UPDATE: Iran: Two women's rights defenders now in solitary confinement

Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abasgholizadeh have been arraigned, charged with being a "threat to national security," and remanded on March 11 by interrogators at Evin Prison, authorized by the Ministry of Intelligence of Iran.
Sadr and Abasgholizadeh are the only two women who still remain in custody after their arrest last week. Thirty-one other women were also arrested but have been gradually released on bail (cash or bond). Sadr is a lawyer and women's rights defender and was arrested while performing her duty defending the women activists on March 4th.

Based on the Criminal Procedure Laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, at any point in the investigation, the interrogator is authorized to issue a remand and extend the temporary detention until the date of the trial. If not in agreement, the prosecutor has the power to appeal the interrogator's remand to the court system. If the prosecutor does agree with the order of detention - which is often the case - it is very difficult and almost impossible for the prisoners to appeal the collective decision of the prosecutor and the interrogator. As such both Sadr and Abasgholizadeh continue to be in detention since their arrest on March 4th, 2007 without any likely prospect of being released.

Throughout their detention, Sadr and Abasgholizadeh have been interrogated in the absence of their lawyers (Mohammad Mostafaei, Farideh Gheirat, and Elham Fahimi) and were denied the right to speak with them. Furthermore, the detainees are unaware that the interrogator and the prosecutor have refused to speak with their lawyers. In the face of such confusion and the absence of any legal representation, the detainees themselves have been unable to ask for a court hearing.

Abasgholizadeh has been held incommunicado since her arrest. Sadr has had two short telephone conversations with her husband, the last of which was on Saturday, March 10. Sadr's husband, Hossein Nilchian, who contacted the Revolutionary Court authorities on March 11, has confirmed this.

The families of the two have been denied all visitation rights and are extremely alarmed, especially considering the women's medical conditions. According to other women who have recently been released from Evin Ward 209, Sadr and Abasgholizadeh have no access to medical care. Sadr is suffering from chronic stomach ulcer. Abasgholizadeh suffers from arthritis and migraine headaches. Those recently released described the cells as being damp and very cold. To make matters worse there are no toilets in the cell. As a routine measure, the prisoners are deprived of warmth, since they are given only one blanket and forced to sleep on the cold floor. Mahnaz Mohammadi, who was arrested on March 4th and recently released, is still suffering from pneumonia. Moreover, those in custody have reportedly been interrogated while blindfolded during the night, and thus, have had little if any sleep.
Article 27 of Iran's Constitution guarantees the citizens' right to assemble peacefully, which is precisely what the women defenders were doing. However, the interrogator/prosecutor claim that their peaceful gathering was instead a threat to Iran's national security. As such Sadr and Abasgholizadeh were charged according to Chapter 16, Article 113 of the Islamic Penal Code: "Whenever two or more people gather and plan to commit a crime against the internal or external security of the country or facilitate the implementation of a crime, ... then they will be sentenced to two to five years of imprisonment." (in Farsi: www.ghavanin.ir)

The women's rights advocates have become one of the main targets of the recently increased violation of human rights and the rising repression on the civil rights in the name of "national security". Another concern is that certain intelligence authorities seem to be after plotting a "corruption and moral scandal" against some prominent women detainees in order to defame and de-legitimize women's rights cause in the eyes of the larger public.

Sadr and Abasgholizadeh are prominent activists and women rights defenders who have organized the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign www.stopstoning.org , which aims to abolish stoning as a legal form of punishment for adultery. After exposing two incidents of stoning and identifying 10 more individuals condemned to be stoned, the campaign has successfully saved the lives of three women and one man.