Health of Three Men at Risk
June 5, 2008
It’s outrageous that these men’s health is being comprised for no apparent reason. Iranian authorities have yet to produce evidence for why these men are in prison to begin with, and now they are refusing to provide them with adequate care.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch

Iranian authorities should immediately grant three men detained on politically motivated charges access to proper medical care, Human Rights Watch said today. Cleric Ayatollah Kazemi Boroujerdi, journalist and activist Mohammad-Sadiq Kaboudvand, and prominent human rights defender Emad Baghi are in poor health and urgently require specialist medical attention.

The authorities are holding all three men in section 209 of Evin prison, a security unit where Human Rights Watch has previously documented abuses. Baghi had a heart attack on May 11 and Kaboudvand had a stroke on May 19, while Boroujerdi suffers from a range of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and heart disease.

“It’s outrageous that these men’s health is being comprised for no apparent reason,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Iranian authorities have yet to produce evidence for why these men are in prison to begin with, and now they are refusing to provide them with adequate care.”

In March and April 2008, authorities transferred Boroujerdi to the prison clinic on numerous occasions. According to sources familiar with his case, Boroujerdi’s physical and mental health have continued to deteriorate, and the authorities have denied his repeated requests to access outside medical care.

On October 8, 2006, authorities arrested Boroujerdi at his house in Tehran and transferred him to Evin 209. In July 2007, the Special Court for the Clergy convicted him on unknown charges in a closed court. Boroujerdi espouses an interpretation of Islam that calls for the separation of religion and politics. It appears likely that the authorities have targeted him for his critical views about the current form of the Iranian government.

Throughout his detention, Boroujerdi has not had access to a lawyer or physician of his choice.

Baghi, who had previously served a three-year sentence for his writings, has been in Evin Prison since October 2007. On October 14, Branch 1 of the Security Unit of the General and Revolutionary Public Prosecutor’s Office charged him with “propaganda against the State” and “publishing secret government documents” in his capacity as president of the Society for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, a nongovernmental organization that he founded in 2003.

While in solitary confinement in Evin 209, Baghi developed heart problems. In February 2008, authorities granted him a two-month release from prison on medical grounds, although they continued to summon and question him during this time. After the expiration of his release on April 15, authorities rearrested Baghi and returned him to prison.

On May 11, Baghi suffered a heart attack. Authorities transferred him to the prison’s clinic but soon returned him to his cell.

Kaboudvand, a journalist and a founder of Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, was arrested in 2007 on charges of “endangering national security” and “propaganda against the State.”

On May 19, 2008, Kaboudvand suffered a heart attack in prison. According to public statements by his lawyer, Kaboudvand’s numerous requests for medical care have gone unheeded.

Kaboudvand was also the owner, general manager, and editor of the Persian-language newspaper Payam-e Mardom, which the government suspended in 2005. In April 2006, the Public Prosecutor’s Court in Sanandaj gave him a suspended sentence of one year in prison on charges of “creating splits among groups of people by raising tribal and racial issues.”

Under the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, prisoners who require specialist treatment should be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals.

“The Iranian authorities are responsible for the well-being of these prisoners,” said Whitson. “This includes ensuring that each of the three men get immediate access to the specialist care that they need. If this care is not available in the prison, it should be provided outside.”