275 Days in Prison–Issa Saharkhiz’s Poor Health after Hunger Strike
Journalist Issa Saharkhiz’s health has taken a turn for the worse after going on a hunger strike in March. In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, his son, Mehdi Saharkhiz, said that his father has lost 20 Kg over the past few months and that solitary confinement and hard prison conditions have seriously threatened his health. Eight months after his arrest, Issa Saharkhiz’s legal case remains in limbo and his family and attorney’s efforts to follow up on his case have been fruitless.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran expresses concern over the health of Issa Saharkhiz and believes continuation of his imprisonment is illegal, and considers the lack attention to his legal case and his medical condition to be an instrument in exerting physical and mental pressure on him. He has been deprived of his due judiciary process, and nine months after his arrest his lawyer does not yet know what illegal activities he has been charged with that deserve such severe prison treatment.
Mehdi Saharkhiz told the Campaign that his father’s hunger strike has caused a lot of worries for his family. In relation to the accusations levied against his father he said: “He has been in prison for 275 days, and has not had a prison leave since July 3, 2009. No case file against him has been prepared yet and there are no charges. Of course the kinds of accusations that are brought against him are baseless. These kinds of accusations have been brought up against many and there is no investigation of his situation. In regard to his condition, since the time of his imprisonment he has lost 20 kg. Of course emotionally he is in a good spirit.”
Referring to his father’s five-day hunger strike, Mehdi Saharkhiz said: “He went on a hunger strike for 5 days for the new year, which caused him to collapse on the ground on the first day of the new year because of the drop in his blood pressure. When he was transferred to a medical clinic it was said that it was a dangerous case and the drop in blood pressure must be looked into. My mother who visited him for the new year said he looked very weak physically.”
Referring to the fruitless efforts of his family to follow up on his father’s case, Mehdi Saharkhiz said: “We have been following his legal case for a long time. He himself has asked for a leave but has never received a reply, and they have not said what they want to do. We are still waiting, because he has been held without any reason. His lawyer says he has also been waiting to see what will happen. He hasn’t been interrogated; he has been held in limbo, proving innocence has been denied to all, and his is not an unusual case, but there has not been any answer to his request for a leave, and this is worrisome. He was sent to solitary confinement for a while and then after 70 days he was transferred to another section but again he was sent to solitary confinement. But for some time now he has been transferred to section 350 of the prison. Visitations depend on the week, day, or prison’s programs at the time. There have been visits but they have been very short and difficult; he has also been allowed to call some times. Visitations have to do with outside situations and whether he is in solitary confinement or not. Requests for the possibility of weekly visits have not been fruitful yet.”
Issa Saharkhiz is a prominent political and press activist and a founding member of the Defense of Freedom of Press Association, and he was the Executive Director of Domestic Press of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance during the reform era. He was arrested on July 3, 2009. He spent the first 40 days of his incarceration in solitary confinement in section 2-A of the IRGC detention center without any contact with outside world. Forty days after Saharkhiz’s arrest his lawyer, Nasrin Sotoodeh, succeeded in visiting him, and she announced that his rib was broken. Saharkhiz suffers from a particular illness that requires a special kind of diet, and he has not been allowed to use any kind of medication. On the other hand he also suffers from high blood pressure. In early September his temporary detention was extended for another two months. After passage of several months no court has been convened yet to review the accusations levied against him. He lives under dire physical conditions. After nine months of imprisonment in the Security Ward 209 of Evin prison and after spending several periods of solitary confinement, he announced that if he is not released from solitary confinement he would go on an unlimited hunger strike. Saharkhiz’s is kept under poor physical conditions and in uncertainty at General Ward 305 which holds more than one hundred political prisoners.