— An Iranian appeals court has confirmed a 16-year sentence for one of Iran
’s most prominent women’s rights activists, her lawyer said Wednesday.
The activist, Narges Mohammadi, 44, a human rights lawyer, has been in and out of jail over the past 15 years and has had several confrontations with Iran’s hard-line dominated judiciary. Her arrest in 2015 and conviction a year later were severe blows to Iran’s small and embattled community of women’s rights activists, highlighting the severe pressures they face.
“She has committed no crime and has just been doing her job as a lawyer and citizen,” said Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer and prominent activist who spent two years in prison but who was granted an early release in 2013.
Ms. Sotoudeh characterized her colleague as a law-abiding citizen who defended victims of acid attacks and voted while in prison during the 2015 parliamentary elections. “Every day Narges is behind bars is one too many,” Ms. Sotoudeh said.
Ms. Mohammadi’s lawyer, Massoud Behzadi, said: “I expect that she will only have to serve 10 out of 16 years. “If Narges agrees we will appeal to the supreme court.”
The prison term comes as Iran’s government is trying to reach out to the West to restore political and business relations. In January, the country’s nuclear deal was put into effect and some of the economic sanctions against Iran were lifted.
Ms. Mohammadi’s original sentence was handed down by Abolghassem Salavati, a hard-line jurist who heads a revolutionary court that usually handles cases involving activists and Iranians with dual nationalities, a status Iran does not recognize.
He found her guilty of “gathering and conspiring with the aim of committing crimes against national security,” sentencing her to five years in prison. He added one year for “propaganda against the state” and 10 years for “forming and managing an illegal group.” Ms. Mohammadi ran Legham, an organization calling for the abolishment of the death penalty.
In May, Ms. Mohammadi, who has had health problems, wrote a letter from Evin prison to PEN International describing how she was kept with 25 other “female political prisoners” who faced a combined 177 years in prison. She said the “pain and suffering in Evin prison is beyond tolerance,” and that the long periods of solitary confinement were the worst. She called it “psychological torture.”
In June, Ms. Mohammadi went on a hunger strike after she was prohibited from receiving phone calls from her children in France
, where they are living with their father, also an activist. After an intense social media campaign, the restrictions were eased and Ms. Mohammadi halted her hunger strike.