Iranian human rights activist and journalist Narges Mohammadi has been released from prison after her sentence was reduced, her husband and the judiciary said on Thursday.
“Narges was released from Zanjan prison at 3am [23:30 GMT on Wednesday]. Wishing freedom for all prisoners,” her husband Taghi Rahmani announced on Twitter.
The semiofficial ISNA news agency also quoted judiciary official Sadegh Niaraki as saying that Narges Mohammadi was freed late Wednesday after serving eight and a half years in prison.
Niaraki said Mohammadi was released based on a law that allows a prison sentence to be commutated if the related court agrees.
Mohammadi, 48, is a campaigner against the death penalty and was the spokeswoman for the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran – founded by Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi – when she was arrested in May 2015.
The mother-of-two was sentenced to a total of 10 years in prison for “forming and managing an illegal group”.
According to international press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF), she was transferred in late December from Tehran’s Evin prison, where she had been held since 2015, to prison in Zanjan, northwest of the capital.
The activist, reportedly suffering from a neurological disease that causes muscular paralysis and a lung condition, requested a temporary release from prison in June for medical treatment.
In July, rights group Amnesty International demanded Mohammadi’s immediate release because of serious pre-existing health conditions and showing suspected COVID-19 symptoms.
Mohammadi was close to Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, who founded the banned Defenders of Human Rights Center. Ebadi left Iran after the disputed re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, which sparked unprecedented protests and harsh crackdowns by authorities.
In 2018, Mohammadi, an engineer and physicist, was awarded the 2018 Andrei Sakharov Prize, which recognises outstanding leadership or achievements of scientists in upholding human rights.
Her release comes days after UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Iran to “immediately release” political prisoners who have been excluded from a push to empty prisons amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Since March, more than 100,000 detainees in Iran have been granted furlough or sentence remissions to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
The disease has killed 27,658 people in Iran and infected 483,844, according to health ministry figures.
Iran is ranked 173 out of 180 countries in the 2020 edition of RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.