Women of Iran: Threat to Security?

From the inbox, an update on the women of Iran being held in solitary confinement for their defence of women’s rights:

Women¹s Rights Defenders Now in Solitary Confinement Deemed A Threat To
Iran¹s National Security

Press Release
Campaign to Free Women's Rights Defenders in Iran

Women¹s Rights Defenders Now in Solitary Confinement
Deemed A Threat To Iran¹s National Security

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 12, 2007

Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abasgholizadeh have been arraigned, charged with
being a ³threat to national security,² and remanded on March 11 by Evin Ward
209 interrogators authorized by the Ministry of Intelligence of Islamic
Republic of Iran. Sadr and Abasgholizadeh are the only two women who still
remain in custody after their arrest last week. Thirty-one other women were
also arrested but have been gradually released on bail (cash or bond). Sadr
is a lawyer and women¹s rights defender and was arrested while performing
her duty defending the women activists on March 4th.

Based on the Criminal Procedure Laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, at any
point in the investigation, the interrogator is authorized to issue a remand
and extend the temporary detention until the date of the trial. If not in
agreement, the prosecutor has the power to appeal the interrogator¹s remand
to the court system. If the prosecutor does agree with the order of
detention ­ which is often the case ­ it is very difficult and almost
impossible for the prisoners to appeal the collective decision of the
prosecutor and the interrogator. As such both Sadr and Abasgholizadeh
continue to be in detention since their arrest on March 4th, 2007 without
any likely prospect of being released.

Throughout their detention, Sadr and Abasgholizadeh have been interrogated
in the absence of their lawyers (Mohammad Mostafaei, Farideh Gheirat, and
Elham Fahimi) and were denied the right to speak with them. Furthermore, the
detainees are unaware that the interrogator and the prosecutor have refused
to speak with their lawyers. In the face of such confusion and the absence
of any legal representation, the detainees themselves have been unable to
ask for a court hearing.

Abasgholizadeh has been held incommunicado since her arrest. Sadr has had
two short telephone conversations with her husband, the last of which was on
Saturday, March 10. Sadr¹s husband, Hossein Nilchian, who contacted the
Revolutionary Court authorities on March 11, has confirmed this.

The families of the two have been denied all visitation rights and are
extremely alarmed, especially considering the women¹s medical conditions.
According to other women who have recently been released from Evin Ward 209,
Sadr and Abasgholizadeh have no access to medical care. Sadr is suffering
from chronic stomach ulcer. Abasgholizadeh suffers from arthritis and
migraine headaches.

Those recently released described the cells as being damp and very cold. To
make matters worse there are no toilets in the cell. As a routine measure,
the prisoners are deprived of warmth, since they are given only one blanket
and forced to sleep on the cold floor. Mahnaz Mohammadi, who was arrested on
March 4th and recently released, is still suffering from pneumonia.
Moreover, those in custody have reportedly been interrogated while
blindfolded during the night, and thus, have had little if any sleep.

Article 27 of Iran¹s Constitution guarantees the citizens¹ right to assemble
peacefully, which is precisely what the women defenders were doing. However,
the interrogator/prosecutor claim that their peaceful gathering was instead
a threat to Iran¹s national security. As such Sadr and Abasgholizadeh were
charged according to Chapter 16, Article 113 of the Islamic Penal Code:
³Whenever two or more people gather and plan to commit a crime against the
internal or external security of the country or facilitate the
implementation of a crime,  then they will be sentenced to two to five years
of imprisonment.² http://www.ghavanin.ir/detail.asp?id=6955

The women¹s rights advocates have become one of the main targets of the
recently increased violation of human rights and the rising repression on
the civil rights in the name of ³national security². Another concern is that
certain intelligence authorities seem to be after plotting a ³corruption and
moral scandal² against some prominent women detainees in order to defame and
de-legitimize women¹s rights cause in the eyes of the larger public.

Sadr and Abasgholizadeh are prominent activists and women rights defenders
who have organized the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign
<http://www.stopstoning.org/> , which aims to abolish stoning as a legal
form of punishment for adultery. After exposing two incidents of stoning and
identifying 10 more individuals condemned to be stoned, the campaign has
successfully saved the lives of three women and one man.

Read more: http://www.stopstoning.org <http://www.stopstoning.org/>

The Campaign to Free Women Rights Defenders in Iran
<http://www.meydaan.org/English/campaign.aspx?cid=52>

The campaign has been launched immediately after the arrest of women
activists by a group of transnational activists. For more information about
the campaign and the complete list of supporters, please visit the site:

http://www.meydaan.org/English/campaign.aspx?cid=52
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