Narges Mohammadi: “I will not allow an assault on my human dignity, and I will not stay silent.”

Following an unprecedented public plea by Iranian Members of Parliament (MPs) for the Judiciary to show her “Islamic mercy,” Iran’s prosecutor general has claimed that imprisoned prominent human rights defender Narges Mohammadi is part of a foreign plot designed to undermine the Islamic Republic.

“Today the enemy is seeking to weaken the identity and besmear the Islamic state, and the supreme leader of the revolution has warned all people and officials not to be deceived by the enemy,” said Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, on October 18, 2016.

“The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, 2015) is one side of the triangle. Another side consists of so-called defenders of human rights based abroad who direct their trained agents inside the country. And the third side of the triangle is made up of officials who unknowingly do things based on ignorance,” he said at an event honoring the “3,000 martyrs in North Khorasan Province” who died in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88).  

Montazeri, who also disparaged other activists during his speech, added that the MPs who called for the Judiciary to reduce Mohammadi’s 16-year prison sentence (of which she must serve 10 years) should have investigated her case before “defending an outcast.” 

“Just because the Judiciary isn’t revealing the evidence against these individuals doesn’t mean they’re good people,” he said.

Montazeri’s continuous verbal assault on Mohammadi appears to have not only violated Article 39 of Iran’s Constitution forbidding the defamation of detainees and making violators “liable to punishment,” but also Article 162—which states, “The chief of the Supreme Court and the prosecutor general must both be just Mujtahids (Islamic law experts) well-versed in judicial matters”—for his apparent ignorance of Article 39.

Mohammadi Responds

“Contrary to your imagination, I am not part of some ‘evil triangle,’” wrote Mohammadi in a letter from Evin Prison on October 25. “I believe in the nobility of striving for human dignity… If you want to reveal who is good and who is bad, take a look at the suspects in the Kahrizak [Prison] case, or the liars and thieves who grab from the national treasury, or those who attacked university students, or those who committed the 2009 [election] atrocities. Then we can see which officials are acting ignorantly and what calamities have befallen our society.”

“The Judiciary, whom you serve, has issued an unjust sentence against me. I will abide by the law and endure prison. I have no intention to resist or escape. But be assured that I am one of thousands of noble Iranians representing the proud and selfless struggle of a nation for freedom and justice,” she said.

“Reveal my indictment, my defense and my life and let the public decide which of us deserves to be an ‘outcast,’” she wrote.

“Please remember that I, as the accused, was the one who insisted on a public trial, and the Judiciary was the one that insisted on keeping it hidden,” said Mohammadi.

“I am a human being. I am a free Iranian citizen. I will not allow an assault on my human dignity, and I will not stay silent until I have my rights and justice is served,” she added.

“Islamic Mercy” Versus Defamation

In an unprecedented move, 15 MPs sent a letter to Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani on October 16, 2016 urging the Judiciary to show “Islamic mercy” towards Mohammadi and review her harsh prison sentence.

“We plead with you to show Islamic mercy and nullify the sentence and order a new trial… Your Excellency is aware that issuing such sentences against critics would only raise the cost of constructive criticism, isolate critics and drive society into stagnation,” they wrote.

The judiciary chief has not responded to the MPs’ request, but Judicial Spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told reporters on October 23 that “Islamic mercy” is not a legal option after a verdict has been finalized.

“If someone expresses remorse before the verdict is issued, then the judge can give certain breaks in the preliminary court or during the appeal,” he said. “But once a verdict is finalized, ‘Islamic mercy’ isn’t an option because it’s out of the judge’s hands.”

The prosecutor’s ongoing public defamation of Mohammad once again exposes the Judiciary’s lack of fairness and impartiality in dealing with political prisoners as well as the ineffectiveness of state bodies in overseeing constitutional violations of citizens’ rights.

These monitoring bodies, which in fact avoid investigating human rights abuses, include the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution and Constitutional Oversight, the Article 90 Parliamentary Commission, and the Islamic Human Rights Commission.  

The Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution and Constitutional Oversight was formed in 1997 by then-President Mohammad Khatami and was charged with defending citizens’ rights against state abuse. The commission was disbanded in 2005 after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected as president, but it was resurrected in 2011 with a different mandate: to defend the government against challenges from other state bodies. 

When Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013, the commission’s responsibilities were transferred to the presidential office in charge of legal affairs. “The work of constitutional oversight has never stopped, but we are currently more focused on holding seminars on theoretical topics, rather than administrative issues,” said Rouhani’s Legal Affairs Deputy Elham Aminzadeh, in April 2014.

In December 2013, four months after Rouhani was inaugurated as president, his government published the first draft of a Bill of Rights and initiated a public debate, but there have been no further developments. In fact, the Rouhani government has been unresponsive to numerous violations of human rights.

The Article 90 Parliamentary Commission functions under Article 90 of the Constitution: “Whoever has a complaint concerning the work of the Assembly or the executive power, or the Judicial power, can forward his complaint in writing to the Assembly. The Assembly must investigate his complaint and give a satisfactory reply. In cases where the complaint relates to the executive or the Judiciary, the Assembly must demand proper investigation into the matter and an adequate explanation from them, and announce the results within a reasonable time. In cases where the subject of the complaint is of public interest, the reply must be made public.”

Iran’s 10th Parliament went into session four months ago on May 28, 2016, but MPs have not formed the Article 90 Commission despite a constant stream of requests from prisoners’ relatives to investigate violations.

The Parliament also has the power to form a fact-finding commission to investigate specific cases, but it is unlikely to do so for Mohammadi.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission is closely affiliated with the Judiciary and has avoided handling political cases or those involving political prisoners.