WASHINGTON - A female Iranian dissident imprisoned by her nation’s Islamist rulers since 2016 has been handed a second conviction for engaging in peaceful acts of anti-government protest while in jail.
Speaking to VOA Persian by phone from Tehran last Thursday, the father of jailed activist Atena Daemi said a Revolutionary Court in the Iranian capital notified his daughter’s lawyer Mostafa Nili of the conviction the previous day.
Hossein Daemi said the court presided over by Judge Amouzadeh convicted his daughter of two charges of spreading anti-government propaganda and disrupting prison order. He said the court sentenced her to one-year prison terms for each charge plus a punishment of 74 lashes. Iranian state-approved news site Didarnews.ir confirmed the sentence in a July 2 report citing Nili, the defendant’s lawyer.
It was not clear if Atena Daemi would have to serve the one-year prison terms consecutively or simultaneously, or whether she would challenge the ruling in the higher Iranian appeals court.
Daemi’s father said the charges stemmed from her involvement in a peaceful protest inside Evin prison last December, when she and several other female inmates staged a sit-in to mourn Iranians killed in a government crackdown on nationwide anti-government demonstrations the month before. He said he learned about the sit-in through a handwritten message that his daughter sent from prison to ask her family to spread the word about the female inmates’ protest.
Hossein Daemi said another prominent dissident who joined the sit-in was Iranian journalist Narges Mohammadi, imprisoned since 2015 and serving a 10-year sentence for human rights advocacy.
The father of Atena Daemi said her conviction for “disturbing prison order” related to the peaceful sit-in, while the conviction for “spreading propaganda" related to the handwritten note she had sent. He said she had been found guilty in a trial that lasted only five minutes.
“There is no justice in Iran when a pre-determined sentence is issued in such a brief trial,” Hossein Daemi said.
In a report published Tuesday, New York-based group Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) cited Atena Daemi’s mother, Masoumeh Nemeti, as saying the trial took place on June 27. Nemeti said her daughter appeared in the court but was not able to present a defense.
Hossein Daemi previously had told VOA that his daughter had been scheduled to be released from Evin prison on parole on Saturday, following her 2016 imprisonment for a five-year term for alleged national security offenses related to her peaceful human rights activism. Her penalized activities included meeting the families of Iranian political prisoners, using Facebook to criticize the government and condemning its mass executions of political prisoners in 1988.
CHRI cited Nemeti as saying in a Monday interview that her daughter was being kept in detention beyond July 4 to serve a new sentence of two years and one month for being involved in earlier acts of peaceful protest inside prison.
An Iranian appeals court had confirmed Atena Daemi’s new 25-month sentence last September after a lower court convicted her of disseminating anti-government propaganda and insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The charges arose from her writing an open letter from prison condemning the government’s executions of several political prisoners in September 2018 and her singing a revolutionary anthem to honor those prisoners.
Last month, Hossein Daemi told VOA that his daughter faced the prospect of even more prison time for her alleged involvement in a third peaceful protest at Evin. He said the prison’s prosecutor informed her on June 7 that she had been charged with “disturbing order” by chanting anti-government slogans on the night of February 11, the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. His daughter denied that charge, he added.
“She should be released because she has not committed any crime,” the dissident’s father told VOA in his latest interview. “All this pressure is being put on her just to bring her to her knees. But she still is determined and strongly insists on her beliefs.”