Thursday, September 07, 2006

New death of political prisoner in Iran

Human Rights Watch, New York -- The death of a second prisoner held for political beliefs in five weeks shows that political prisoners’ health and safety is in grave danger, Human Rights Watch said today. The death of Valiollah Feyz Mahdavi, which was announced by the Iranian government yesterday, followed the death of Akbar Mohammadi on July 30. Both had been on hunger strike protesting prison conditions and their detention on dubious allegations.

“Iranian prison officials have a track record of giving false information about the fate of political prisoners,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “After two deaths in just a few weeks, there must be accountability for what is going on inside Iran’s prisons.”

Mohammadi, 38, a student activist, died on July 30. His family, who saw his body at the time of burial, told Human Rights Watch that they saw numerous markings on the body consistent with torture. The authorities forced Mohammadi’s parents to bury him immediately, ignoring their demand for an independent autopsy. Justice Minister Jamal Karimirad said on July 31 that the cause of his death was unknown and that results of an autopsy would be announced in a month. More than a month later, Iranian officials have yet to provide any further information on the cause of death.

On September 6, Iranian Labor News Agency reported Mahdavi’s death, citing claims by government officials that “he committed suicide.” Mahdavi was a 28-year-old sympathizer of the outlawed opposition group Mojahedin Khalq Organization. He had been admitted to Tehran’s Shariati Hospital on Saturday, September 2, following a nine-day hunger strike.