Iranian political prisoner Maryam Akbari Monfared

Political Prisoner Seeking Justice Over Iran’s 1988 Massacre Is Exiled To Semnan

The Iranian Judiciary on 10 March 2021 forcibly transferred political prisoner Maryam Akbari Monfared from Evin Prison in the capital Tehran to a prison more than 200 kilometres away in Semnan in an attempt to silence her calls for justice over the 1988 massacre.

Ms. Akbari Monfared, whose siblings were among the victims of the 1988 massacre, was arrested in December 2009 following nationwide anti-government protests in Iran and sentenced to 15 years in prison. She is currently serving the 12th year of her sentence. During her time in prison, she has not been granted a single day of furlough, and she has been deprived of access to medical treatment despite suffering from thyroid malfunction and joint rheumatism.

On 10 March, prison guards suddenly transferred Ms. Akbari Monfared to Semnan Prison. To prevent her forcible transfer, other female prisoners held a protest in Evin. But Ms. Akbari Monfared was forcibly dragged out of her cell and sent into exile.

Ms. Akbari Monfared has three young daughters. One of her daughters, Sara, was just four years old when her mother was arrested, and she is now 16. Ms. Akbari Monfared’s banishment to Semnan means that her family will lose what little visitation ability they previously had.

Four of Maryam Akbari Monfared’s siblings were previously executed by the Iranian authorities:

  • Her brother Alireza Akbari Monfared, a member of the main opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI or MEK), was executed in 1981.
  • Her brother Gholamreza Akbari Monfared, another PMOI member, was murdered under torture in 1985.
  • Her brother Abdolreza Akbari Monfared and her sister Roghiyeh Akbari Monfared were both executed during the 1988 massacre for their membership in the PMOI.

Maryam Akbari Monfared was arrested on 31 December 2009 following major anti-government protests that took place on 27 December 2009. Her family were kept unaware about her fate and whereabouts for five months.

She was reportedly held in solitary confinement during the first 43 days after her arrest, where she underwent intense interrogations and was denied access to a lawyer throughout. She reportedly met her state-appointed lawyer for the first time at her trial, which was limited to one brief session.

Notorious Judge Abolghassem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran in May 2010 sentenced her to 15 years in prison for Moharebeh (enmity against God) on the alleged charge of “membership in the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran,” a charge which Ms. Akbari Monfared never accepted. Ms. Akbari Monfared was convicted because she had made phone calls to her relatives, who are PMOI members, and had visited them once in Iraq.

She was never provided with a reasoned judgement, setting out the evidence and legal reasoning relied upon to convict her. During her trial session, the judge reportedly told her that “she was paying for the activities of her brother and sister with the PMOI.”

Her appeals were rejected, with no reasons provided. In August 2010, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld her sentence.

On 18 October 2016, Ms. Akbari Monfared filed a formal complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office from inside prison, seeking an official investigation into the 1988 executions of political prisoners, including her siblings. Since then, several open letters asserting these concerns have been leaked from prison and made public. A prison official reportedly told Ms. Akbari Monfared’s family that such complaints were of no use and that they would only result in her detention conditions being made increasingly difficult and impede her release.

Since submitting this complaint, Ms. Akbari Monfared has been denied to undertake her regular medical checks outside the prison and has therefore been unable to receive treatment for her rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid problems. The Associate Prosecutor (dadyar) of Evin Prison told her family on 24 October 2016 that her health care arrangements had been cancelled because she had become too “brazen” (por-rou). Ms. Akbari Monfared was also reportedly subjected to other forms of retaliation against her, including an order from the Office of Prosecutor to stop prison visits from her family, and threats to bring fresh criminal charges against her.

On 14 June 2017, five United Nations Mandate Holders, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, wrote to the Iranian authorities, raising concerns over “threats of additional prison terms and relocation to remote detention” of Ms. Akbari Monfared “allegedly to keep her from writing open letters about the fate and whereabouts of several thousands of political prisoners, including her siblings, who were extra-judicially executed in the summer of 1988.”

Earlier on 30 November 2016, three UN Special Procedures had written to the Iranian authorities to raise concerns over the reported “denial of medical treatment” to Ms. Akbari Monfared during her detention in Evin Prison, as well as “cancellation of visit rights as a possible act of retaliation for her complaint lodged on 18 October 2016 seeking an official investigation into the 1988 executions of political prisoners.”

Maryam Akbari Monfared was summoned to the Evin Courthouse on 10 June 2020 to be arraigned with further charges in a new case opened for her. She did not attend the hearing because she had not received a written summons and because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Branch 2 of the Interrogation Department of the Evin Courthouse, presided by Judge Haji Moradi, was in charge of the new case fabricated against her.

Her court hearing convened on 31 August 2020. She was charged with “disruption of order in prison” through chanting anti-government slogans on the night of the anniversary of the 1979 revolution on 11 February 2020. She maintains she had only protested the failure of prison wardens to attend to a sick prisoner for which she was also deprived of her visitation on 16 February 2020.

Ms. Akbari Monfared’s forcible exile to Semnan Prison only adds to her mental and physical torment. Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI) appeals to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, Human Rights Council member states, and the relevant UN Special Procedures to urgently speak out against the Iranian authorities’ mistreatment of Ms. Akbari Monfared and their attempts to silence her demands for justice over the 1988 massacre.