Imprisoned Epileptic Journalist Denied Request for Early Release
Reformist Writer Has Not Had Access to His Lawyer Since 2014
Imprisoned reformist journalist Ahmad Asgari, who suffers from severe epilepsy, has been denied early conditional release and medical furlough (temporary leave), an informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, despite doctors’ determination that he is medically unfit to continue serving his sentence.
“Ahmad is sick. He suffers from migraines and epilepsy. He has violent seizures that have sent him to the prison clinic many times. He takes a lot of medication,” said the source. “In addition, he is the only child of the family and his sick 70-year-old mother needs care, but they have refused his request for conditional release. The officials from the prosecutor’s office said they would look into it, but six months have passed and nothing has happened.”
The source also told the Campaign that Asgari’s lawyer has not had access to his client since 2014. As his next of kin, Asgari’s elderly mother is the only person who could follow up on her son’s request for mercy on medical grounds, but she is too ill and frail to do so, added the source.
According to Iranian law, experts from the Legal Medicine Organization can determine that a prisoner is unable to “endure prison conditions” and send their recommendation to the Judiciary to request the prisoner’s conditional release on medical grounds.
Physicians outside the prison have examined Asgari and determined that he is not fit to serve his prison term, but the Legal Medicine Organization disagreed and ruled that Asgari could endure his prison sentence.
A veteran journalist who worked for several reformist newspapers including Etemad-Melli and Karoon, Asgari was arrested on January 13, 2015 and sentenced to five years in prison for non-violent civil activities. Asgari is a political prisoner but he is currently being held in Evin Prison’s Ward 8, which holds all types of convicts, including dangerous criminals.
Prior to being sentenced, Asgari was detained several times for his peaceful activities in 2009 when nonviolent protests and demonstrations occurred across Iran against the widely disputed results of that year’s presidential election. Asgari was an active supporter of then presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leader of Iran’s Green Movement—referred to as the “sedition” by hardliners—who has been under house arrest since February 2011.
Asgari was first taken into custody by intelligence agents of the Revolutionary Guards on February 10, 2010 and released a month later on 700 million rials bail ($23,300 USD). In November 2010 Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Asgari to three years in prison for participating in the protests of 2009, but the Appeals Court suspended the ruling.
Asgari was arrested a second time on June 12, 2013 by agents of the Intelligence Ministry who broke his ribs in the process, according to an informed source. After nearly three months of interrogations and solitary confinement, he was released on bail. In March 2014, Judge Moghisseh sentenced Asgari to five years in prison for “propaganda against the state” and “acting against national security.” The sentence was upheld on appeal.
On July 18, 2014, on the occasion of the Eid Fitr Muslim holiday, Asgari’s sentence was reduced to two and a half years in prison. He is currently a little over six months away from having fully served his sentence.