Imprisoned Teacher in Death Row Ward at Vakilabad Prison
A human rights activist in the city of Mashad told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that Hashem Khastar, a retired teacher from Mashad who was imprisoned inside Security-Political Ward 6/1 of Mashad’s Vakilabad Prison, has been transferred to Hall 102 of Ward 5 in that prison. Ward 5 of Vakilabad Prison houses convicts who have committed murder and drug-related crimes. According to requirements for separating prisoners within prisons, prisoners of conscience and political prisoners should not be kept inside this ward.
“Up until last week, Hashem Khastar was kept together with 40 prisoners of conscience, but he was recently moved to Hall 102 of Ward 5 inside Vakilabad prison. Ward 5 of Mashad’s Vakilabad Prison contains halls number 101, 102, 103, 104, and 105, where prisoners convicted of drug-related crimes and murder, most of whom have been sentenced to death, are kept,” the human rights activist told the Campaign. “Considering Mr. Khastar’s age, the illnesses he developed in prison over the past two years, and the horrific conditions of Ward 5’s Hall 102, anything could happen to him. At this time, the responsibility for Mr. Khastar’s life lies with the Mashad Prosecutor and other judicial authorities who have ordered his transfer to the fearsome Ward 5’s Hall 102,” said the activist.
“Prison authorities said that the reason for his transfer to Ward 5’s Hall 102 is the letters he has recently published from inside the prison, and the transfer is aimed at punishing him. One of the authorities has said that since he writes so much about the prison in his letters, he needs to find out what’s happening in Ward 5.”
“Detaining political prisoners next to regular criminals and dangerous convicts is against the procedures of the Prisons Organization. This illegal measure is taken to break Mr. Khastar’s spirit, as he has thus far resisted increasing psychological and physical pressure by Mashad’s security and judicial organizations,” he continued.
“This ward is one of the most horrible wards of Vakilabad and all prisons nationwide, which due to its weekly group executions, has a most regrettable situation from the standpoint of prisoner morale. Inside Ward 5 of Vakilabad Prison, death reigns. Each week, at least 10 prisoners are hanged and most of them come from the different halls inside Ward 5. In this regard, Ward 5 of Mashad’s Vakilabad Prison is comparable to Ward 2 of Ghezel Hessar Prison in Karaj. It is said that there are nearly 2,000 death row inmates inside Ward 5 of Vakilabad Prison. At this time, in Hall 102 where Mr. Khastar is currently kept, there are more than 700 prisoners, which is four times its capacity. In the summer of 2009, there were 370 prisoners in this Hall, and the number has risen to 700 in less than two years. Most of the inmates in this Hall are sentenced to death.”
“The room capacity of where Mr. Khastar is kept is only 15, but currently 60 people are kept in that room. According to Mr. Khastar, because of the large number of prisoners, there are a lot of problems for using the toilets and the kitchen. Sometimes there are as many as 100 people waiting in line to use the toilet and the sink,” he added.
“Presently, Mr. Khastar shares a bed with another prisoner. Due to lack of space, many other prisoners sleep on the floor, in the hallways, in the prayer room, on staircase landings, and even in the toilets. The hygienic conditions of this ward are a lot worse than all the other wards at Vakilabad Prison. Large quantities of drugs are used in this ward and there is a high rate of sexual violation. Because dangerous criminals are kept in this ward, the statistics for murder, fights, and rape in this ward are very high. The air in the ward is full cigarette smoke and various kinds of drugs.”