Ghoncheh Ghavami released but Iran must drop all charges against her

Ghoncheh Ghavami

Ghoncheh Ghavami

When Ghoncheh Ghavami decided to take a stand this past June to protest Iran’s ban on women attending volleyball games, she likely did not figure she’d spend the rest of the summer and fall sitting in a miserable prison cell. Ms. Ghavami, who just turned 26, surely also did not predict that her call for equality would generate hundreds of thousands of supportive voices from around the world.

The outpouring of support for this brave young woman has truly been extraordinary and I do believe, although cannot prove it, that the outrage at her imprisonment, expressed by so many thousands of people around the world—including many Amnesty International activists—contributed to the Iranian government’s decision to release her on bail on Sunday, pending the outcome of her appeal against her one-year prison sentence (plus two-year travel ban) for “spreading propaganda against the system.”

But the happy news of her release—she is reportedly in poor health because of her ordeal (she was kept in solitary confinement for extended periods of time and had recently been transferred to Gharchak, a particularly harsh prison) and the hunger strikes she undertook to protest her treatment—is tempered first of all by the fact that her legal situation remains unresolved, and also because there are dozens of other prisoners of conscience suffering in Iranian prisons who have been accused of the same nebulous charges. These include journalists, bloggers, film-makers, trade union activists and human rights attorneys.

Documentary filmmaker and women’s rights activist Mahnaz Mohammadi is serving a five-year sentence in Evin Prison. A Revolutionary Court handed down the sentence on the charges of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system.” Her “crime”? She was convicted for her alleged cooperation with BBC Persian and other foreign-based media organizations, demonized by hard-liners in Iran’s ruling establishment, as well as her role in the making of a documentary film called ‘We Are Half of the Iranian Population’ about women’s rights demands in the lead-up to the 2009 presidential election.

While activists have reason to be gratified that Ghoncheh Ghavami is no longer in prison, we still must remind the Iranian government that we call for all charges to be dropped against her. The Iranian government must immediately stop imprisoning its citizens for exercising their rights—guaranteed under international law—to peacefully gather with others and to peacefully express their opinion. The idea that Ghoncheh Ghavami’s participation in a peaceful action to protest the exclusion of women from sporting events is somehow a threat to national security warranting harsh punishment is utterly preposterous. It is equally preposterous that Mahnaz Mohammadi and so many others languish in prison as well. Please add your voice to those calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran.

Dear Baku: Stop beating activist. Release her. Drop treason charge!

Leila Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy

Leila Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy

Arresting its loudest critic and charging her with “treason” doesn’t seem enough for Azerbaijani officials. Last week, peace activist and human rights defender

was beaten by Kurdakhany detention facility administration staff.

An April 2014 video shows Leyla Yunus confronting officials (in Russian) about not having been allowed to use the toilet during an unlawful detention for interrogation. Although officials eventually allowed her to use a toilet (with a male guard watching her), Leyla says she was not informed of charges against her.

Less than half a year later after the detention, Leyla (and soon her husband Arif Yunus) were arrested and given ridiculous charges of treason and tax evasion. Amnesty International considers both Prisoners of Conscience and calls on Baku to release them immediately and unconditionally (add your voice to our appeal).

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Will the President of Myanmar Keep His Promise?

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar's main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests. (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar’s main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images).

The veneer of progress is wearing thin in Myanmar. A year ago, the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, promised to release all prisoners of conscience. Earlier this year, to mark Myanmar’s Independence Day, the President ordered the release of thousands of prisoners. Now one year on from the promise to release all prisoners of conscience, the promise remains unfulfilled. Even more troubling is the fact that the government is arresting more prisoners of conscience.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

VICTORY: Meriam Released Thanks to Your Help!

10488153_10152186339041363_111531799020186828_n

By Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA Deputy Executive Director of Campaigns and Programs

Great news! After constant campaigning and unwavering support on the part of more than a million Amnesty activists like you, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death because of her religious beliefs, is free and arrived in Italy with her family yesterday.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How Egypt’s New Regime is Silencing Civil Society

10298731_10152123981656363_8711504343331058750_n

Somewhere in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak must be smiling, knowing that three years after his downfall, he has won after all.

After three decades of muzzling civil society, of harassing, detaining and torturing political activists, scholars, journalists, lawyers, doctors and regular citizens of all stripes, Mubarak never was able to accomplish what the new regime has achieved in a matter of months.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“Thank You”: A Message from Newly Released Prisoner of Conscience Nabeel Rajab

Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab spent two years in prison because of his activity on Twitter (Photo Credit: Hussain Albahrani/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images).

Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab spent two years in prison because of his activity on Twitter (Photo Credit: Hussain Albahrani/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images).

By Nabeel Rajab, Bahraini Human Rights Activist Jailed for Calling for Anti-Government Protests

I am Nabeel Rajab. I have just been released from prison after serving a two-year sentence for my peaceful and legitimate human rights work.

I’m one of many human rights defenders in Bahrain and the region who are being targeted, attacked, arrested and imprisoned. I was imprisoned on the basis of fabricated charges of “illegal practices, inciting illegal assemblies, and organizing unlicensed demonstrations through Twitter and other social networking sites.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST