PEN America welcomed news that Iranian journalist and human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi was released from Zanjan prison after her sentence was commuted on Thursday.

“We are deeply heartened to be celebrating Narges Mohammadi’s freedom from prison today after more than five years behind bars,” said PEN America’s director of Free Expression at Risk Programs Karin Deutsch Karlekar. “During the time she spent jailed and separated from her family, her powerful writing and unwavering spirit transcended prison walls, even as Iranian authorities sought to silence her. Though Narges should never have been imprisoned for her peaceful expression and activism, we are inspired by her resolve and join the world in welcoming her release. We are, however, reminded that she is one of many political prisoners facing grave risks to their health as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic ravages Iran’s prisons, and we renew our call for the release of other human rights defenders behind bars, particularly PEN America’s 2011 Freedom to Write honoree Nasrin Sotoudeh.

Mohammadi is an independent journalist and the former vice-president and spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, which advocates for human rights reform and represents political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in legal proceedings. Among several other charges of alleged threats to national security and ‘insulting officers’ in prison, Mohammadi was sentenced to ten years in prison on the charge of “forming an illegal group.” While imprisoned, Mohammadi was denied medical care despite her existing neurological condition that has resulted in seizures, temporary partial paralysis, and a pulmonary embolism. She also experienced COVID-19 symptoms in July.

PEN America continues to call for the release of political prisoners in Iran, including writer and human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who like Mohammadi has repeatedly gone on hunger strike to protest the unjust detentions and dangerous conditions in Iranian prisons.