By Pooya Stone
An Iranian human rights lawyer has been sentenced to 18 years in prison amid the coronavirus outbreak on bogus national security charges designed to punish political activists.
Soheila Hejab was sentenced by notorious judge Abolghasem Moghiseh at branch 28 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court on the charges of:
- “propaganda against the state”
- “assembly and collusion”
- “disrupting public order to create chaos”
- “forming a group to defend women’s rights”
- “demanding a referendum and changing the constitution”
She was released on March 14 on a bail of three billion tomans (roughly $718,000) until her trial.
Hejab was arrested by IRGC Intelligence agents on June 6, 2019, and incarcerated in Evin Prison, where she continued her political activism by writing open letters criticizing the government.
In February, Hejab and 11 other female political prisoners signed a joint statement calling on Iranians to boycott the parliamentary elections.
The letter read: “Anyone who goes to the polls will be complicit in the regime’s killing of the revolutionary youth and would be endorsing the regime and its crimes.”
On January 13, Hejab wrote an open letter about the nationwide uprisings in November 2019 and January 2020, where she called for the overthrow of the regime, advocated for more people to speak out against injustices, and mourned those killed during the authorities’ crackdown on the protests and those harmed by the official's other actions.
She wrote: “I am thinking of Iran whose indescribable pain is stuck in my throat. The pain of those who were killed in November, the overturning of the bus, the downing of (the Ukrainian passenger) airliner, the floods in Sistan and Baluchestan, and thousands of other harrowing disasters which happen one after the other. Thanks to the policies of incompetent rulers, and their failure to use preventive scientific measures and advanced equipment, our patient compatriots are overwhelmed with sorrow and grief.”
Elsewhere in Evin prison, Iranian civil rights activist Sepideh Farhan was denied furlough during the coronavirus outbreak despite the authority's promises and her family’s payment of the bail. Farhan was arrested during the December 2017 uprising and sentenced to 6 years in prison and 74 lashes.
Activists Saba Kord Afshari and Raheleh Ahmadi are also not allowed to leave the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison despite the mounting risk of infection as prisoners are denied the means to protect themselves against the virus.
Dozens of political prisoners have gone on hunger strike to protest the refusal to allow them to leave during this crisis.