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Iranian judges sentence writer to jail for story about stoning to death

Friday 7 October 2016, by siawi3


Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee ordered to serve six years in Evin jail for unpublished fiction said to have been found in her home

Photo: The Iranian writer Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and her husband and fellow activist, Arash Sadeghi, who is already serving 19 years in Evin. Photograph: Facebook

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

Thursday 6 October 2016 17.10 BST
Last modified on Thursday 6 October 2016 22.00 BST

Iranian judges have ordered a young female writer and activist to serve a six-year jail term for writing an unpublished fictional story about stoning to death in her country.

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee received a phone call on Tuesday from judicial officials ordering her to Evin prison in Tehran, where her husband, Arash Sadeghi, a prominent student activist, is serving a 19-year sentence.

Ebrahimi Iraee told Voice of America’s Persian network this week that she had been sentenced to five years in prison for insulting Islamic sanctities and one extra year for spreading propaganda against the ruling system.

“They haven’t issued a written summons [as required by the law],” she said in a Skype interview. “They called me using the telephone of one of my friends, Navid Kamran; they had gone to his shop to arrest him and they called me from there to summon me.”

Ebrahimi Iraee said the authorities had ordered her to go to Evin to serve her sentence by noon on Wednesday. It was not clear on Thursday whether she had since gone to prison.

Amnesty International said that Ebrahimi Iraee’s plight was linked to a fictional story that the authorities discovered in September 2014 when they ransacked the couple’s house in Tehran and confiscated their belongings.

“The charges against Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee are ludicrous,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s research director for its Middle East and North Africa programme.

“She is facing years behind bars simply for writing a story, and one which was not even published – she is effectively being punished for using her imagination.”

Stoning to death is one of Iran’s most controversial punishments, often used against women accused of having an illicit relationship outside marriage. It sparked an unprecedented global outrage in 2010 in reaction to the high-profile case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

Under pressure, Iran ultimately said it would not use the punishment against Ashtiani, who was also accused of alleged complicity in the murder of her husband, but it is not clear whether she is still in prison or has been freed.

Luther said: “Instead of imprisoning a young woman for peacefully exercising her human rights by expressing her opposition to stoning, the Iranian authorities should focus on abolishing this punishment, which amounts to torture.

“It is appalling that Iran continues to allow the use of stoning, and justifies it in the name of protecting morality,” he said.

Luther described Ebrahimi Iraee’s conviction as farcical. “She was denied the right to a defence and her sentence was a foregone conclusion. This is just the latest example of the Iranian authorities’ utter contempt for justice and human rights,” he said.

Iran’s judiciary has a history of using similarly vague charges against other activists and campaigners in cases that are regarded as politically motivated.

Luther said: “We are urging the authorities to immediately quash Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee’s conviction and that of her husband Arash Sadeghi, who has been behind bars since June for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and association.”

Evin, situated on the foothills of the Alborz mountains towering over Tehran, is home to some of Iran’s most respected activists and lawyers, who are serving lengthy prison terms.

Soon after the 1979 Islamic revolution, the prison was meant to be converted into a museum to showcase the injustices under the late shah. But it has become the Islamic Republic’s most notorious prison, which many of its former inmates ironically refer to as “Evin university” since it is a place where many prominent figures meet and share ideas.

A damning report by the UN’s outgoing secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, released earlier this week, also shed light on Iran continuing to hand down stoning sentences. Ban said at least one woman, Fariba Khalegi, who was arrested in November 2013 and has been accused of alleged involvement in the murder of her husband, was facing death by stoning in Iran.

“Khalegi was initially released without charges but was later charged with having a sexual relationship with her husband’s alleged murderer,” the report said. “On 15 October 2014, she was reportedly convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. On 27 January 2015, the supreme court reportedly upheld the sentence.”

Ban’s report said Iranian officials had been adamant that judges in Iran could still sentence convicts to stoning if the punishment was consistent with interpretations of Islamic law.