Sunday, May 24, 2009

Iranian Torture Prisoner on Hunger Strike

Written by The Media Line Staff
Published Sunday, May 24, 2009

New York-based Human Rights Watch called yesterday for the immediate release from an Iranian interrogation center of Behrooz Javid-Tehrani, a human rights activist who was first arrested in 1999 and has been in and out of prison ever since.

Javid-Tehrani, 29, has been on a hunger strike for over two weeks and is believed to have various health problems resulting from years of torture.

"The prison wardens do not show any concern for the prisoners on hunger strikes, and we have been informed that the officials have tied [Javid-Tehrani]'s arms and legs from behind and severely beaten him up," Kianoosh Sanjari, a spokesperson for the Iranian Political Prisoners' Association, told The Media Line.

"He was in solitary confinement next to me," said Sanjari, a former fellow prison inmate who has received asylum in the U.S. "He has endured severe torture many times before... I could hear him screaming."

Sanjari described the torture methods used by Iranian prison authorities: "Round the clock interrogation without food or water; threatening family members and falsely informing [the prisoner] of their deaths; simultaneous beatings by seven torturers; forced standing for 48 hours; lashings with thick cables and rough wires to beat the flesh out; standing on parts of the body; banging the head against the wall, and forbidding any visit by doctors."

Javid-Tehrani's sister, contacted by phone by Ahmad Batebi, another former prisoner recently escaped from Iran, confirmed that prison officials have tortured Javid-Tehrani.

In a letter written by Javid-Tehrani and revealed by Sanjari, the prisoner wrote: "For some time now, no one in this prison has been following up my ill health... deteriorating due to torture inflicted by the ‘Ministry for Security.’ The prison clinic refuses to refer me to a civilian hospital, as I need an M.R.I. I have been suffering from the loss of 50 percent of my vision due to blows to the back of my head which has partially damaged the rear of my brain.

"I have been captive for over 10 years as a political prisoner," Javid-Tehrani concluded. "Have I any option other than starting a hunger strike?"

"Court and prison officials have no respect for the basic rights of political prisoners and deny them medical care," said Sanjari. "When a political prisoner does not receive any medical attention and loses all hope, a hunger strike is the only tool he has to publicize his case."

Javid-Tehrani was first sentenced to eight years in prison for “acting against national security” during non-violent student demonstrations in 1999.

His sentence was commuted in 2003 but he was detained twice for advocating for the rights of political prisoners in front of the United Nations offices in Tehran.

During one of these detentions he was sent to Evin prison in Tehran where he and Sanjari were tortured by a prison official, who was referred to as Saeed Sheikhan.

In 2005, Javid-Tehrani began documenting the cases of various political prisoners and protesting the lack of transparency in the Iranian presidential elections, eventually won by Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad.

As part of his activities, Javid-Tehrani interviewed Akbar Mohammadi, a political prisoner who had been temporarily released. Mohammadi died shortly thereafter under suspicious circumstances during a hunger strike in prison.

Javid-Tehrani was re-arrested, repeatedly interrogated about the interview, and sentenced to over seven years in prison for “acts against state security,” and 40 lashes for “insulting the leadership and the state” by the same judge who later sentenced Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi to eight years in prison for espionage.

Javid-Tehrani, who is being held in the “doghouse” section of Gohar Dasht prison north of Tehran, has never had access to a lawyer.

Despite an independent medical examination, which confirmed he had been tortured while in prison, and the partial loss of his eyesight due to head injuries inflicted by prison authorities, requests for Javid-Tehrani to be given a medical release have been denied.

Beyond a series of suspicious prisoner deaths, Gohar Dasht was also the site of the mass executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

Human Rights Watch raised Javid-Tehrani's case yesterday out of fear for his life.
“The Iranian government is legally bound to ensure safety and provide healthcare for all its prisoners,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Behrooz Javid-Tehrani, who is critically ill, is in prison for his peaceful political dissent and his human rights advocacy... He should never have been imprisoned in the first place and he should be released at once or he will likely die in prison.”

"It was in this prison that prisoners such as Amir Saran, Omid Reza Mirsayafii and a student named Akbar Mohammadi recently lost their lives under extremely suspicious circumstances," Sanjari added.

"The prison officials once told [Javid-Tehrani]: 'You counter revolutionary idiot, you will soon join your friend Saran.' At the time of Akbar Mohammadi's hunger strike, the wardens had also tied his arms and legs to a bed and taped his mouth [shut] so his voice would never be heard...
“Just before he lost his life, he was told by the wardens, 'Even if you die like a dog we have nothing to do with you.'"


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