Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Imprisoned Students Live under the Shadow of Death

Maryam Kashani, Rooz Online:
Akbar Mohammadi, the leading student charged for the 1999 student's protests was announced dead in Evin prison last week. The tragic event took place even though he himself had warned of such a possibility just four days before his death, in a letter that he had sent to his family members. In his letter he also wrote:
"I have been in prison for 7 years and have gone through tremendous physical and psychological pressure. I now suffer from different illnesses, including back pain which is the result of stone-age tortures that I was subjected to during my preliminary interrogations. Because of these back pains, prison authorities allowed me to take a so-called ‘indefinite’ leave from prison. They feared these injuries could paralyze or kill me, which would create serious consequences for them, and add to their already tarnished image. Doctors at the hospital told me that I needed to be operated outside Iran. With the passage of time, when prison officials learned that I was still alive, they simply recalled me back to prison. And since my last month's return to Evin prison, my repeated calls to prison clinic for treatment have fallen on deaf ears. Their responses have varied from ignoring my requests, swearing and insulting at me. Since I believe authorities are preparing to humiliate and kill me, I have decided to reject their oppressive methods and die a dignified and proud death and decide my fate. Therefore, since authorities do not respond to my legal requests, I will go on an indefinite hunger strike to call for my release, and to protest the systematic violation of human rights by the Islamic Republic’s government, as well as call for the release of all political prisoners in Iran. Needles to say, the highest officials of the Islamic Republic are directly responsible to whatever happens to me to which they must respond.” READ MORE
A few days later, the request of Khalil Bahramian, Mohammadi's lawyer to see his client was turned down by prison officials because they said he was on a hunger strike. Bahramian told the press the same day that his client’s rights were denied to him and that despite being in prison for over six years, he had only been allowed to visit his family once.

Akbar Mohammadi's cellmates in notorious Evin said that in his fourth day of hunger strike, his physical condition had severely deteriorated. Finally Akbar Mohammadi lost consciousness in ward 350 of Evin and was transferred to the prison clinic. According to other cell mates, the clinic did not treat him. Prison security agents brought Akbar’s brother Manoutchehr to try to persuade Akbar out of his hunger strike. But Akbar insisted as the only choice he had against officials. At this time, other prisoners whose conditions were no better, launched their support for him:
Akbar Mohammadi was arrested in 1999 during the student uprising and suffered injuries caused by torture. He had been received three surgeries in connection with his injured back. He was given a 2 year leave from prison to avoid outcomes such as those of Zahra Kazemi who died in prison. When Ahmadinejad won the presidency last year, Akbar was recalled back to prison. According to his cell mates, on the sixth day of his hunger strike, he lost consciousness and his cellmates took him to the prison clinic.
The letter was signed by these cellmates: Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, Manoutchehr Mohammadi, Ahmad Batebi, Behruz Javid Tehrani, Mohammad-Reza Khansari, Mehrdad Lohrasbi, Arjang Davoudi, Khaled Hardani, Amir Heshmat Saran, Valiollah Feizmahdavi, Assad Shagagi, Khalil Shalchi, Afshin Ba-Imani, Siamak Pourzand, Hashem Shahinnia, Shahin Aryanejad, Shahram Pourmansouri, Jafar Aghdami, Mohammadreza Rajabi, Heydargholi Soltani, Mohammad Nikbakht, Naser Kheyrollahi, Ebrahim Momeni.

But even these calls did not affect prison and other officials. According to the Student Committee of Gozareshgaran Hoghoogh Bashar (Human rights reporters),On his ninth day of hunger strike while he was in the bath of his ward, Akbar Mohammadi’s heart stopped, and the efforts of prison doctors to revive him failed, and he passed away in the later hours of last night.”

His lawyer Bahramian says he is preparing charges against officials who returned Mohammadi to prison from his leave. He questions the motives of prison officials for transferring Akbar to his prison cell after he had a minor stroke in the bath room. He says, "His second stroke killed him since he had been subjected to the worst psychological tortures, which finally killed him, or in my view they killed him. From what I have heard, he was put under pressure even when he was taken to the prison clinic where his mouth was taped to prevent him from expressing his protests.” When Mohammadi was on leave, “doctors had said that he should not be returned to prison because of the seriousness of his health conditions, but still somebody had ordered him to return, which is the cause of his death. Whoever made that decision must be charged with the consequences of his act,” Bahramian said.

But does he believe this charge and suit will bring about anything? “I have to pursue my duty. With full force. I fight for the rights of people. But the changes of success are little. The people of Iran must see the results. They must act to prevent such destruction. Especially as Manoutcher Mohammadi’s condition is very critica too,l he is on the verge of dying. I am returned from a meeting that I just had with him. He is in really bad condition. He will either go insane or he will have a heart attack. I had issued warnings to the prison director and the deputy prosecutor on this. I have told them that Manoutchehr Mohammadi is next in line, unless they change their ways. Then it will be Ahmad Batebi’s turn who is also in bad medical shape. I think there is a plan to get rid of all of these kids,” Bahramian warned.

But does the same fate to which Akbar was subjected await Manoutchehr Mohammadi, Batebi and other prisoners? His last words were that he holds the leadership of Iran’s government responsible for whatever happens to him, who must respond.