The imprisoned civil rights activist Atena Daemi was scheduled to be released from prison yesterday, on July 4. She has so far spent five years behind bars, not one moment of which has been fair, according to her father Hossein Daemi.
But two days before Atena's release, another sentence – of two years and one month in prison, and 74 more – lashes was communicated to her lawyer by the 24th branch of the Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Amouzadeh.
The sentence was handed down against this civil activist on charges of "propaganda against the regime and disturbing the order of the prison": for activities such as chanting slogans in prison, rejoicing and dancing during the lights-off period, and signing a statement opposing the execution of political prisoners.
There has also been another case lodged against Atena for sitting in with other political prisoners in support of those killed in November 2019 protests and their families. No verdict has yet been handed down for this.
Why is Atena Daemi Behind Bars?
On the day when Atena's father, Hossein Daemi, was planning to greet his newly-released daughter with a bouquet of flowers, he was met instead with an extension to her prison sentence. In a conversation with IranWire, he has said he considers this unjust and described the unfair incarceration his daughter has been subjected to since October 2014.
Atena Daemi spent the first 16 months in temporary detention before being eventually sentenced to 14 years’ reinforced imprisonment by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh. Her father says she was then released on a bail of 550 million tomans (US$27,500) by an appeal court for eight months – but was then rearrested and sent back to prison, without notice or summons.
Atena Daemi's mother has also given an interview about the accusations against her daughter. "She was charged with four counts,” she said. “They said one was 'insulting the sacred'. Do you know why? They said Shahin Najafi's songs were on her mobile phone. The other charge was gathering and conspiring, with the intention of disrupting the country's security. They said she had attended the rally for Kobani, which she had not. She said in court that the rally had had permission to go ahead, but she still did not attend it.
“The judge said that after Reyhaneh Jabbari's execution, she had gone out and protested. Atena replied that she was in solitary confinement when Jabbari was executed, and that she found out about it in prison. Then the judge said that when they executed Arzhang Davoudi, she had gone out and made a fuss again – and in response, Atena asked whether Arjang Davoodi had been executed? They made accusations and statements that were not true at all."
Atena’s initial 14-year sentence was reduced to seven years in the appeals court. Hossein Daemi says the sentence was then commuted to five years in prison after the application of Article 134 of the Penal Code regarding the merging of sentences, and as such, she should have been released on July 4.
He says his daughter had indeed attended protests in the women’s prison in 2018 against the execution of Zanyar and Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein-Panahi. That would become a new case against Atena and led to the sentence she is enduring now, of two years and one month in prison and 74 lashes.
Sham Trials for Political Prisoners
Hossein Daemi says that he supports his daughter and she does not deserve to be imprisoned. “On the day of Atena’s trial in Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court,” he recalls, “Judge Moghiseh expelled me as soon as I entered the court and regrettably did not allow me to speak. Atena stood up in front of the judge to defend herself. The judge threw the file in her face and ordered her out of the courtroom. He did not allow her to speak, and even her lawyer was not allowed to defend her."
He believes that the sentences handed down for political activities are determined by judicial regulators before any court hearing. "Everyone knows that such cases are handed over to the judge. Atena told the judge during one of her cases that he was just a tool.”
Other women prisoners have been penalized for taking part in the demonstrations. Daemi told IranWire: "In 2019, after a sit-in by prisoners in support of the victims of the November 2019 massacre and their families, Atena was put in solitary confinement and Narges Mohammadi was transferred to Zanjan Prison. The rest of the women were all punished in one way or the other; the sentences have not yet been announced.”
So far, seven different cases have been filed against Atena Daemi: cases which, according to Hossein Daemi, were formulated by different officials such as the head of the prison ward, the prison's health department, the IRGC's intelligence department, and the judiciary, under various headings. But Atena has not accepted a single one of them; it is her position that she has committed no crime and was protesting against irregularities.
A Message to the Officials Who Jailed Her
Hossein Daemi says his daughter is not a criminal but a civil rights activist who opposes the death penalty. "My Atena believes in all human principles and suffers from human rights abuses. All of her concerns are for the people of her homeland, her suffering is for the sake of it. What crime did she commit? Was her crime greater than that of the Tabaris, the Mansourians, and other embezzlers? Because she participated in rallies and protested against the execution of several young people, should she therefore be sent to prison for another two years?
“Atena asked, why should there be poverty and misery and poverty and crime in our country? When we can, by relying on our enormous national resources, resolve things so that no child has to go hungry on the streets. Is this a crime?”
Turning his attention in Iran’s judiciary, an embittered Hossein Daemi says: "Let me send a message to the esteemed officials, through this platform.
“To the head of the judiciary, who may read these few words. You came to work against corruption, and though it was too late, you were somewhat successful. Why don't you go to the courts and detention centers and monitor the rulings? Why don't you investigate whether the verdict is consistent with the crime that took place? Are the sentences issued appropriate? Is the principle of impartiality observed? If so, then why should a young citizen endure two years in prison just for protesting? Where in the world does this law apply? Are you monitoring to see if innocent young people in this land are being harmed?"
He has since followed up on this message with a tweet posted yesterday. "75 lashes for a person who opposes violence, torture, and execution. Damn you. How do you feel about a human being whose sole concern is to support children and support homeless people? May the hands who want to whip my kind daughter be broken."