Political Prisoner Sews Lips Shut to Protest 13-Year Prison Sentence for Peaceful Online Activities
Twenty-seven-year-old political prisoner Ali Bazazordeh has sewed his lips shut and started a hunger strike in Evin Prison’s Ward 4 to protest an Iranian Appeals Court’s decision to uphold a 13-year prison sentence against him for his peaceful online activities.
Former cellmate and civil rights activist Reza Khandan told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that Bazazordeh was initially verbally told that the Appeals Court had reduced his sentence to two years in prison but the written verdict was much worse.
“Ali has been in prison again for the past year. He was arrested with three other people and charged with ‘forming an illegal group’ [on the Telegram messaging app],” Khandan said. “The Revolutionary Court in Shahr-e Rey issued a heavy sentence and condemned him to 13 years in prison, two years of exile, a four million toman ($950 USD) fine and learning to recite parts of the Quran.”
“Yesterday [February 23, 2019,] Ali called me from prison and said he had received the verdict from the Appeals Court and it says his 13-year prison sentence has been upheld. Ali said he will sew his lips and go on a hunger strike this afternoon to protest against this unjust decision,” Khandan added.
Khandan told CHRI that Bazazordeh was lonely and malnourished before starting the hunger strike due to no one visiting him or depositing money into his account so he can buy his own food.
“Ali’s situation is very different front other prisoners. He has lost his mother and his father is a [Iran-Iraq] war veteran suffering from the effects of a chemical attack on 65 percent of his body; he lies in bed most of the time. He also has a seven-year-old sister. He has not had a single visitor all year. No one has put anything into his prison account for expenses and he won’t accept any money from anyone. So he only eats prison food every day, which is so bad it’s really inedible. No prisoner can survive on that. When I was his cellmate, he didn’t look good physically and now with this hunger strike he will get worse.”
According to Khandan, Bazazordeh has been in and out of prisons since he was 14 for allegedly engaging in political activities. He was first arrested in 2006 when he took part in protests against a cartoon published in the official newspaper, Iran, which many ethnic Iranian Azeris found to be racist.
The protest cost him two years in a juvenile correctional facility in Tabriz, the capital of East Azerbaijan Province.
In 2009, Bazazordeh was arrested again for taking part in nationwide pro-democracy rallies that came to be known as the Green Movement following a controversial presidential election that brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power for a second presidential term.
That time he was sentenced to five years in prison, most of which he served in Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad, northeastern Iran.
Bazazordeh’s latest arrest took place in 2017 when he was taken into custody along with three others—Zahra Zare’ Seraji, Hamid Kabirmehr and Morteza Nazari Sedehi—for allegedly being members of unspecified groups on the Telegram messaging app.