Labor Activist Ali Nejati Denied Medical Treatment Against Doctor’s Orders
Petition Signed by 800 People Calls on Iran to Release Striking Haft Tappeh Workers
Detained labor rights activist Ali Nejati is being denied medical treatment for heart disease and kidney and prostate problems in Shush Prison in the city of Andimeshk, Khuzestan Province, against the prison clinic doctor’s orders, according to a report posted on the Telegram app channel of the Haft Tappeh sugar mill worker’s union on January 27, 2019.
Nejati, who was imprisoned for engaging in peaceful activism, had refused to go to the hospital in hand and foot chains, which are only required for prisoners deemed extremely violent.
During phone contact with his family members, he frequently coughed and complained of pain in his chest and eyes, the union said in its report, adding:
“The state prosecutor in Andimeshk is throwing roadblocks at this Haft Tappeh union member’s access to medical care. Ali Nejati’s doctor has confirmed that it would be dangerous to keep him in a closed environment. Prison conditions will make his illness worse. According to the law, he should have been sent to the medical examiner’s office. Nejati has said that he would not go to any medical center in handcuffs and ankle chains and so his family have asked the authorities to grant him furlough for a few days so he could take care of his medical issues.”
Independent unions are not allowed to operate in Iran, strikers often lose their jobs and risk arrest, and labor leaders who attempt to organize workers and bargain collectively are prosecuted under national security charges and sentenced to long prison sentences.
Political prisoners in Iran, including elderly inmates, are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of medical care. The threat of withheld medical care has also been used as an intimidation tool against prisoners who have challenged the authorities or filed complaints.
The report also noted that Nejati is able to post bail set at 200 million tomans ($47,500 USD) to go on medical furlough but the court refused to accept his pay stub as proof of payment.
Furlough, temporary leave typically granted to prisoners in Iran for a variety of familial, holiday, and medical reasons, is routinely denied to political prisoners as a form of additional punishment.
According to Article 235 of the State Prisons Organization’s Regulations, transferring prisoners to medical facilities in chains “is not permitted unless in necessary cases determined by the head of the prison.”
Article 170 requires prisoners to be chained “if there is a threat to others, potential damage to public property or possibility of escape.”
Prison authorities have provided no evidence that the prisoner of conscience is violent or a threat to anyone.
Intelligence Ministry agents arrested Nejati on November 29, 2018, accusing him of participating in the ongoing mass protests by unpaid Haft Tappeh workers in the city of Shush, near Andimeshk.
Since being detention, the labor activist has also been denied legal counsel.
On January 19, his forced confession was aired by the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) organization on national TV along with those of other labor activists including Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Qoliyan.
IRIB has a long history of broadcasting forced confessions. Typically well-staged productions, they are used to defame dissidents, intellectuals, and other individuals whom the authorities wish to discredit by legitimizing their prosecution and amassing public support for their sentences.
In the video edited by agents of the Intelligence Ministry, Nejati admitted to being part of a four-member information channel on Telegram—which is not illegal in Iran.
Nejati’s case has not received as much attention as Bakhshi’s, which made international headlines after he wrote on Instagram that he had been tortured while held for 25 days in detention facility under the control of the Intelligence Ministry.
Bakhshi’s revelations, which caused public outcry in Iran and led to several former political prisoners stating that they had also been tortured while in Iranian state custody, was corroborated by witnesses including Qoliyan, a freelance journalist who had been arrested along with Bakhshi.
Bakhshi was re-arrested on January 20 along with Qoliyan. Both individuals are at grave risk of suffering further harm while government officials remain focused on preventing statements like theirs from becoming public again via social media.
More than 800 people including civil rights activists, politicians, artists, journalists and lawyers in Iran and abroad have signed a petition calling for Bakhshi and Qoliyan to be immediately released.
“We express our strong concern regarding Bakhshi and Qoliyan’s condition and hold the security establishment, the Intelligence Ministry and the president personally responsible for their wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of other activists, and demand their immediate release,” the statement said.
The petition continued: “Suppression is not the answer to protests against the violation of human and labor rights, and the human dignity of the Iranian people… We declare our solidarity with the wishes of the Haft Tappeh workers and call on the people and activists to stand by them and demand Bakhshi and Qoliyan’s release… and show Iranian workers they are not alone in their demonstrations for equality.”