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.