Political Prisoner Narges Mohammadi Offered Furlough in Exchange for Silence
Mohammadi: Imprisonment Makes Me More “Determined”
Imprisoned human rights defender Narges Mohammadi has been offered temporary release if she promises to be silent about her unjust sentence, her husband told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“The authorities have told Narges that they would grant her furlough on the condition that she not talk to or meet anyone,” said Taghi Rahmani, who lives with the couple’s two children in Paris. “No interviews, no phone calls, no visits.”
“They wanted her to give a written commitment, but how can you allow a prisoner to leave prison and then create another prison for her?” he added.
“How could Narges avoid other people coming to greet the family on the Iranian New Year? How could she not talk to them? What kind of temporary leave is that? Narges didn’t accept those conditions,” he said.
Rahmani told CHRI Mohammadi wants to appeal against her sentence at the Supreme Court.
“Lawyers representing Narges have asked the Supreme Court to review her 16-year prison sentence and she herself has put in a request to the Article-90 Committee to investigate its legality,” he said.
The parliamentary committee was established on the basis of Article 90 of Iran’s Constitution, which authorizes it to investigate private complaints issued against all branches of state.
Mohammadi’s husband also expressed concern about her Mohammadi’s waning health.
“Even if a healthy person goes to prison, she will eventually get sick, but Narges was suffering from serious health problems before she went to prison and I’m really worried about how long she can survive on pills and determination,” he said.
In an open letter written on March 21, Mohammadi said her imprisonment has made her more “determined” to carry out her peaceful defense of human rights.
“People with common sense and those lusting for power think that prisons are places where inmates go through pain and suffering to repent and return to society,” she wrote.
March 21 is the beginning of the Iranian New Year. The Iran Defenders of Human Rights Center published the letter on April 10.
“They don’t realize that when pain is inflicted by taking away the freedom of an idealist, it makes her more determined,” she said.
“Rather than being a mother to my son and daughter and witness Iran’s future turning to ashes, I prefer being a mother behind bars in Evin Prison fighting for the human rights of the future children of my homeland,” she added.
“The end of my last prison sentence has been hooked on to a new sentence forming a chain of incarceration, ring by ring,” she said.
Mohammadi began serving a 16-year prison sentence, of which she must serve at least 10 years, in Mid-March 2017. She began serving it after completing the six-year prison sentence she had been issued in September 2012.
“Narges began her second prison term in mid-March,” Rahmani told CHRI. “She has been in prison without any furlough for two years straight, and now she faces another 10 years behind bars.”
Furlough, temporary leave typically granted to prisoners in Iran for a variety of familial, holiday, and medical reasons, is routinely denied to political prisoners as a form of additional punishment.
“The authorities have been holding on to her 600-million-toman (approximately $200,000 USD) security deposit,” he added. “They could have easily used that as bail to let her out on temporary leave.”
Winner of the 2011 Per Anger prize for her defense of human rights in Iran, Mohammadi was sentenced in September 2016 to a total of 16 years in prison for “membership in the [now banned] Defenders of Human Rights Center” (10 years), “assembly and collusion against national security” (five years) and “propaganda against the state” (one year).
She will become eligible for parole after serving 10 years.
In 2011 Mohammadi, 44, was sentenced to six years in prison but was released in 2013 on medical furlough.
She was arrested again in May 2015 for her continued peaceful activism, notably after having met with the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran in September 2014.
“I greet the arrival of spring, the renewal of life and the beginning of another prison sentence. I am calm,” wrote Mohammadi in her letter. “At this moment, I would rather be a prisoner with free will than being superficially free outside of prison.”
“I could be a woman who accepts not having human rights and stays quiet in the face of coercion and domination,” she said. “But I prefer being a female dissident even if it means going to prison.”