly sentenced to six years in prison and was in detention in hospital, ill with COVID-19 and deprived of the necessary care,” said the group, adding: “RSF blames the regime’s authorities for his death.” 

HRW said sentences for people like Mohammadi and the death of those like Abdin are part of a pattern of repression that penetrates to the core of the Iranian model of governance.

The group said: “At the center of Iranian residents’ struggles is an unaccountable and deeply repressive state. Iranian authorities ignore or punish peaceful dissent and have launched a sustained crackdown on civil society, from labor activists, lawyers and human rights defenders to journalists and even former senior political leaders.”

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