London, 17 Nov – Amnesty International has called for the immediate and unconditional release of eight prisoners of conscience in Iran – among them human rights defenders, activists, artists and teachers – who have gone on hunger strike to protest against their imprisonment. Their health is deteriorating fast, the human rights group said in an appeal this week.
Mohammad Ali Taheri, spiritual teacher
Iranian prisoner of conscience Mohammad Ali Taheri has completed his five-year prison sentence and all other charges against him have been dropped – but still he is detained. Under Iranian law, this is illegal. His sentence was for “insulting Islamic sanctities” through establishing a spiritual doctrine and group called Erfan-e Halgheh, and he served it entirely in solitary confinement. On 28 September he launched his 16th hunger strike in protest at his continued imprisonment. Since 16 October, the authorities have refused to give his family any information about his health or whereabouts and have denied him access to his lawyer and family.
Mehdi and Hossein Rajabian, artists
Musician Mehdi Rajabian and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian are currently serving three-year prison terms imposed for their artistic activities. The brothers were convicted in 2015 after a blatantly unfair trial on charges that included “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “illegal audio-visual activities”. On 28 October, they each began a hunger strike for a second time to demand their immediate release. Since starting his hunger strike, Mehdi Rajabian has coughed up blood twice and says that he was punched in the stomach by a prison doctor after being taken to the prison clinic. Amnesty International is urging the Iranian authorities to grant the brothers access to a qualified health professional, as well as their freedom.
Arash Sadeqhi, human rights defender
Arash Sadeghi is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence on charges including “spreading propaganda against the system” and “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic”, which stem from his peaceful human rights activities, including corresponding with Amnesty International. He has said that he was punched in the head, kicked, slapped and choked while in custody. He started a hunger strike on 24 October in protest at the arrest of his wife, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, who was sentenced to prison for writing a story against stoning. Arash Sadeghi is experiencing fast heartbeats, breathing difficulties and severe drops in his blood pressure but has said he will not end his hunger strike until his wife is freed.
Ali Shariati, civil society activist
Peaceful activist Ali Shariati is serving a five-year prison sentence after being convicted of “gathering and colluding against national security”. The conviction relates to his peaceful activities, including participating in a demonstration to condemn a series of acid attacks against women and attending gatherings in solidarity with political prisoners. He has started a hunger strike to demand his freedom, and it has lead to a rapid deterioration in his health. He is experiencing breathing difficulties, fast heartbeats, severe drops in his blood pressure, kidney pain and slurred speech, and has lost consciousness several times. The Office of the Prosecutor is refusing to release him and has told his family “they do not care if he dies”.
Morteza Moradpour, Vaheed Sayyadi and Rasoul Razavi
Three other prisoners of conscience – Morteza Moradpour, Vaheed Sayyadi and Rasoul Razavi – are also on hunger strike demanding their freedom.
“The Iranian authorities must immediately release these prisoners of conscience,” Amnesty said in its appeal, adding: “They were detained for peacefully exercising their human rights and should never have been forced to spend a single minute behind bars. Iran must put an end to this abhorrent situation before the health of these prisoners worsens any further.”