Maltreatment Results in Hunger Strike of 56 Urmia Prisoners

Posted on: October 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Fifty-six youth and political prisoners declared the launch of a hunger strike on October 17th in defense of their ward mates, many of whom were recently victims of vicious assaults by authorities.

The strikers hail from Ward 12, designated for political prisoners, and the youth ward.

On October 15th, more than 50 special agents attacked Ward 12, breaking prisoners’ bones and teeth. Later the same day, Urmia guards enlisted common-criminal prisoners to wage an assault on 8 prisoners of conscience from the youth ward.

HRANA is in the process of confirming the names of the striking prisoners.

Golrokh Iraee Calls Citizens to the Defense of Persecuted Activist Soheil Arabi

Posted on: October 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, a civil rights activist imprisoned at Evin, has written an open letter in response to the recent re-sentencing of Soheil Arabi, a prisoner of conscience in Great Tehran Penitentiary who has been held without furlough since November 7, 2013.

On new charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “disturbing the public mind,” Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 26 sentenced Arabi to three more years of imprisonment and three years of exile on September 22, 2018. Cited as evidence against him were voice files he allegedly sent from inside the prison, in which he can be heard comparing Evin to a torture chamber.

In her letter, Iraee accuses authorities of using the exile sentence to banish dissidents like Arabi from public memory.

Golrokh Iraee pictured here with husband and fellow prisoner of conscience Arash Sadeghi

While behind bars on separate charges in June of this year, Arabi was issued a six-month prison sentence by Judge Moghiseh on charges of “blasphemy” and “propaganda against the regime.” The charges stemmed from a case file opened up against Arabi and his ex-spouse Nastaran Naimi, who was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for “blasphemy” and “aiding and abetting.”

Iraee’s letter warns the Iranian public that apathy towards the extension of Arabi’s detainment would be ignoring symptoms of a malaise for which all Iranian citizens are responsible.

The full text of her letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

“He has been behind bars for years without having committed a crime. He is held captive by a vengeful system that has no tolerance for dissenting views, that stifles them instead in bondage, with physical and mental tortures.

Soheil Arabi was first detained on a misunderstanding that devolved into a blasphemy charge. After spending years behind bars and nearing the end of a sentence that tore his family apart (after the immoral and inhumane pressures they submitted him to, to break his spirit), yet another case file emerges, yet another prison sentence is leveled against him. After compounding his suffering with a ban on visits from his daughter, they now want to do with him what they did with Arjang Davoudi and Gholamreza Kalbi: exile him to the middle of nowhere, remove him from public memory, and let his existence perish into the abyss.

After the hunger strikes and beatings he endured in prison, Soheil’s condition is worrisome indeed. It is fitting that we be reminded, after commemorating the World Day against the Death Penalty, of Soheil’s initial execution sentence. He was made to suffer for a long time under the threat of execution, and the [long-term] imprisonment to which his death penalty was commuted, yet we are still witnessing concerted efforts to annihilate him with continued torture and new case files extending his imprisonment.

This method of eliminating activists, protesters, and dissenters may be the current status quo of the judicial system, but it is critical we consider these actions as the red flags that they are, and that we increase public sensitivity and attract the attention of international organizations so that we can put a stop to the annihilation of political and ideological activists. Abandoning them in this state renders us guilty of spreading the disease of our judicial system, and condoning the repetition of such crimes.

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, Women’s Ward of Evin Prison, October 2018.

***

Golrokh Iraee was arrested along with her husband on September 6, 2014. She was first held at an IRGC safe house for two days and then spent 20 days in the solitary cells of Evin’s Section 2A, which is under IRGC jurisdiction, before being released on a bail of 800 million rials. On October 24, 2016, the IRGC arrested Iraee again, without a warrant. Her husband Arash Sadeghi, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison, is currently in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison and has undergone operations for cancer. Iraee was sentenced to six years in prison, which was reduced to 2.5 years based on amnesty and Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code. She was convicted of “insulting the sacred” and “gathering and collusion against the regime.”

More than 50 Special Forces Attack Ward 12 of Urmia Central Prison

Posted on: October 17th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In the latest of a long string of power abuses at Urmia Central Prison, more than 50 special forces responded to prisoner objections with severe beatings, breaking prisoners’ bones, and sending a number of them to solitary confinement on the night of October 15th.

A close source told HRANA that a large-scale reprisal was set into motion when three prisoners went to the guard’s office to check in on their wardmate Hamid Rahimi, who had been beaten there by four personnel and transferred to solitary confinement after a verbal altercation with staff. Rahimi is from Ward 12, designated for political prisoners.

Once arrived, the wardmates — identified as Kamal Hassan Ramazan, Ahmad Tamooie, and Osman Mostafapour — were met with their own violent beatings. Authorities started in on Tamooie, while additional prisoners, on orders from personnel members “Eskandar” and “Rezaie,” assaulted all three with a sharp object. Prisoner Touraj Esmaili was also beaten in the attack.

Authorities reportedly looked on as the attackers cut Esmaili, broke Ramezan’s nose, and busted the teeth of Tamooie, who has since gone on hunger strike to protest the assault.

When authorities were met with outcry over the assaults, they moved to disperse the victims and their comrades among different wards; when that measure, too, was met with resistance, prison authorities sent for reinforcements.

Prison guards and dozens of special forces stormed Ward 12 armed with batons, tasers, and tear gas, laying into Ramezan, Tamoo’i, Mostafapoor, and two more Ward-12 bystanders, Hassan Rastegari and Kamran Darvishi. The latter two were then transferred to solitary confinement; Rastegari has since been returned to Ward 12. “Hassan Rastegari was badly bruised all over,” the source said, adding that additional prisoners had attacked the men on orders from prison authorities.

Shortly thereafter, authorities established a perimeter around Ward 12. Crowded around the ward’s door were all those in charge of the prison, its investigations and protection unit, and Intelligence Security of West Azerbaijan Province. Inside the ward, dozens of special forces took up watch, while still more stood armed guard roof.

The special forces dispersed a few hours later, with the exception of a few that remained in the main prison hall.

Kamal Hassan Ramezan is on death row for political charges. Ahmad Tamooie is serving a 15-year sentence, and Osman Mostafapour is serving a 35-year sentence. As of the date of this report, the health statuses of the assaulted prisoners have yet to be confirmed.

Iran’s Prison Bureau stipulates that prisoner and prison-cell inspections must be carried out with respect to prisoners’ safety, i.e. to uncover and confiscate contraband items such as weapons and narcotics. Increasingly common, however, are inspections that lead to insults or destruction of prisoner property, and political detainees have proven to be popular targets. HRANA previously reported on the September 18th storming of Ward 12 by special forces, where guards pilfered and destroyed the prisoners’ personal belongings, including food they had purchased themselves.

Compounding harassment and pilfering at Urmia Central Prison is its authorities’ liberal use of corporal punishment. On October 8, 2018, prisoner Morteza Zohrali’s right arm was broken in a beating by prison officials; On September 23rd, Youth Ward inmate Javad “Arash” Shirzad was sent to an outside hospital for treatment of a concussion sustained at the hands of “Bayramzadeh,” the prison’s internal director; in July, Saeed Seyed Abbasi was beaten and sent to solitary confinement without treatment of his injuries, all for arriving late to the prison yard for recreation time; and in May, according to HRANA reports, prisoner Saeed Nouri, a former IRGC lieutenant, was beaten by two personnel in the internal director’s office.

Inside Account of Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi and Ramin Hossein Panahi’s Final Days

Posted on: October 16th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- New details on the executions of Kurdish political prisoners Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi has been brought forward by a staff member at the Iranian Prisons Organizations who asked to remain anonymous.

Moradi, Moradi, and Hossein Panahi were hanged September 8th and buried in undisclosed locations without prior notice to their families or attorneys, throwing the international human rights community into an uproar over the Iranian judicial system’s chronic fits of caprice.

According to HRANA’s source, the three young men were battered before their transfer to the gallows; and per the observations of the source’s colleagues, Hossein Panahi, in particular, looked terribly ill.

“Zanyar Moradi and Loghman Moradi caught sight of Ramin Hossein Panahi while they were being transferred in handcuffs and shackles for execution,” the source explained. “When they saw [Hossein Panahi] was only half-conscious and spoke up in his defense, prison staff including Gholamreza Ziaie, Maghsoud Zolfali, and Nader Bagheri lay into them.”

The source explained that Loghman and Zanyar’s loved ones were distressed on September 7th when the men were sent to quarantine, which, while ominous, ran counter to the pre-execution protocol of sending the condemned to solitary confinement.

“The lawyers and families of these two prisoners were not sure whether they were scheduled to be executed,” the source said, adding that they were killed six hours after their family’s final visit at 10 a.m. on the 8th. “Even Rajai Shahr Health Services Administrator Hassan Ghobadi, who was present during their last visit, would not confirm that their execution was imminent.”

According to HRANA’s source, the men’s hangings were atypical even for the Iranian prison system. Their gallows were mounted outside the designated execution quarters, known as “the silo;” it happened not at dawn, per Iranian custom, but at midnight; and the prison’s computer system shows no record of what were to be their very last movements on earth, i.e. their transfers. “We had heard that an execution had been carried out,” the personnel explained, “[but] since security officials took over the execution, even we don’t know exactly where that execution happened.”

Indeed, the details play out like a grim procedural: the Judiciary announced that the executions were carried out in “Tehran,” while a source close to the Moradi families confirmed to HRANA that Zanyar and Loghman’s bodies bore notes reading “executed in Rajai Shahr.” A visible presence on the night of the hangings was a Marivan Friday Prayer Imam notorious for his ties to the Iranian security apparatus, whose son had allegedly been murdered.

“I heard through my colleagues that the prisoners wanted to string the noose around their neck with their own hands,” the personnel said. “There was a scuffle when officials refused this request; Zanyar Moradi even claimed that Hassan Ghobadi had promised him that right.”

Clashing Zahedan Prisoners Beaten, Forcefully Undressed

Posted on: October 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – On Friday, October 12th, fights that broke out amid the stifling conditions of Zahedan Prison landed 29 prisoners in quarantine. The next day, quarantined prisoners were taken to the prison yard, forcefully undressed, beaten by prison guards, and left outside until morning.

According to one of the prisoner’s relatives, tensions had reached a breaking point in Zahedan’s Youth Ward, also known as Ward 1, which has a capacity of 140 but currently houses 350.

The source added that 17 youth were injured in the scuffle, and authorities cut the phone lines to Ward 1 immediately after the incident.

The overpopulation of Iranian prisons a systemic issue exacerbated by authorities’ laxity in addressing requests for furlough and sentence reductions, even for lawfully eligible prisoners. Meetings intended to review requests for commutation and conditional release are routinely postponed.

Afshin Hossein Panahi Released on Furlough

Posted on: October 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Political prisoner Afshin Hossein Panahi was released on furlough from Sanandaj Prison on Saturday, October 13, 2018.

A source closed to Panahi told HRANA that Panahi purchased a few days’ freedom with a 4 billion IRR (approximately $30,000 USD) bail.

On March 26, 2018, HRANA reported on the upholding of his eight-year, six-month sentence in the Kurdistan Province Appeals Court. He was initially sentenced October 2017 by judge Saeedi in the Sanandaj Revolutionary Court on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “collaboration with a Kurdish opposition group through participation in a Nowruz ceremony.”

Panahi, who has a history of working with local environmental institutions, was arrested in his home on June 26, 2017, following the arrest of one of his brothers, Ramin Hossein Panahi. He was also detained for inquiring into the suspicious death of another one of his brothers, Ashraf Hossein Panahi, in 2011, which earned him a charge of “propaganda against the regime.”

Pursuant to a legally ambiguous process that drew outcry from human rights institutions internationally, Panahi’s brother Ramin was hanged to death alongside Zanyar Moradi and Loghman Moradi at an undisclosed location in Tehran on September 8th, 2018.

Urmia Prisoner Dies by Suicide

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On the night of Wednesday, October 10, 2018, Mohammad Ahoupah, 33, died by suicide in Urmia prison.

Ahoupah was a native of Urmia, northwestern Iran, serving his sixth of a 25-year sentence in Ward 15 of the prison on drug-related offenses. He is survived by his wife and two children.

An informed source related to HRANA the running theory among Ahoupah’s ward mates: that when he took his own life in the showers of Ward 15, he had lost hope of stepping foot outside the prison before his time was up. “Four months ago, he submitted a request to be transferred to Zanjan prison from Urmia, and had requested furlough several times to resolve family problems,” the source said. “His requests were denied every single time.”

Recent months have seen the suicides of several prisoners who, despite family emergencies and lawful eligibility, were repeatedly denied the right to furlough. In Sanandaj, western Iran on August 18th of this year, five prisoners desperate to attend to family problems outside the prison made attempts at their own lives when their furlough requests were denied by the supervising judge. One of the five, 36 -year-old Eghbal Khosravi of Ward 6, did not survive the attempt. In another case just three days earlier in Zahedan, southeastern Iran, a prisoner completed suicide by pill overdose when, racked with exasperation over authorities’ continued neglect of his case, his name was removed from a list of prisoners scheduled for a sit-down with the prison prosecutor.

Forty-four Ahwazi Detainees Identified in Wake of Parade Attack

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Since last month’s attack on an Ahvaz military parade, dozens of Ahwazi Arab citizens of Iran have been rounded up, arrested, and transferred to unknown locations in the Khuzestan province.

Public urgency to find those responsible for the attack — which claimed the lives of several civilians, including women and children — is matched only by mounting concern that Iran’s security establishment, with its history of questionable investigation methods, might be searching too aggressively for a scapegoat.

HRANA has identified 44 of the arrestees detained near Ahvaz in recent weeks: 1. Jamil Heidari, 33, 2. Majed Heidari, 25, 3. Ahmad Hamari, 29, 4. Seyed Jasem Rahmani (Mousavi), 33, 5. Majed Chaldavi, 6. Seyed Hamood Rahmani (Mousavi), 7. Ali Savari, 23, 8. Hatam Savari, 9. Adnan Savari, 10. Hossein Heidari, 11. Ahmad Bavi, 12. Abdolrahman Khosraji, 32, 13. Mahdi Saedi, 27, 14. Javad Badvi, 26, 15. Riaz Zahiri, 16. Zamel Heidari, 17. Mahdi Kooti, 18. Ali Kooti, 19. Sattar Kooti, 20. Ali Mansouri, 21. Mohammad Momen Timas, 55, 22. Ahmad Timas, 28, 26. Osama Timas, 26, 24. Adel Afravi, 25. Mohammad Savari, 26. Mokhtar Masoudi, 27. Abdollah Silavi, 28. Khaled Silavi, 29. Ali Albaji, 30. Maher Masoudi, 31. Javad Hashemi, 32. Yousef Khosraji, 33. Abbas Badvi, 34. Mohsen Badvi, 35. Hassan Ben Ali, 36. Jador Afravi, 37. Milad Afravi, 38. Ali Albaji, 39. Mohammad Masoudi, 40. Alireza Deris, 41. Adel Zahiri, 42. Adel Afravi, 43. Ahmad Heidari, 44. Fahad Neisi

The attack in question was a violent interruption to a military parade in Ahvaz on September 22nd, commemorating the Iran-Iraq war. Mid-ceremony, gunmen suddenly opened fire on soldiers and spectators alike.

Mojtaba Zolnour, member of the Iranian parliamentary committee for national security and foreign affairs, announced 29 deaths and 57 wounded. Several civilians, including a 4-year-old child, figured on the list of victims released by state-run news agencies.

It has yet to be determined which group is responsible for the attack, and on Iranian airwaves, theories abound. Not long after the attack took place, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence released a video recording of blindfolded, unidentified detainees facing a wall, accompanied with the announcement that the Ministry had 22 suspects in custody.

Local sources have countered the Ministry’s report, estimating the tally of those detained so far to be closer to 300. The majority of these arrests have taken place in the cities of Ahvaz, Khorramshahr, Susangerd, and Abadan, all located in Khuzestan province.

Security measures now loom large over the Arab-majority neighborhoods south of Khuzestan, local sources say, while the families of those detained have been unable to obtain any indication from authorities on the status or location of their loved ones.

Previously, Iranian Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi made the public claim that “the terrorists who opened fire on the crowd have been killed,” adding, “Every single person behind the attack […] will be identified, and the majority of them have already been apprehended.”

Many of the arrestees have a previous track record with police, reinforcing public speculation that security forces are applying the timeworn approach of haranguing past offenders into culpability, current or relevant evidence be damned.

Prison Authorities Withhold Medical Care from an Ailing Arash Sadeghi

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Per orders from Assistant Prosecutor Rostami, who manages the political prisoners of Rajai Shahr, imprisoned civil rights activist and bone cancer patient Arash Sadeghi has been denied transfer to a hospital despite a severe infection to the surgical site on his arm.

A close source told HRANA that Sadeghi was recently sent to Imam Khomeini hospital after his infection and biopsy results were flagged for concern. “If the infection does not go away, it will lead to a bad outcome for him,” the source said. “Yet it’s been more than two weeks, and Rostami is still ordering that all political prisoners be denied transfers for outside medical treatment.”

Against the orders of his doctor, Sadeghi was returned to prison just three days after a September 12th surgery for chondrosarcoma at Imam Khomeini hospital. His surgical site would contract a severe infection soon after, prompting his return to the hospital September 22nd at noon. Despite his decline into critical condition, he was again returned to prison, reportedly due to the absence of an appropriate specialist to treat him.

Chondrosarcoma is the most prominent malignant bone cancer in youth, affecting an estimated 100 patients per year in Iran. In this type of cancer, malignant tumors are composed of cartilage-producing cells.

Amnesty International issued a statement on Wednesday, September 26, 2018, saying “The Iranian authorities are torturing jailed human rights defender Arash Sadeghi, who has cancer, by deliberately depriving him of the specialist medical care health professionals have said he desperately requires.”

On July 21st of this year, HRANA reported on Sadeghi’s transfer to the hospital under tight security controls. Saying that the doctor was not present, hospital officials turned him away, postponed his scheduled treatment, and returned him to the prison.

Arash Sadeghi was sentenced to 19 years’ imprisonment by Tehran Revolutionary Court. In December 2016, he staged a 72-day hunger strike to protest the continued imprisonment of his wife, Golrokh Iraee.

Prisoner of Conscience Voices Support for Striking Truckers

Posted on: October 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Rajai Shahr prisoner of conscience Ebrahim Firoozi has written an open letter in support of Iranian truck drivers, who authorities have arrested in droves since they began striking September 22nd.

As the trucker strikes approach their 21st consecutive day, 261 arrestees face “corruption on earth,” “disrupting public order”, and “robbery” charges. As the country’s top prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has emphasized to strikers, some of these charges carry the death penalty.

In his letter, Firoozi tells authorities that continued arrests “won’t stop truck drivers from pursuing their rights,” and criticizes them for “arresting the drivers rather than solving problems rooted in [authorities’] incompetence and lack of foresight.” The truckers are demanding more affordable truck parts, better compensation, and a crackdown on bribery in the industry.

Firoozi, a Christian convert, has a long history of imprisonment due to his religious activities, including a September 16, 2013 arrest. He was convicted in Spring 2016 of “forming a group with intent to disrupt national security” by Judge Moghiseh in Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 28. Tehran Appeals court later upheld his five-year prison sentence.