Iran: Jailed Rights Defender Ailing

(Beirut) – Iranian authorities should immediately release Golrokh Iraee, a human rights defender hospitalized in Tehran, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraee was sentenced to six years in prison in April 2015 on charges solely related to her peaceful activism, after an unfair trial.

Iraee was transferred to a hospital from prison on April 3, apparently suffering medical complications from a hunger strike. The authorities allowed her family to visit on April 9.

“Iranian authorities are apparently so threatened by human rights defenders that they imprison them for years,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of making prison conditions worse, Iran should start listening to defenders’ demands for more rights and freedom for all citizens.”

On January 24, authorities transferred Iraee and Atena Daemi, another human rights defender, from Evin prison in Tehran to Qarchak prison in the city of Varamin, which is reputed to have worse conditions than Evin. On February 3, Daemi and Iraee embarked on a hunger strike to protest their transfer from Evin, activists’ families reported. Daemi ended her hunger strike on February 26, but Iraee continued hers until she was transferred to the hospital on April 3.

On April 3, Iraee’s family had traveled to Varamin in the hopes of visiting her in prison. When they arrived, authorities told them that she had been transferred to a hospital in Tehran but refused to provide the family any information about her location or condition. On April 9, authorities finally allowed Iraee’s father to visit her at a hospital in Tehran. A source who wished to remain anonymous told Human Rights Watch on April 9 that the visit lasted about an hour, and it was apparent that Iraee had lost a significant amount of weight.

On September 6, 2014, authorities from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Service arrested Iraee along with her husband, Arash Sadeghi, also a human rights defender, and two other people, and sent them to Evin prison. In April 2015, Judge Abdolghassem Salavati, from Branch 15 of Tehran’s revolutionary court who has sentenced dozens of activists to unfair prison sentences, sentenced Iraee to six years in prison on charges of “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state.” Authorities used an unpublished story Iraee had written about stoning that was confiscated at the time of her arrest as evidence to convict her.

Human Rights Watch had previously documented the couple’s lack of access to fair legal representation during their trial. Other human rights defenders have experienced similar conditions at their trials. Several other rights defenders serving long prison terms based solely on their peaceful activism and criticism include Narges Mohammadi and Abdolfatah Soltani, the former presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard, an author and activist who is Mousavi’s wife, have remained under house arrest in Tehran since February 2011.

“There is nothing to suggest that Iraee has committed any genuine crime and keeping her one more day behind bars is illegal,” Whitson said. “She should be released immediately.” (HRW – Apr. 10, 2018)

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