Middle East: Torture and risk of death: NGOs warn of fate of prisoners in Iran

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Middle EastRisks of torture and death: NGOs warn of fate of prisoners in Iran

Iranian activists arrested in connection with the crackdown on protests have limited contact with the outside world and risk torture or death in custody.

A cell in Evin prison in Tehran.

AFP

Mahza Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, died on September 16, three days after she was arrested under a strict dress code imposed by the Morality Police.

In recent days, shocking footage of the arrest of freedom of speech defender Hossein Ronaki has emerged, showing him being choked and forcibly taken away when he reported to the prosecutor’s office in September.

Since his arrest on September 24, this staunch critic of the Islamic Republic, a contributor to the “Wall Street Journal,” has been held in Tehran’s Evin prison. According to his family, he suffers from broken legs and is at risk of dying in custody due to kidney failure.

After the October 15 prison fire, Hossein Ronaghy “briefly called his mother but was unable to speak as her condition worsened,” his brother Hassan Ronaghy wrote on Twitter. “Hossein’s life is in danger,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

‘Danger of Torture’

Like him, leading human rights activists, journalists and lawyers have been arrested and their supporters fear they will not make it out of Evin prison, where most political prisoners are held, alive, the NGO said.

The prison fire, which killed eight people according to officials, only heightened concerns about their health. Activists have accused authorities of firing tear gas and iron balls inside the prison.

“Prisoners, often forcibly disappeared, are at risk of being tortured and dying. Urgent action by the international community is crucial at this point,” argues Mahmoud Amiri-Moghadam, director of Iran Human Rights (IHR).

Thousands of people have been arrested during the crackdown in the country, including at least 36 journalists, 170 students, 14 lawyers and more than 580 civil society activists, workers and union leaders, according to this Oslo-based NGO.

Roya Boroumand, director of the Abdorahman Boroumand Center, a Washington-based NGO, told AFP that the situation had worsened with the arrival of new prisoners at Evin and Fashafuye prisons. “We are very concerned about the inmates who have no choice but to sit or sleep due to lack of space,” she said.

“Thinking: A Crime?”

According to analysts, mass arrests have been one of the main strategies of the authorities under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to combat the protests, one of the biggest challenges to power since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Amnesty International this week called for independent monitoring “to protect detainees from further unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment”.

Activist Majid Tavagoli, who has been jailed on several occasions, notably after the disputed elections in 2009, has been detained since his arrest on 23 September.

His family says they haven’t heard from him since the fire in Evin. “Why can’t a man whose brain is his only instrument be free? Is it a crime to think? His wife asked on Twitter.

“severely struck”

Arash Sadeghi, who was released in May after years of imprisonment, was re-incarcerated in Evin prison on October 12 after suffering from a rare form of bone cancer, chondrosarcoma. His father shared a photo on Twitter of the dozen or so boxes of medicine he needed. “You can put his body in jail, but his soul is still with the people,” he said.

The IHR expressed concern over the prosecution of uninformed activists, including journalist and human rights defender Colroque Eyre and prominent tech blogger Amir Emand Mirmirani. According to the IHR, some detainees “confessed on television, under coercion and torture”.

Detainees “testified that they were severely beaten, tortured during interrogations, and deprived of food and drinking water,” Roya Borrumond reported. “Prisoners are left with gunshot wounds and broken limbs without medical attention.”

(AFP)

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