Political Prisoner on Hunger Strike in Iran Has Died, Another in Grave Danger
Vahid Sayyadi-Nasiri Was on Hunger Strike to Protest Denial of Counsel and Prison Conditions
Growing Crisis as Political Prisoners Left with No Recourse but to Refuse Food
December 12, 2018—The political prisoner Vahid Sayyadi-Nasiri, on hunger strike since October 13, 2018 to protest the denial of his right to counsel and inhumane prison conditions at Iran’s Langroud Prison in Qom where he was being held, has died at the Shahid Beheshti Hospital in Qom.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) condemns the state of affairs in which prisoners in Iran are left with no recourse but hunger strikes to draw attention to their unjust incarceration, as well as the Iranian authorities’ lacking response to these strikes which are resulting in deaths.
“There is a growing crisis in Iran in which the entire judicial system has ceased to function in any capacity other than to defend the repressive apparatus of the state,” said Hadi Ghaemi, CHRI’s executive director.
“People are locked up for expressing their views, they are denied counsel and all other due process rights, lawyers are imprisoned for trying to defend them, and prisoners are dying from hunger strikes in a desperate attempt to draw attention to this crisis,” Ghaemi said.
CHRI strenuously urges the authorities in Iran to immediately address the legitimate grievances of Farhad Meysami, who has been on hunger strike in Evin Prison since August 1 to protest his arrest this past July for peacefully supporting protests against forced hijab and the denial of his right to choose counsel, so that he is not the next prisoner death to be announced.
The mother of Vahid Sayyadi-Nasiri, Zahra Sadeghi, told CHRI that she received a call from prison authorities today, December 12, telling her that her son had died at the Shahid Beheshti Hospital in Qom. She was told to appear tomorrow to answer unspecified questions.
Sayyadi-Nasiri, a 28-year-old real estate specialist who was critical of Iranian state policy on social media, had been released from Rajaee-Shahr Prison in Karaj on March 29, 2018, after being sentenced to five years for “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state.” But he was arrested again by the Intelligence Ministry in Qom on July 31. After being interrogated in the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center for a week without access to a lawyer or family contact, he was transferred to the Saheli Prison in Qom and then to Langroud Prison in early October.
On October 13, Sayyadi-Nasiri went on a hunger strike to protest inhumane prison conditions and to demand legal counsel, according to a friend who asked not to be identified. Three days later he was put on trial and within 10 minutes sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.”
“Vahid’s condition got worse as the days went by and when I asked him to end his hunger strike, he said several times that he was serious and would not stop until his demands are met, even if it was going to cost his life. He insisted that the Intelligence Ministry and the judiciary are responsible for his life. He was right. He really put his life on the line,” said the friend.
He continued, “A month after his hunger strike, Vahid contacted me and said his body was no longer able to absorb liquids and it caused him to vomit. Once or twice he was transferred to a hospital to get treatment for bleeding in his stomach but the authorities didn’t inform his mother or other relatives. In his last phone contact in late November, he didn’t have the strength to talk. He said he didn’t understand why the authorities were bent on keeping him there [in Langroud Prison] and insisted that he was determined to sacrifice his life. I begged him to break his strike but he refused. He said… ‘I will either get my demands or leave my corpse for the Intelligence Ministry.’”
The Intelligence Ministry, which is under the direct authority of President Hassan Rouhani, has become one of the leading human rights violators in Iran, responsible for the arrest of a significant number of activists, students, minority community leaders and human rights defenders over the past few years.
Sayyadi-Nasiri’s friend added that human rights attorney Mohammad Najafi had agreed to take up the case but the authorities had not allowed him inside the prison to get a signature for a retainer.
Meanwhile, the life of Farhad Meysami, on hunger strike in Evin Prison since August 1, is in grave danger. Meysami, who is a 48-year-old physician, was arrested by agents of the Intelligence Ministry on July 31, 2018, for allegedly having badges in his home that said, “I am against compulsory hijab.”
Meysami undertook his hunger strike to protest his unlawful imprisonment and the denial of his rights to access counsel of his choice, and to demand the release of Reza Khandan, who has been in detention since September 4, 2018, for publicly condemning the arrest of Khandan’s wife, the prominent human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has herself been detained since June 2018.
Meysami has been moved to the medical center in the prison, where he has been held in isolation, restrained in a bed and given intravenous injections.
UN experts have expressed alarm at the critical deterioration in his health and have said they were “deeply disturbed” by the denial of his due process guarantees. They urged the authorities “to address the violations which are the basis of his protest.”
Meysami was charged with “assembly and collusion against national security with the intention to incite women to appear in public with bare heads,” “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the hijab as an indispensable Islamic principle” for his advocacy against forced hijab. The UN has said the charges brought against him were in clear violation of international human rights law.
The imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh started a second hunger strike on November 26, 2018, to protest the Iranian authorities’ refusal to allow Meysami to receive hospital treatment.
“Sayyadi-Nasiri’s death and the danger of more deaths are a result of a judicial system that is out of control and which has abandoned any semblance of defending the rule of law,” said Ghaemi.
“The Iranian judiciary is responsible for the lives of Iran’s prisoners. More deaths will come if the authorities persist with these unlawful imprisonments, their denial of due process and the inhumane incarceration conditions in Iran,” Ghaemi said.