However, despite the greatly diminished punishment, human rights advocates lament the fact that the appeals court upheld any punishment whatsoever, given that her charges were based on her having drawn and shared a cartoon depicting Iranian officials as animals in order to protest policies that restricted the rights of women and greatly reduced access to birth control.
It is generally understood that the severity of her initial sentence was also related to the fact that after she was arrested and then released on bail, she took to YouTube to expose some of the abuse and mistreatment she had suffered at the hands of authorities. Some of those authorities even tried to add further time to her sentence by levying a charge of “non-adultery illegitimate relations” based on her having shaken hands with her male lawyer, but this charge was thrown out ahead of her appeals trial.
After the results of that trial were announced, but before her release on Tuesday, Iran News Update had argued that it could not be taken for granted that she would actually be released on the appointed date. Other Iranian activists have at various times had charges added to their files in order to lengthen their sentences, and sometimes these measures have been implemented even after an inmate’s official sentence had expired, but without his or her release.
As an Iranian human rights group pointed out on Wednesday, this arbitrary addition of charges was a feature in the case of teachers’ rights activist Rassoul Bodaghi, who was conditionally released on parole just a few days before Atena Farghadani completed her shortened sentence.
Bodaghi was originally expecting to be freed by September of 2015, after serving a six year sentence related to his peaceful activities as a board member of the Iranian Teachers’ Association. But within weeks of his would-be release, a judge sentenced him to three additional years in prison for “insulting Imam Khomeini and the supreme leader” and “propaganda against the state,” the latter of which was one of the charges for which he had already been convicted in 2010.
Although Bodaghi has now been granted parole, the Iranian authorities continue to hold similar labor activists as political prisoners, including some of Bodaghi’s colleagues in the Iranian Teacher’s Association. The organization’s former Deputy Chairman Ali Akbar Baghani, was recently summoned to begin serving a sentence of one year in prison and two years in exile that was handed down in January 2013 for “propaganda against the state.” And a former spokesperson for the group, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi is currently serving a five year sentence for “propaganda against the state” and “colluding against national security,” which was handed down in June 2013.
Meanwhile, the conditional nature of Bodaghi’s release means that he could be summoned back to prison at any time. And indeed, this frequently happens to former political prisoners who are released, whether on legal parole or on medical furlough as a result of severe health problems.
The latter type of release was finally granted on Wednesday to Iranian blogger and activist Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki, according to IranWire. He had been serving a 15-year sentence following his arrest in 2009, when the regime was cracking down on activism associated with the Green Movement. He has been released on bail of approximately 100,000 dollars as a result of deteriorating health conditions related to longstanding kidney problems and mistreatment within Evin Prison.
But this is not the first time he has been granted medical release. He had previously posted bail for the same in June 2015, but was ordered to return to prison in January, against the recommendations of doctors. There, his condition continued to deteriorate but authorities refused to transfer him to a medical facility until March 5. Then, on March 26 he began a hunger strike despite being warned by friends that his health was not good enough to sustain the protest.
It was presumably in response to the persistence of this strike that authorities finally agreed to grant a new release. It remains to be seen how long this one will last and whether it will result in adequate access to treatment.
Last week, for instance, it was reported that three journalists and the brother of a journalist, all of whom had been swept up in arrests on November 2, had been convicted to sentences ranging from five to 10 years, on the basis of nothing other than their work and affiliations.
Additionally, Iranian authorities announced in April that 7,000 undercover members of the Gashte Ershad, or morality police would be dispatched in public places this spring to enforce the regime’s standards of Islamic behavior. On Wednesday, NPR reported upon this story and detailed some of the run-ins that ordinary citizens have had with the Gashte Ershad in the past. The expansion of that organization’s presence represents an intensification of the crackdown not just on journalists and activists but also on the general population.