IRAN: Supporter of “Mourning Mothers”, Ms. Mansoureh Behkish, sentenced to 4.5 years of prison

Paris-Geneva, April 5, 2012. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), deplores the sentencing of human rights defender Ms. Mansoureh Behkish and calls for an end to her judicial harassment.
On April 3, 2012, Ms. Mansoureh Behkish, a supporter of the “Mothers of Laleh Park” (the “Mourning Mothers” of Iran), also known for fighting against the death penalty, was informed that she had been sentenced to four years and six months of imprisonment. Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolution Court, which heard the case on December 25, 2011, sentenced her to four years on charge of “assembly and collusion against national security through the establishment of the Mourning Mothers” and six months on charge of “spreading propaganda against the system”. Ms. Mansoureh Behkish, who remained free on the date of publication, intends to appeal the sentence.

The Observatory recalls that on June 12, 2011, Ms. Mansoureh Behkish was arrested by a group of security agents in a street of Tehran at 8 p.m., before being released on bail on July 9, 2011. In addition, Ms. Behkish was subjected to several interrogations and arbitrary detentions in the past as a result of her human rights activities.

In Iran, supporters of the “Mourning Mothers” are particularly targeted with harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention. In November 2011, Ms. Jila Karamzadeh-Makvandi, Ms. Leyla Seyfollahi and Mr. Nader Ahsani were sentenced to two years of prison on charges of “assembly and collusion to commit crimes against the national security and propaganda against the State”. The court ruling accused them of involvement in the establishment of “an illegal organisation against the national security, namely the Mourning Mothers” and claiming to be “human rights defenders”. Ms. Jila Karamzadeh Makvandi was arrested on December 27, 2011 and taken to Evin Prison to serve her sentence, where she remains to this date.

“The authorities criminalise all those who act for the request of human rights and attempt to stifle any kind of human rights work in the country”, says Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. “The international community must denounce strongly this worrying situation”.

“The authorities in Iran are doing their utmost to marginalise human rights defenders by imposing heavy sentences of imprisonment, exile, and ban on professional practice. Prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners are consistently subjected to torture and other ill treatment as well as the death penalty. All this is aimed to intimidating the whole society into a deadly silence”, adds Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

The Observatory believes that the sentence against Ms. Mansoureh Behkish merely aims at intimidating her and impeding her from carrying out her human rights activities. More generally, it also aims at intimidating all human rights defenders in Iran.

The Observatory therefore urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to the judicial harassment against Ms. Mansoureh Behkish and release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained, and more generally to conform to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments ratified by Iran.

For further information, please contact:
FIDH: Arthur Manet : + 33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT: Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39

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