news Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | September 24, 2014 | 04:43 pm IST

British Iranian national Ghoncheh Ghavami has languished in solitary confinement for close to three months in Iran's notorious Evin prison without any charges. Her crime? The 25-year-old attempted to watch a volleyball match in Tehran's Azadi stadium this June. 

Now three months after being detained without charge, Ghavami has notified her parents over a rare phone call that she has been formally charged with “propaganda against Iran’s regime.” This could carry a jail term of several years. 

Ghavami and a few other women were first arrested on June 20 for demanding entry into the venue. They were released but when Ghavami returned to collect her belongings from the authorities she was detained and jailed. Women are banned from stadiums in Iran, be it for viewing football or volleyball matches, since the 1979 revolution.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Ghavami's brother said â€śThe prison is notorious. Ghoncheh is in the worst part of it and has been interrogated repeatedly [without a lawyer being present]. It’s the worst place you can be. It’s like something you see in the movies. The psychological conditions are awful. I’ve only seen one photo of it but my parents visited her yesterday [last Wednesday] and they are at breaking point.”

Iman Ghavami added that, “My mother had to leave the visitor’s room and vomited so many times outside that she nearly passed out."

"My sister is very distressed as she has gained the impression from her interrogators that she may have to stay for a long time.”

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From early September, social media campaigns (including a Facebook community) and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have rallied for her release forcing the British government to take notice of her plight. 

Earlier this week, top British diplomats including Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond raised the issue with the Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Zarif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. British Prime Minister David Cameron is also expected to meet his counterpart Hassan Rouhani at the UNGA this week and touch upon human rights violations such as Ghavami's detention.

However, there may not be much the Iranian leadership can do given that the country's hardliners call the shots in these matters. Such detentions of dual citizens are an age-old tactic of putting pressure on the Iranian president, who is currently working toward a breakthrough in the nuclear negotiations with the West.

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