Shiva Nazar Ahari’s Plight Continues in Iran’s Prisons

This is a cross-post by Michael Weiss. This article originally appeared in The Weekly Standard.

The 26-year-old Iranian human rights campaigner Shiva Nazar Ahari was sentenced last Saturday by Iran’s Revolutionary Court to six years in prison after being convicted on all charges made against her by the state, including that of moharebeh (“rebellion against God”), conspiracy to commit a crime against “national security,” and anti-state propaganda. She was additionally sentenced to receive 74 lashes or pay a fine of $400, an option that makes this punishment especially gratuitous and sadistic.

I wrote about Ahari’s plight in late August for THE WEEKLY STANDARD, citing her first arrest at age seventeen for the ‘crime’ of attending a vigil for the victims of 9/11. Since then she’s been in and out of trouble with the theocratic law for fighting on behalf of political prisoners in Iran. She was incarcerated again in June 2009, exactly a day after Iran’s fraudulent presidential election, and was released three months later following payment of $20,000 in bail. While traveling with two associates to Qom to attend the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a man now considered to have been the guiding religious light behind the Green Revolution, Ahari was rounded up yet again.

But perhaps sensing that attending a revered cleric’s funeral was insufficient grounds on which to haul her before the draconian Branch 26 of Iran’s Revolutionary Court, the prosecution cooked up an additional offense: Ahari, it alleged, was also affiliated with the Islamo-Marxist group Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MeK), which has carried out terrorist attacks against the Iranian regime.

On September 12, after many deferred court dates, Ahari was released on bail – $500,000 – after spending 266 days in Evin prison – the Lubyanka of Tehran – 100 of which were in a type of solitary confinement cell commonly referred to as a “human coffin.” Her trial, when it occurred, was speedy; Ahari was handcuffed throughout and as part of the prosecution’s case for the MeK affiliation, they cited email exchanges she had with other advocates for political prisoners who had once defended MeK members. “It was so tenuous it wouldn’t even wash on a blog,” one insider told me recently.

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