June 9, 2021
Shahrzad Nazifi, an Iranian Baha’i and the first woman to hold an official rank in motocross and motorcycle racing in Iran, has been sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran.
Nazifi’s lawyer Mohammad Hadi Erfanian Kaseb announced the sentence by Judge Imam Afshari on his Twitter account. He added that his client had also been issued with a two-year travel ban and three months’ community service of four hours a day. The sentence has also been appealed in absentia.
Nazifi was dramatically arrested on a motorcycle track by the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence on November 18, 2018. She was later released on a bail of 700 million tomans on December 3 of that year. Officers had also arrested her daughter Nora Naraghi at the same location.
The legislation under which Nazifi was prosecuted was Article 498 of the Islamic Penal Code, which states that anyone “of any ideology, group, association, who creates a group of two or more people inside or outside the country, under any name or title, with the aim of disrupting the security of the country and fighting, who is not known as mohareb [at war against God]” can be sentenced to between two to 10 years in prison.
Since May 2019, Ms. Nazifi’s family, including her husband Mehrshad Naraghi and their two children, Nora and Merat, all of whom are champions and motocross instructors, have been informally banned without a court order from taking part in competitions, training or using motorcycles.