By Pooya Stone

Three women’s rights activists in Iran have had their sentences for protesting the compulsory hijab upheld by an Appeals Court, which is unsurprising considering the defendants’ lawyers were not allowed in the courtroom during either trial and the court refused to receive a defence bill from the activists.

The sentence for the women was reduced from a total of 55 years and six months to 31 years and seven months, although that is still 31 years and seven months too long.

The verdict said that Monireh Arabshahi and her daughter Yasamin Ariany were both sentenced to nine years and seven months, while Mojgan Keshvarz was sentenced to 12 years and seven months imprisonment.

Amir Raeesian, the defence lawyer for Arabshahi and Ariany tweeted Wednesday that his clients would challenge the verdict and demand a retrial.

Their initial trial was held on July 31. At this time they were each sentenced to

  • Five years in prison for “assembly and collusion to act against national security”
  • One year for “disseminating propaganda against the state”
  • Ten years for “encouraging and preparing the grounds for corruption and prostitution”

Keshavarz was further charged with “insulting the sanctities” and sentenced to an additional 7.5 years in prison.

They were informed of their charges on June 26, and reported that the judge had told them that he would “make [them] suffer”.

Their ‘crime’

The three women were arrested in April 2019, sparking international condemnation of the Iranian government, for appearing in a video that went viral online, which showed them distributing flowers to female passengers on a metro train on International Women’s Day (March 8) without wearing the compulsory hijab.

The trio discussed their hopes for a future Iran where all women would have the freedom to choose their own clothing, as well as other freedoms already granted to men.

For this, they were sent to Qarchak prison and charged with the various offences above. Aryani was arrested at home on April 10, while Arabshahi was arrested the next day when she went to the Vozara detention centre in Tehran to ask about her daughter.

Aryani was held in solitary confinement in Vozara for nine days under interrogation, to pressure her into making forced confessions about her civil activities.

Keshavarz was arrested and beaten on April 25 by the state security forces in front of her nine-year-old daughter. Amnesty International sent a letter to Iran’s top judicial official demanding the release of the women’s rights defenders.

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