Death Row Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Iran
Six Arab-Iranian prisoners have been on hunger strike at Ahvaz’s Karoon Prison since March 3 in protest of the judicial process in their cases and their extreme sentences, a cousin of two of the prisoners told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Five of the prisoners have been sentenced to death, the sixth to 20 years in prison, due to their participation in a nongovernmental organization that promotes Arabic language and culture.
Kamel Alboshokeh, the cousin of two prisoners, told the Campaign that the prisoners embarked on their hunger strike “hoping that the world would hear their voices or for someone to at least ask why they are exposed to such torture.”
“Up until 14 days ago, they were still on a dry hunger strike. When the families went to visit them 14 days ago, prison forces asked the families to talk the guys out of continuing their hunger strike. The families talked to them. Since that day, they drink water and milk, but they are still not eating,” Kamel Alboshokeh, who now lives in London, told the Campaign.
These six citizens from Ahvaz’s Khalafieh District were arrested by Ahvaz Intelligence Office between Feburary and March 2012. Branch 2 of Ahvaz Revolutionary Court under Judge Seyed Mohammad Bagher Mousavi, held in June 2012, sentenced five of them to death on charges of “moharebeh” (enmity with God), “corruption on earth,” “acting against national security,” and “propaganda against the regime.” The sixth man, Rahman Asakereh, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Branch 32 of Supreme Court upheld the death sentences on January 9, 2013, and the sentences may be carried out at any moment.
The six prisoners are: Mohammad Ali Amouri, 34, B.Sc. of Chemical Engineering from Isfahan University; Hadi Rashedi, 39, M.Sc. of Chemistry from Omidieh Azad University and a chemistry teacher at Khalafieh High School; Hashem Shabani Nejad, 32, B.A. of Arab Literature and an Arab Literature teacher at Khalafieh High School; Jaber Alboshokeh, 28, a quarry worker; Mokhtar Alboshokeh, 26, A.A. of Computer Science and a military conscript; and Rahman Asakereh, 34, married with five children, M.S. of Social Sciences, and a teacher in Ahvaz’s Khalafieh neighborhood.
“They have embarked on a hunger strike to object to their death sentences, the conditions of Karoon Prison in Ahvaz with its horrible nutrition and hygiene, and their lack of access to physicians. They have been savagely tortured inside the Intelligence Detention Center. Hadi Rashedi’s pelvic bone has been broken, Jaber’s jaw and teeth have been broken under torture, Mokhtar suffers from mental and psychological illness—he has developed amnesia and trembling hands—and the others are not well, either. Since their arrest two years ago, they have not had access to a doctor. Hadi Rashedi, who is in the worst condition of all, has suffered from heart rheumatism and liver problems in addition to the pains he suffered under torture, and he needs a doctor. Before his imprisonment, he was constantly under the care of a specialist, but he has not had access to a doctor for the past two years,” Alboshokeh told the Campaign.
“All this has led them to reach a point where they think a hunger strike is the only thing they can do, hoping that the world would hear their voices or for someone to at least ask why they are exposed to such torture,” he added.
“The confessions extracted from them are lies. Mr. [Javad] Larijani says that these men planned to overthrow the regime. Well, what kind of regime is this that can be overthrown by six people? The families have very simple demands. They wish either for the death sentences to be overturned and for their children to be released, or that they be put on trial in a fair court in Tehran, not in Ahvaz, with experienced judges and without interference from the Ahvaz Intelligence Office, and in the presence of a UN representative, [Special Rapporteur] Ahmed Shaheed. We are sure that if such a court is held they will be released,” said Kamel Alboshokeh about the families’ demands.
Kamel Alboshokeh told the Campaign that these prisoners are especially targeted for their ethnicity. “Inside the Intelligence Detention Center, not only have they been tortured for their charges, their ethnicity and language has also been insulted. Inside Karoon Prison, people are insulted for being Arab, for speaking Arabic, and for their beliefs. The families have informed the judicial authorities in Tehran about the conditions under which their children live, but no one has answered so far. All of these things have led to the hunger strike. I hope the human rights activists hear these innocent men’s voices and report this,” he said.