Iran frees rights activist after over eight years in prison

TEHRAN, IRAN (AP) — Iran released a prominent human rights activist who campaigned against the death penalty, Iranian media reported yesterday.

The semi-official ISNA news agency quoted judiciary official Sadegh Niaraki as saying Narges Mohammadi was freed on Wednesday after serving eight-and-a-half years in prison. She was sentenced to 10 years in 2016 while already incarcerated.

Niaraki said Mohammadi was released based on a law that allows a prison sentence to be commutated if the related court agrees.

In July, rights group Amnesty International demanded Mohammadi’s immediate release because of serious pre-existing health conditions and showing suspected COVID-19 symptoms. Yesterday’s report did not refer to her possible illness.

Mohammadi was sentenced in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court on charges including planning crimes to harm the security of Iran, spreading propaganda against the government and forming and managing an illegal group.

She was in a prison in the northwestern city of Zanjan, some 280 kilometres northwest of the capital Tehran.

Mohammadi was close to Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, who founded the banned Defenders of Human Rights Center. Ebadi left Iran after the disputed re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, which touched off unprecedented protests.

In 2018, Mohammadi, an engineer and physicist, was awarded the 2018 Andrei Sakharov Prize, which recognises outstanding leadership or achievements of scientists in upholding human rights.