Maryam Akbari Monfared has been threatened with an additional three-year prison term and exile to a remote prison for her open letters asking about the fate and whereabouts of several thousand political prisoners, including two of her siblings. These individuals were extrajudicially executed in 1988.
Monfared has written several open letters since October 2016, when she filed a formal complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office. She is seeking an official investigation into the 1988 massacre, the location of the mass graves of the executed prisoners, and the identities of the perpetrators.
However, the authorities have not processed the complaint, but have resorted to using various punitive tactics to silence Monfared. They have refused to take her to medical appointments outside of the prison to receive necessary treatment for her rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid problems. There have also been threats to stop any visits with her family.
“How do you think you can scare someone in my position into silence? What have you even left for me that you are threatening to deprive me of? Don’t you feel ashamed that you are threatening to cut the family visits of a mother?” said Monfared in a letter leaked from prison in November 2016.
She has been imprisoned since December 2009, serving a 15-year prison sentence for “enmity against God”. Her conviction is solely based on the fact that she had made phone calls to her relatives, who are members of a banned group (the PMOI), and had visited them once in Iraq.
Amnesty International has issued a plea for international support of Monfared, including a letter and calling campaign. Individuals are encouraged to call on the Iranian authorities to release Monfared immediately and unconditionally, as her conviction was based solely on an arbitrary interference with her privacy, family and correspondence.
Additionally, individuals are encouraged to call on those authorities to provide her with immediate and continued access to medical care, while at the same time, protecting her from torture and other ill-treatment. Finally, the campaign is encouraging individuals to urge the regime to stop the harassment and persecution of families of the victims of 1988 mass executions. The regime is also being called upon to respect the rights of these families to truth, justice, and reparation, including the conducting of an effective and independent investigation and bringing those who committed the crimes to justice through fair proceedings that do not include the death penalty.
In early 2016, Monfared submitted a request for retrial to the Supreme Court based on Article 279 of Iran’s 2013 Islamic Penal Code,l which restricts the scope of the crime of “enmity against God” to situations when an individual personally resorts to the use of arms. The Supreme Court rejected the retrial request in April 2016 and ruled that any request for a lighter penalty based on the recent changes in the penal code must be made to the court that initially issued the death sentence.
In her original verdict, she was not provided with a written judgement, setting out the evidence and legal reasoning relied upon to convict her. Her husband has said that during her trial session, the judge told her she was paying for the activities of her relatives with the PMOI, a banned opposition group that advocates the overthrow of the Iranian government. Branch 33 of the Supreme Court upheld the sentence in August 2010.