Woman’s jailing in Iran ‘appalling’

Published: Sunday 2nd November 2014 by The News Editor

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Human rights activists have branded the jailing in Iran of an Iranian-British woman for trying to attend a men’s volleyball game as “appalling”.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, was jailed for a year after being found guilty of “propagating against the ruling system”, her lawyer said.

Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei said he had been shown the text of the court’s verdict but is still waiting to officially receive it.

Ms Ghavami, a graduate of the University of London’s School of African and Oriental Studies, was detained in June at a Tehran stadium after trying to attend a men’s volleyball match between Iran and Italy.

She was held for a few hours and then released but she was detained again a few days later. She stood trial last month.

Iran banned women from volleyball games in 2012, extending a long-standing ban on football matches.

Ms Ghavami, from Shepherd’s Bush in west London, was taking part in a protest against a ban on women in Iran attending sporting events in the company of men in public stadiums.

Amnesty International has described Ms Ghavami as a prisoner of conscience, and called for her immediate release.

More than 700,000 people have signed an online petition urging the authorities to free her.

UK director Kate Allen said: “This is an appalling verdict.

“It’s an outrage that a young woman is being locked up simply for peacefully having her say about how women are discriminated against in Iran.

“Ghoncheh is a prisoner of conscience and the Iranian authorities should quash the sentence and release her immediately and unconditionally.

“The authorities should also investigate allegations that Ghoncheh was subjected to death threats by her interrogators and provide compensation for her arbitrary detention and her prolonged solitary confinement.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: “We are concerned about reports that Ghoncheh Ghavami has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for ‘propaganda against the state’.

“We have concerns about the grounds for this prosecution, due process during the trial and Miss Ghavami’s treatment whilst in custody.”

Last month, Miss Ghavami went on ‘wet’ hunger strike – refusing all food but taking liquid – for 14 days, in protest at the conditions of her detention. She ended the hunger strike on October 14.

Her brother Iman told the Press Association of his family’s shock at the jail sentence.

“We are really shocked because we were really hoping she would get the sentence as time served,” Mr Ghavami said.

“Her court hearing took place three weeks ago and we hoped then she would be released on bail.

“We actually felt she would be released on time served or at least get released immediately on bail three weeks ago but that hasn’t happened.

“They are still delaying the verdict and we don’t understand why they are doing that after 127 days.

“The judge has told our lawyer that the sentence is one full year and two years of prohibition from leaving the country.”

Mr Ghavami said he was hopeful the Iranian judiciary would officially announce his sister’s sentence in the next couple of days.

“We don’t know how it is going to turn out but my parents are just going from one office to another meeting different judicial officials to see if they can get her released on bail or make an appeal,” he said.

“The lawyer my parents chose for her is not able to have a meeting with my sister and she has not had any access to any lawyers.

“There is a huge amount of abnormality in this case really. We are in constant contact with the Foreign Office.

“The next step is to make sure the sentence is what it is and whether the court is going to apply any leniency.

“When we are sure and the verdict is official we will take it from there.”

Mr Ghavami said his sister was being held in solitary confinement and his family at least wanted her moved from there.

“The Evin Prison is notorious and the section she is in is the most horrific part of the prison,” he said.

“We want her transferred to the general section of the prison where she can interact with other people.”

Published: Sunday 2nd November 2014 by The News Editor

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