Narges Mohammadi

Narges Mohammadi, the prominent human rights defender and Deputy Head of the now-shuttered Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that new charges have been brought against her stemming from her March 8, 2014 meeting with the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Mohammadi was charged with “propaganda against the state” and “collusion against national security” for her meeting with Ashton at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran. She was released on $10,000 bail.

In an interview with the Campaign, Mohammadi spoke of the charges and the written statement she gave the judicial authorities. “Meeting with Mrs. Ashton was one of the [pieces of] evidence used in bringing these charges against me. When I went [to the prosecutor’s office on June 1] I wrote down that this meeting was within the framework of our national interest and has taken place within the framework of domestic laws. I defend this meeting, and in the future if such meetings are repeated, I will participate [again].”

Mohammadi continued, “I have been ‘charged’ with every single civil activity I have engaged in since my release from Zanjan Prison in August 2012, such as participating in gatherings on women’s rights, air pollution, and [Rouhani’s] Citizenship Rights Charter. I was also accused of honoring families of political prisoners at meetings, or attending a gathering with Gonabadi Dervishes in front of the Prosecutor’s Office, or giving interviews to media outside Iran. I told them there that when you fit all my civil activities into these two charges, it means that I must remain silent and still.”

Narges Mohammadi told the Campaign that in less than a month between April and May, she and her lawyer had received four summonses from the Evin Prison Court, but despite their efforts they had not been able to find out the reason for the summonses until June 1.

Mohammadi was arrested in 2009 and charged with “assembly and collusion against national security,” “membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center,” and “propaganda against the state.” She was first sentenced to 11 years in prison, but Branch 54 of the Tehran Appeals Court reduced her sentence to six years in prison. She was released in 2013 for medical reasons after a severe illness in Zanjan prison.

Mohammadi was one of several women activists who accepted an invitation to meet the EU foreign policy head during her March visit to Tehran. The meeting took Iranian officials by surprise and unleashed a flurry of criticism by conservatives who described the meeting as “foreign interference in Iranian domestic affairs” and labeled the Iranian participants as foreign collaborators.