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Reporters Without Borders: Mourning Mothers Spokesperson to be Jailed for 6 Months

[Mourning Mothers representative. Image from en.rsf.org] [Mourning Mothers representative. Image from en.rsf.org]

[The following statement was issued by Reporters Without Borders on 17 January 2013.]

Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned to learn that Mansoureh Behkish, a netizen and founder of the Mourning Mothers movement, has been told to report to the sentence application court at Tehran’s Evin prison on 29 January to begin serving a six-month jail sentence.

“We urge the authorities not to jail Behkish,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The way she has been hounded for years is typical of the constant harassment received by the relatives of executed prisoners when they refuse to comply with the regime’s desire to maintain a veil of silence over these cases.

“Their only crime is to keep demanding truth and justice for those who were hanged or disappeared in mass graves. It is outrageous that men and women such as Behkish who dare to provide information about these cases are being convicted and jailed on charges of anti-government propaganda.”

The mouthpiece of Mourning Mothers, an alliance of mothers and other relatives of prisoners who have been executed from the 1980s onwards, Behkish has repeatedly been harassed and detained.

She and thirty-three other members of Mourning Mothers were arrested while demonstrating in Tehran’s Laleh Park on 9 January 2010. Banned from leaving the country when freed on 17 March 2011, she was arrested again in Tehran on 12 June 2011 and spent a month in Section 209 of Evin prison.

A Tehran revolutionary court sentenced her to four and a half years in prison in December 2011. On appeal, her sentence was reduced to six months in prison on the anti-government propaganda charge and a suspended sentence of three and a half years in prison for “activities threatening national security.”

Bekhish also belongs to “Mothers of Khavaran,” a movement named after the south Tehran cemetery used as common grave for political prisoners who were executed en masse in 1988.

Bekhish posts articles on various websites about these groups, their ceremonies and the harassment to which they are subjected. Six of her close relatives (four brothers, a sister, and a brother-in-law) were executed during the 1980s. She has a gravely ill mother who she has to look after on her own.

With twenty-eight journalists and twenty netizens currently detained, Iran is one of the world’s five biggest prisons for media personnel.

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