COVID-19 Poses Extreme Danger to Arbitrarily Jailed Conservationists, Dual Nationals
Infected Wildlife Conservationist Sam Rajabi Refused Hospitalization, Cellmates Untested
- American Citizen Siamak Namazi Held in Same “Cell and Bunk Bed Row” as Rajabi
- Prisoners Held on Politically Motivated Charges Excluded from Reported Prisoner Releases
April 23, 2020 – Iranian authorities should immediately provide hospital treatment for an arbitrarily imprisoned conservationist who reportedly has COVID-19 as well as test and ensure treatment for his fellow inmates, said the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“Iran’s judiciary chief claims he has released thousands of prisoners yet those jailed on unfounded charges including prisoners of conscience and dual nationals remain in extreme danger of suffering irreparable harm from this virus,” said CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“We’re deeply concerned for all prisoners in Iran who remain unprotected from COVID-19 and call on the Iranian authorities to immediately allow them access to high-quality medical treatment and free those who are arbitrarily jailed,” he added.
The wildlife conservationist Sam Rajabi was informed he has COVID-19 during a “short” hospital visit but was denied treatment there and returned to prison where he was placed in quarantine, his sister Katy Rajabi told CHRI on April 22, 2020.
Katy Rajabi said she was dumbfounded by the authorities’ decision to deny him a hospital stay given his medical history that includes asthma, and by the decision to leave his cellmates, including arbitrarily jailed conservationists and dual nationals, untested.
“Sam was sharing a cell in Evin’s Ward 4 with 15 other prisoners including [conservationists] Houman Jowkar, Morad Tahbaz and Siamak Namazi,” Katy Rajabi said. “All the 15 people in this cell must get tested. They are in a dire situation, but nothing has been done about it.”
Katy Rajabi told CHRI that in addition to asthma, her brother has a hypertrophic disease that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood, as well as “intestinal problems” that he was receiving hospital treatment for until his scheduled visits were halted in March due to the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
She added that a recommended operation for her brother was halted after the doctors realized he has COVID-19.
“They kept giving false promises about transferring him to a hospital,” she said. “Then today [April 22] he was taken to the hospital and the doctor said he needs to be operated on immediately. They took some tests before the operation and the CT scan of his lungs confirmed he had the coronavirus and so they did not operate on him.”
American citizen Siamak Namazi was in Sam Rajabi’s “cell and bunk bed row,” according to his U.S.-based lawyer Jared Gesner, who added in a series of tweets that Namazi is eligible for furlough under Iranian law but had been inexplicably excluded from previous mass prisoner releases.
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.
Namazi, jailed since 2015 under trumped-up espionage charges, is among at least seven arbitrarily imprisoned dual and foreign nationals in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
Iran’s own Intelligence Ministry and Supreme National Security Council have refuted espionage allegations brought by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that led to the imprisonment of Sam Rajabi and seven of his wildlife conservationist colleagues without due process.
Their high-profile case has been internationally condemned by the UN and prominent conservationist organizations and individuals including renowned primatologist Jane Goodall.
Several other arbitrarily jailed inmates have reportedly come down with COVID-19, the most recent publicized case being that of teenage Instagram celebrity Fatemeh Kishvand (aka Sahar Tabar), who as of April 15 was being kept alive by a ventilator, according to her lawyer.
The UN has urged Iranian authorities to release all political prisoners and dual nationals who remain behind bars despite the serious threat of COVID-19.
Click here to read a version of this article in Persian.
Read CHRI’s coverage of Iran’s COVID-19 outbreak by clicking here.