Iran releases most prominent human rights activist over health concerns

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Iran’s most prominent human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi has been released from prison after authorities commuted her 10-year sentence over ongoing concerns about her health.

The news of Mohammadi’s release from a prison north of Tehran on Wednesday was confirmed by her husband, Taghi Rahmani, the judiciary and Iranian news agencies.

Mohammadi, 48, is a leading anti-death penalty campaigner and worked as a spokeswoman for the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran – founded by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Ebadi left Iran after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, which set off unprecedented protests and a harsh crackdown by authorities.

The activist was first arrested in 2015 and was sentenced to a total of 10 years in prison for “forming and managing an illegal group”. She has repeatedly held hunger strikes in protest at the treatment of political prisoners in Iran.

Mohammadi has been reportedly suffering from a neurological disease that causes muscular paralysis and a lung condition. She requested temporary release from prison in June for medical treatment.

Her release also comes days after the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, called on Iran to “immediately release” political prisoners who have been excluded from a push to empty prisons amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Iran has been hit by a third wave of coronavirus that has seen the daily numbers of new infection break records, with a new high of 4,392 on Thursday.

Iranian ambassadors were also lobbied directly on human rights last month by Britain, France and Germany.

In a recent interview Mohammadi’s husband, a prominent civil rights activist himself, said “Narges is one of those activists who, instead of just protesting by herself, works to establish civil society institutions.”

“The regime’s treatment of Narges and those like her is exceedingly harsh and aggressive.”

“Because of her protest against the killing of demonstrators last November, she was forcibly moved from Evin prison in Tehran to Zanjan prison about 300km north-west of the capital. She and other prisoners have contracted Covid-19 there; medical care was both delayed and inadequate.”

He said she had been allowed out only for three days since 2015 and had been deprived of contact with her children. (Source: The Guardian)

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