Prominent Women’s Rights Activist Held Illegally after Completion of Sentence
August 28, 2015—The student and women’s rights activist Bahareh Hedayat, imprisoned for over five years in Iran, has been given an additional two-year prison sentence, days after receiving release orders from an Appeals Court in Tehran.
The sentence, which dates from a 2007 suspended sentence, is in violation of Iran’s own laws, since the statute of limitations on that charge expired in 2012. The Judiciary decided to enforce it now in an effort to keep the activist, who remains a powerful and charismatic voice of dissent in Iran and who had completed her current sentence, in prison.
“This desperate tactic to keep Bahareh Hedayat behind bars shows the extent to which the Iranian Judiciary remains terrified and intolerant of any peaceful dissent,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Right in Iran.
Hedayat has been imprisoned since January 2010 on charges related to her peaceful activism. She was due for release in June 2015, based upon Article 134 in Iran’s New Islamic Penal Code, which states that in the case of conviction on multiple charges the prison term should not exceed the sentence for the charge that carries the heaviest punishment.
“We pursued enforcement of Article 134 in Bahareh’s case, despite many impediments. Bahareh should have been released in June 2015, but they did not allow her release. We filed a lawsuit, the media picked up the story, and Bahareh threatened to embark on a hunger strike. All of this led to their initiating another [older] case, said Amin Ahmadian, Hedayat’s husband, in an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
He continued, “Branch 54 of the Appeals Court eventually ordered Bahareh’s release on August 12. We waited for a few days for the notice to be served…but we realized they were not releasing her. After Bahareh followed up from inside prison, she was told that her release orders had arrived, but that the Tehran Prosecutor has asked for enforcement of [her 2007] sentence.”
Ahmadian said Hedayat “told the prison officials her release papers had arrived and no other judicial action or orders had been issued for her imprisonment, and that her continued imprisonment was illegal.”
“Her release orders were issued on August 12, and orders for enforcement of her two-year prison sentence were issued on August 17. Bahareh was illegally kept in prison for the days in between,” noted her husband.
“Additionally,” said Ahmadian, “once a prisoner’s release orders are issued, the Judge is not allowed to enter the case to reduce or increase the sentence. This means her additional two-year sentence should have been decided six years ago, or at least it should have been pursued and forwarded to the Sentence Enforcement Unit during her prison term. As this was not done and she has completed her prison sentence, there was no legal basis for the Judge’s entry in the case.”
Ahmadian told the Campaign that Hedayat had filed a lawsuit against this decision. “We will file a lawsuit, too, as keeping her without judicial orders…is a clear violation of their own laws. Although experience has shown us that such complaints will not receive much attention.”
Hedayat’s husband said he wanted the Judiciary to appoint an impartial judge to review his wife’s case. “This case’s process should be reviewed. They should check to see how this case [has been handled] from the beginning, and that it is still continuing on its illegal path. We will accept whatever decision an impartial court and judge makes….Keeping Bahareh [imprisoned despite] Article 134…and enforcing her suspended sentence is illegal, and the individual who was responsible for this must be dismissed and sentenced to prison himself, according to Article 570 of the Islamic Penal Code.”
“We would like to know who made this decision, and according to what judicial process?” Ahmadian asked.
The previously suspended charges that are now being enforced stem from Hedayat’s participation in a peaceful 2006 demonstration. Branch Six of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court charged her with “acting against national security,” “disturbing public order,” and “propaganda against the state” on April 18, 2007. Her lawyer, prominent human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh, was not allowed into the courtroom during her trial, and on May 27, 2007, the Court sentenced Hedayat to a two-year suspended prison sentence, in effect for five years, under Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code for “acting against national security.” The Court dropped charges of “disturbing public order” and “propaganda against state” against Hedayat. The statute of limitation on that charge, then, has expired.
Hedayat is widely regarded as a symbol of Iranian student movement, and is the longest serving Green Movement prisoner still behind bars. The Green Movement arose out of the 2009 presidential election in Iran, in which the disputed results were followed by widespread peaceful protests and then a violent state crackdown on the protests.
Hedayat, 34, was a member of the Central Council and Spokesperson for the Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat student union, and an activist with the One Million Signatures Campaign for the Change of Discriminatory Laws Against Women. She was arrested by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence for the fifth time in four years at midnight on December 31, 2009, as a result of her peaceful activism.
She was given three sentences in January 2010: Five years for “acting against national security and publishing falsehoods,” two years for “insulting the Supreme Leader,” and six months for “insulting the President.”
Throughout much of her time in prison the authorities have imposed additional punitive punishments upon Hedayat, such as imprisonment alongside drug trafficking convicts and the denial of visitation with her family.
Bahareh Hedayat was the winner of the 2012 Harald Edelstam Defence of Human Rights Award.