Elmira Habibi goes on a Hunger Strike in Urmia Prison

On Saturday, August 28, a defendant named Elmira Habibi went on a hunger strike in the women’s ward of Urmia Prison.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, 33-year-old Elmira Habibi,  a native of Urmia, was imprisoned after being convicted of financial crimes.

Ms. Habibi has been on a hunger strike to protest her unfair trial and the lack of accountability from officials.

HRANA Recap: This Week’s Protests in Iran

A number of protests took place this week in Iran, many of which were continuations of ongoing movements. According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, employees of Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company continued their protests for a 7th week. Read our recap below for details, photos, and videos from the demonstrations.

 

Saturday, August 21

A group of workers of Azarkam Company in Urmia, a number of dismissed workers from security department of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Co in the management office of this company, and for the 40th day in a row, the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Co in Shush, held protest rallies this Saturday.

Workers of Azarkam Company in Urmia:

Workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company:

Dismissed staff of security department of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company:

Sunday, August 22

A group of workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Co for the 41st consecutive day, as well as several young people from Qala-e-Chenan village of Kut Abdollah district in Khuzestan called for their demands to be addressed this Sunday.

Workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company:

People of Qala-e-Chenan village:

 

Monday August 23

This Monday, several workers in Asaluyeh in Pars Special Economic Energy Zone, a group nurses in the cities of Tehran and Sari, a group of medical staff in Babol, a number of municipal gardeners in Kut Abdollah, and a group of shareholders of the Pardis-e-Rasht Housing Investment Company held protest rallies.

Nurses in Tehran and Sari:

Medical staff in Babol:

Tuesday August 24


A group of workers of Bostan Municipality located in Dasht-e Azadegan city of Khuzestan, and a number of bus drivers in Qazvin in protest rallies called on their demands to be addressed.

Bus drivers in Qazvin:

Wednesday August 25


A group of bus drivers in Urmia, and workers of the oil project in Izeh in protest rallies called on their demands to be addressed.

Bus drivers in Urmia:

 

Workers of the oil project in Izeh:

Thursday August 26

A group of farmers in East Isfahan rallied yesterday, Thursday, August 26.

Farmers in Isfahan:

 

Nayeb Askari on a Hunger Strike in Urmia Prison to Protest Authorities’ Refusal to Transfer him to a Hospital

Today, August 26, political prisoner Nayeb Askari went on a hunger strike in Urmia Prison.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, Askari went on a hunger strike to protest the prison authorities’ refusal to send him to the hospital throughout his battle with kidney disease.

An informed source spoke to HRANA about the reasons for Mr. Askari’s hunger strike.

“Mr. Askari, who suffers from kidney disease, has been denied being sent to the hospital despite the prison doctor’s diagnosis following opposition of the prison’s supervisor judge,” the source said. “Askari has gone on a hunger strike to protest.”

Nayeb Askari was arrested by IRGC intelligence agents in Urmia in April and transferred to one of the detention centers of this security institution. He was eventually transferred from the IRGC Intelligence Detention Center to the city prison in June, after completing the interrogation process. Mr. Askari has been charged with “collaborating with an opposition party”.

On July 12, Branch 119 of the second Criminal Court in the city of Urmia sentenced Mr. Askari. Nayeb Hajizadeh Yangjeh, and Keyhan Mokarram al-Nabi, to three months each in prison and 50 lashes on a charge of “disturbing the order of the prison” after they protested the beating of Nayeb Hajizadeh by two prisoners accused of violent crimes.

Ebrahim Sedigh Hamedani Facing Medical Negligence in Urmia Prison; Family is Concerned

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, political prisoner Ebrahim Sedigh Hamedani is currently facing medical negligence from authorities in Urmia Prison.

On Wednesday, August 25, a source close to Hamedani’s family told HRANA, “Mr. Hamedani has diabetes and, despite passing two months (without medical care), he has been denied access to his medicines, and is in poor physical condition.”

According to this informed source, doctors in Urmia Prison have been on strike and have been refusing to attend the prison for about a month. Ebrahim Sedigh Hamedani, along with his son and daughter Salar and Maryam, was arrested in February 2019. They were transferred to the city’s central prison in late April after two months of interrogation, where Maryam released on a bail.

Branch 2 of the Urmia Revolutionary Court sentenced Ebrahim and Salar Sedigh Hamedani to 16 years each in prison on charges of “acting against national security through membership in an opposition organization,” and “propaganda activities against the regime”.

During interrogation, a new case was open against the two political prisoners. They were charged on “propaganda activities against the regime in prison” and sentenced by the First Branch of the Revolutionary Court of Urmia to 11 additional months in prison.

It is said that Ebrahim Sedigh Hamedani was arrested earlier in 2005 on charges of “collaborating with an opposition organization” and was sentenced to six years in prison. After serving two years, he was released on parole.

HRANA Report: COVID-19 Vaccinations Underway in Iranian Prisons

A number of prisons, including Evin in Tehran, Rajai Shahr in Karaj, Qarchak in Varamin, Lakan in Rasht, Urmia in Urmia, and Qom Coastal Prison, have been examined as a statistical sample in this report.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, the vaccination of inmates in different prisons throughout the country has started this month.

A number of prisons, including Evin in Tehran, Rajai Shahr in Karaj, Qarchak in Varamin, Lakan in Rasht, Urmia in Urmia, and Qom Coastal Prison, have been examined as a statistical sample in this report.

According to reports received by HRANA, in some prisons in the country, prisoners have been forced to receive the Iranian vaccine “Barekat”, and many others have refused to receive the Barekat vaccine due to doubts about production conditions and the lack of WHO approval. In some prisons, vaccination has been partially abandoned due to the lack of enough dosage per the Ministry of Health.

Although this action of the Prisons Organization has given a bit of hope to the prisoners and their families, reports received by HRANA from various prisons across the country indicate that -regardless of the quality and type of vaccine used- a small percentage of inmates have been vaccinated and that most of the inmates still have not been vaccinated against COVID.

Prisoners in the women’s ward of Lakan Prison in Rasht were vaccinated with the Barekat vaccine. According to an informed source, the vaccination process has started in this prison in late July this year; first the prison officials, then the male prisoners, and finally the female prisoners have been vaccinated.

As of this writing, a small percentage of inmates in Urmia Prison are vaccinated. An informed source about the vaccination process in this prison told HRANA, “At first, the Iranian vaccine Barekat was sent for Urmia prison, but prisoners refused to inject, then a small number of Chinese vaccines arrived which only was enough for a few. Though the vaccine was given to all prisoners in the political prison, and any of them who wished was vaccinated.”

According to the source, prison officials, along with a limited number of other detainees were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Since mid-August of this year, some prisoners in various wards of Evin Prison have received the first dose of the vaccine. Initially, the vaccination was carried out with the Barakat vaccine, but this process was stopped due to the refusal of many prisoners to inject the Iranian vaccine. A few days later, some prisoners were injected with the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm. According to an informed source, in many wards of the prison, even prisoners with underlying diseases who are at risk of infection have not been vaccinated yet.

Political prisoners in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj have also been injected with the first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine. According to an informed source, in other wards of the prison, vaccination was going on based on the age priority and people with underlying diseases until prison officials announced that the vaccination would be halted and postponed until the Ministry of Health and the Prisons Organization were able to provide the vaccine.

The HRANA investigation shows that most of the prisoners in Qarchak Prison in Varamin have been injected with the Sinopharm vaccine, but new inmates, whose numbers are very high, are still not vaccinated as there are not enough vaccines for them.

In Qom Coastal Prison, only the clergy prisoners being held in the special ward for clergies have been fully vaccinated. According to an informed source, 20 prisoners in this ward, along with a small number of prisoners from other wards, have been vaccinated so far. Prisoners in Bushehr Prison in Bushehr Province have not yet received any vaccine.

These are the reports from prisons while in early August, Mohammad Mehdi Haj Mohammadi, head of the Prisons Organization, claimed on his Twitter account that 50 percent of the country’s prisoners had been vaccinated.

Although the prisoners’ vaccination could help to control the spread of coronavirus in prisons, the effectiveness of vaccination is still unclear as spaces in prisons are closed, pre-and post-vaccination health protocols are not met, principles of quarantine are not observed, and prison populations are large. Also, some prisoners have received the Iranian Barekat vaccine, whose effectiveness is highly questionable.

The negligence of the authorities towards the situation of sick prisoners, lack of proper medical care in prisons, the strictness of the authorities in sending prisoners to medical leave and hospitals, and the lack of adequate sanitary facilities in prisons have all contributed to and intensified the spread of the disease.

 

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Supreme Court Rejects Hamed Ghareh Oghlani’s Request for Retrial 5 Days After its Submission

The Supreme Court rejected political prisoner Hamed Ghareh Oghlani’s request for retrial five days after its submission. Oghlani is currently serving out a 13 year sentence in Urmia Prison.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, Oghlani’s sentence was previously upheld by Branch 41 of the Supreme Court in February of this year.

In the first part of the case, Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court of Urmia sentenced Oghlani to death for membership in the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK). In the second part of his case, he was sentenced to 14 years and one month on charges of “participating in military courses and attacking Basij bases”, “propaganda against the regime”, “blasphemy”, “and insulting the leadership”.

Finally, after the judges’ session, Oghlani was sentenced to a total of 14 years and one month in prison including 13 years in prison for participating in the insurgence group (MEK), and to 13 months in prison for insulting the leadership. The most severe punishment 13 years of imprisonment applies to him after Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code.

Mr. Ghareh Oghlani was installing CCTV cameras before his arrest. He dropped out of Shahid Beheshti University in 2016 due to financial issues.

Hamed Ghareh Oghlani was arrested in June 2020 by Ministry of Intelligence agents and was transferred to the detention center of this security institution in Urmia. He was transferred to Urmia Prison in July of the same year after the interrogation process.

Political Prisoners Salahoddin Sharifzadeh and Hassan Beit Abdollah being Denied Medical Care in Khalkhal Prison

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, political prisoners Salahoddin Sharifzadeh and Hassan Beit Abdollah are being denied medical treatment by authorities in Khalkhal Prison despite suffering from COVID-19.

Lack of sanitation facilities in many prisons in the country has led to the rampant spread of Coronavirus within many Iranian prisons.

Salahoddin Sharifzadeh, a native of Buchan, was arrested by security forces in July 2018 on charges of “collaborating with opposition parties” and was transferred to the Urmia Intelligence Detention Center. He was finally sentenced by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Mahabad to 2 years and 6 months in prison.

Hassan Beit Abdollah, a resident of Shush, was arrested by intelligence agents in October 2015, and eventually sentenced by the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court to 25 years in prison. These prisoners were transferred to Khalkhal Prison shortly after their detention.

Three Political Prisoners Sentenced to Additional Prison Time and Lashes in Urmia Prison

Political prisoners Nayeb Hajizadeh Yangjeh, Keyhan Mokarram al-Nabi, and Nayeb Askari were sentenced to a new sentence of prison time and flogging in connection with a recently opened case against them.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, the prisoners are currently being held in Urmia Prison in West Azerbaijan Province.

According to Branch 119 of the Criminal Court of Urmia, these prisoners were each sentenced to three months in prison and 50 lashes on a charge of “disrupting the prison order”.

According to HRANA’s report in July, per an informed source, the lawsuit was filed at the request of Urmia Prison Director Amir Sohrabi after several political prisoners protested the beating of Nayeb Hajizadeh by two prisoners accused of violent crimes.

It was said that one of the assailants was also summoned to the court as a witness in the case.

At Least one Prisoner Transferred to Solitary Confinement in Urmia Prison for Execution Preparation

This morning, Wednesday, August 4, at least one prisoner sentenced to death was transferred to solitary confinement in Urmia Prison.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, the prisoner was previously sentenced to death on drug-related charges.

The identity of this prisoner has been verified by HRANA as Ebrahim Nasrikhah.

Iran ranks first in the world in citizen executions per capita, according to international organizations. The Statistics and Publication Center of the Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) reported that between January 1 and December 20 of 2020, at least 236 citizens were executed.

One of these citizens was executed publicly, and two were juvenile offenders. An additional 95 citizens were sentenced to death.

According to the same report, more than 72% of executions in Iran are not reported by the government or the judiciary, which human rights organizations call “secret” executions.

82 Executions in Iran Between April and July

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, in July, Iran executed a staggering 38 individuals for crimes related to drugs, murder, and sexual offenses. In the previous three months, an additional 44 individuals faced the same fate. All of these executions took place under the direction of president-elect Ebrahim Raisi, who will assume office on Friday.

Raisi, who has been colloquially referred to as the “Ayatollah of Massacre” for his role in the extra-judicial executions of political prisoners in 1988, continues to evade accountability for his endless violations of human rights.

According to Senior Advocacy Coordinator, Skylar Thompson, “The impending Ebrahim Raisi presidency is a frightening illustration of the culture of impunity in the Islamic Republic of Iran; it shows that without international support for a meaningful pathway to accountability, Iranian citizens will continue to suffer at the hands of the regime.” She continued, “As Head of the Judiciary, Raisi presided over the highest number of executions per capita, and in addition has committed some of the most egregious crimes imaginable throughout his career, his impending position as President promises comparable ruthlessness”

In addition to the staggering number of executions, capital punishment sentencing is also on the rise [See figure 1]. In July alone, a total of 10 people were sentenced to death, compared with 6 in June, 3 in May, and 5 in April.

 

While the death penalty is not prohibited under international law,  in countries that have not abolished the death penalty, the sentence may only be legally imposed for ‘the most serious crimes’. According to HRC General Comment no. 36 on The Right to Life (GC 36), the phrase “the most serious crime” must be “read restrictively and apply only to crimes of extreme gravity”.

Iran’s judicial system interprets the phrase, to put it lightly, in a way that is less-than-restrictive.  Despite recent legal reforms, drug-related offenses accounted for the highest number of executions between April and July (48.8%).  GC 36 also establishes that “sexual offenses, while serious in nature, must never serve as a basis for the imposition of the death penalty”, but from April to July 2021, 4 individuals were executed in Iran on charges of a sexual offense.

 

 

One of the 10 executed in July was juvenile offender Baha al-din Ghasemzadeh. Juvenile executions are explicitly prohibited under international law, but they are an enduring practice within Iran’s criminal justice system. In fact, in a recent interview with Agence France-Presse, Secretary of the state-run High Council for Human Rights Majid Tafresh said that the Islamic Republic executes juvenile offenders “three to four times a year”, and claimed this should not be considered a human rights violation.

According to HRA’s Spreading Justice Project Manager, Parasto Azizi, “HRAs Spreading Justice team has documented several individuals including judges and prosecutors responsible for imposing the death penalty for crimes falling outside of those internationally recognized as most serious including illegally imposing the death penalty in cases involving juveniles.”

*In addition to the numbers analyzed in this report, on August 2nd, the day of publishing, two juvenile offenders were executed in Urmia Prison on drug-related charges.