Student Activist Develops Stuttering, Stomach Bleeding, and Hepatitis After 5 Months In Prison
Ashkan Zahabian, a student activist who was released on 21 September 2011 after spending five months in prison, is suffering from stomach bleeding, serious liver damage, and stuttering as a result of his conditions in prison. A source close to Zahabian told the International Campaign for Human Rights that during Zahabian’s detention officials abused him in order to submit to his interrogators’ demands and make false confessions against himself. “Ashkan was detained in a solitary cell inside the Mazandaran Province Intelligence Office’s Shahid Kachouee Detention Center. He was kept in a room with two glaring fluorescent lights that were on 24 hours day.”
On 2 May 2011, Zahabian appeared at the Intelligence Office in Mazandaran Province in order to begin serving his six-month sentence, which had been upheld earlier by an Appeals Court. Instead of beginning his sentence, officials of the Sari Intelligence Office arrested Zahabian again and submit him to repeated interrogations.
“The interrogations that were conducted under severe pressure, the solitary confinement, and most importantly, the transfer to Mati Kola Prison’s ward for murderers and dangerous criminals have led to serious psychological and physical damage for the student activist,” added the source.
“He discovered in prison that he cannot speak properly and sees all this a result of psychological and mental pressure. The doctor told him the same thing, that being under pressure to make confessions and his resistance to that led to his speech impairment, especially when the interrogators led him to believe that his close friends had also been arrested. At one point the interrogators told him that they had arrested his friends or others close to him. According to Ashkan, if he had access to a sharp object at time, he would have hurt himself,” the source told the Campaign, adding that, “His head was hit against the walls repeatedly while he was in solitary confinement. He has a lot of headaches and insomnia now. Even now, when he goes somewhere with bright lighting like he experienced in solitary, he loses his balance and stutters more.”
To protest his condition and the arbitrary nature of his case proceedings, Zahabian embarked on a hunger strike during his detention, which has led to his stomach bleeding. “He suffers from stomach ache now. His liver has been damaged badly as a result of the pressure, leading to hepatitis,” said the source.
In addition to his most recent arrest, Zahabian has previously been persecuted by authorities. In 2008, Zahabian was suspended for one academic term because of his student activism. Only four days after the disputed presidential election of June 2009, he was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence. Plainclothes forces known as Ansar-e Hezbollah severely beat him during his arrest. During the Student’s Day protests on 4 November 2009, he was arrested for the second time. A Revolutionary Court in Babol sentenced him to six months in prison in absentia. In February 2009, while still suspended, he was banned from continuing his education based on an Intelligence Ministry decision, and was expelled from university just one term shy of graduating.