(25 May 2011)  Iranian judicial authorities should immediately release two recently detained women’s rights activists, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. The Campaign added that the Judiciary should end the harassment and arbitrary prosecution of citizens engaged in lawful actions aimed at challenging Iran’s discriminatory laws.

Two women’s rights activists and members of the One Million Signatures Campaign, Maryam Bahreman and Mahboubeh Karami, were detained on 11 May and 15 May respectively. Bahreman is being held in an unknown location on charges of “acting against national security.” Karami has begun to serve a three-year prison term for charges including “membership in the [organization] Human Rights Activists in Iran,” “propagating against the regime,” and “assembly and collusion with the intent to commit crimes against national security.” Karami’s severe depression puts her health at risk in prison.

“The continuing arbitrary prosecution of women peacefully and lawfully seeking equal rights puts the Iranian government at odds, not only with its own people and international law, but also with people throughout the region who are demanding equality, dignity, and human rights,” stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the Campaign.

Maryam Bahreman, a journalist, blogger and women’s rights activist, was detained at her home in Shiraz on 11 May on an arrest warrant reportedly issued by the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz. Security agents arrived early in the morning, searching Bahreman’s home, and confiscating some of her personal belongings.   Sources told the Campaign that Bahreman’s place of detention is unknown and her family has received no information about her condition or legal situation.

Bahreman was a founder of the Association of Women of Pars (Anjomane Zanane Pars), established in 2003, and served as its executive secretary. She contributed to the Coalition of the Women’s Movement  to Set Forth Demands in the Election, which raised women’s rights issues in the context of the 2009 presidential election.

Mahboubeh Karami began her three-year prison term on 15 May after responding to a summons requiring her to report to Evin Prison in Tehran. She had originally been arrested on 1 March 2009 and spent 170 days in prison before being released on bail of $500,000. Karami was tried at Branch 24 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, with Judge Pirabasi presiding, and sentenced to four years in prison. In February 2011, an appeals court reduced her sentence to three years.

Prior to her 2009 arrest, Karami had been arrested five times in connection with her activism. The first and second times were during the 18 July 1999 student protests at Tehran University, the third time was in June 2008 on the charge of “acting against national security,” and she was released after 70 days. Karami was arrested again on 26 March 2009 along with 11 other members of the One Million Signatures Campaign and Mothers For Peace, who intended to visit the family of Zahra Baniyaghoub, a young female doctor who suspiciously died while inside a prison in Hamadan, on the occasion of Persian New Year. She was charged with “disrupting public order,” and remained in prison for 13 days.  She has been acquitted of all charges in the above cases.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is deeply concerned about Karami’s well being, given that she suffers from severe depression and has been the only caretaker of her aging father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Before being summoned to serve her term, Karami spoke about her illness in an interview with the Feminist School website. ”My own physician and the medical examiner both believe that prison would intensify my depression illness, but this opinion did not cause my sentence to be reduced. I conveyed what my doctor had said to the judge both formally and informally, and my medical documents are in the case file, too,” she said. Karami referred to information about the conditions of female prisoners of conscience, and expressed anxieties about her potential transfer to Varamin’s Gharachak Prison and the situation of hygiene and nutrition at Evin Prison.