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Iran charges women's rights activists with terrorism

[JURIST] Iran [JURIST news archive] has charged women's rights activists Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi with acting "against national security" by allegedly participating in terrorist acts, an Iranian judge said Sunday. The two women were arrested [RFE/RL report] in October and are accused of having connections to Kurdish leftist group Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) [Global Security backgrounder] and of using their feminist advocacy as a front for terror activity. Iranian officials denied that their arrest was related to their opposition to "discriminatory" laws against women. Safarzadeh and Abdi were arrested following their involvement with a campaign to help collect one million signatures [advocacy website] protesting Iran's interpretation of Sharia law [BBC backgrounder], under which women must obtain their male guardian's permission to work or travel, are prohibited from serving as judges, and their testimony is given only half the value of a man's. Amnesty International [advocacy website] has called for action [amnesty report] against their detention, saying that they were detained "solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association."

Last June, hundreds of women's rights activists participated in peaceful demonstrations [RFE/RL report] in Tehran protesting Iranian laws that discriminate against women. The protests turned violent when police detained more than 70 people. Several leading women's rights activists were sentenced for "acting against national security" and "advertising against the system," including activist Delaram Ali [advocacy profile; personal blog], who was sentenced to 34 months in prison and 10 lashes [JURIST report]. Ali's sentenced was temporarily suspended [JURIST report] last month while officials decide whether to review her case. Five other women involved in the demonstration were given jail terms of up to a year, with suspended sentences of up to three years. AFP has more.

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