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Iran Moves Closer to Rejailing Female Rights Activist Over Criticism of Government


Undated image Iranian human rights advocate Jila Karamzadeh Makvandi, sentenced to six years in prison in September 2020 for her peaceful criticisms of Iran's Islamist rulers through street protests and social media.(VOA Persian)

Iran has moved a step closer to re-imprisoning a female human rights advocate for her peaceful expressions of opposition to the nation's Islamist rulers.

Speaking to VOA Persian from Iran earlier this month, a source close to activist Jila Karamzadeh Makvandi said she was sentenced to six years in prison for participating in anti-government street protests and expressing anti-government views on social media.

The source said a Tehran branch of Iran’s Revolutionary court notified Makvandi and her lawyer of the sentence on Sept. 28.

Babak Paknia, one of Makvandi’s lawyers, reported the sentencing in an Oct. 4 tweet.

The source told VOA Iranian judge Seyed Ali Mazloum ordered Makvandi to serve five years in prison for “gathering and conspiring against national security” and one year for spreading anti-government propaganda.

Under Iranian law, Makvandi’s effective jail term would be five years. She remains free on bail, pending an appeal, after authorities arrested her on Nov. 12, 2019, and held her for 20 days.

Paknia appealed the sentence in a Sept. 29 filing with the judiciary, the source said.

Iranian state-approved news agency Ensaf mentioned Makvandi’s sentencing in an Oct. 5 article citing the opposition Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA). But there has been no official word from Iranian authorities about her case in state media or any announcement about when an appellate court would review her sentence.

VOA’s source said Makvandi was detained for participating in anti-government protests that swept Iran last November in response to an unpopular hike in subsidized gas prices. Makvandi joined a peaceful rally at Tehran’s Laleh Park and chanted slogans including “No to poverty, war and dictatorship,” the source added.

During her 20 days in detention, Iranian intelligence agents also interrogated Makvandi about her social media posts criticizing Iran’s Islamist practice of compelling women to wear a hijab in public, the source said. Makvandi posted the critiques on Instagram and Telegram.

The source said judge Mazloum initially sentenced Makvandi to six years in prison on the two charges of conspiracy and propaganda in February, but Makvandi and Paknia successfully appealed to the Iranian judiciary for a retrial. In the one-day proceeding on Sept. 7, the source said the same judge issued the same sentence and ignored the lawyer’s argument that the judicial process was unfair.

If the sentence is upheld on appeal, it would be Makvandi’s second incarceration in a decade. She previously served 20 months in prison, from late Dec. 2011 to Sept. 2013, for participating in anti-government protests against the disputed 2009 re-election of then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Following Makvandi's arrest in Feb. 2010 for her peaceful role in the “Green Movement” protests and her release on bail the following month, Iranian authorities sentenced her to two years in prison for the same charge that she currently faces, “gathering and conspiring against national security.” VOA’s source alleged that previous trial also was unfair.

This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service. Click here for the original Persian version of the story.