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Human Rights Watch Criticizes Iran for Convicting Women's Rights Activists

A U.S.-based human rights group has criticized Iran for imposing lengthy jail sentences on six women activists.

In a statement Thursday, Human Rights Watch is appealing to the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi to immediately overturn the convictions and in the group's words, "end the persecution of all such human rights defenders."

The six women were charged this month following a public demonstration last June in Tehran to protest what they say are Iran's discriminatory laws against women. Iranian authorities say the rally outside a courthouse was illegal.

The women's sentences range from two to four years in prison. However, they will only serve six months to one year in prison if they are not accused of breaking any laws during the next five years.

The six women are active participants in "Change for Equality." This recent campaign seeks reforms, including the elimination of polygamy, the equality of inheritance rights between men and women and making women's court testimony carry the same weight as that of men.

Iranian authorities also recently launched another crackdown against women who fail to dress in accordance with the country's Islamic dress code.

These crackdowns often occur in the summer when temperatures rise and people wear skimpier clothing.

Enforcement of strict moral codes was loosened when Mohammad Khatami because president in 1997. But hard-liners and conservative clerics have urged the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to re-enforce the Islamic laws.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.