Saturday , 17 April 2021

Young Political Prisoner’s Life Hangs in the Balance in Tehran

Iranwire – News of the attempted suicide of Siamak Moghimi, a political prisoner being held in Greater Tehran Penitentiary (Fashafuyeh), has come to light in the past 48 hours. The 25-year-old had tried to end his own life at least six times before being incarcerated following the November 2019 protests. But despite his severe and worsening mental ill-health, the young man remains behind bars.

The news comes in the wake of the death of Behnam Mahjoubi, a Gonabadi dervish with a neurological disorder who was kept in prison despite having a doctor’s note warning of his unfitness for imprisonment, and who ultimately died in a coma. Now one of Siamak Moghimi’s fellow inmates has spoken to IranWire about their ongoing fears for his life.

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“Siamak had thrown a blanket over himself so that his cellmates would not notice what he was doing. He had cut his veins and torn his abdominal tissue. A few hours later, one of his cellmates noticed blood on the blanket and he was immediately taken to the hospital.”

So says a prisoner at Greater Tehran Penitentiary, in the aftermath of the re-hospitalization of Siamak Moghimi. This young prisoner of conscience was arrested in the aftermath of the November 2019 protests and sentenced to 10 years behind bars, with a minimum of five to be served.

Not long before his arrest, Siamakhad been released from a psychiatric hospital following a long inpatient stay. Despite his medical record and self-harm in prison, the judiciary has so far refused to release him on the grounds of mental ill-health.

“Siamak is usually terribly withdrawn,” the fellow inmate says, “because of the mental disorder he suffers from. We either we see him crying, or he is trying to hurt himself.

“Siamak’s body is full of wounds and traces of self-harm.His self-harm has become a daily occurrence. This is all are separate from the six suicide attempts that led to his transfer to the hospital.”

Letters Going Unsent – or Unanswered

The objection of the head of the FashafuyehPrison BrigadeTwo to sign a letter requesting Siamak Moghimi’s leavehas been cited in themediaas the reason for his recent suicide attempt. Mirza Aghaei, the director of the 2nd Brigade of Fashafouyeh Prison, is understood to have said in response to the request: “You are not entitled to any rights!”

“This is a very common procedure in prison,” said Siamak Moghimi’s fellow inmate. “For a prisoner’s letter to be sent off, it must first be signed by the prison director, then mailed to the various institutions.

“Ever since Mirza Aghaei took over as director of the Fashafuyeh’s 2nd Brigade, the normal practice of signing political prisoners’ letters has been disrupted. Prisoners accused of insulting the leader face have faced particularly severe harassment from Mirza Aghaei, and almost none of them have been able to obtain Mirza Aghaei’s signature for their correspondence.”

Siamak himself told his friend that when asked to sign the letter, Mirza Aghaei had told the prison’s assistant superintendent: “Because you do not participate in congregational prayers and Ashura pilgrimage ceremonies, I do not sign the letter, due to your lack of good morals!”

Another political prisoner who spoke to IranWire confirmed that another letter, requesting the formation of a medical committee to look into Siamak Moghimi’s case, had been sent to the forensic medicine unit back in January 2020 when the young man’s sentencing was under way. But a full 15 months later, it has yet to come forward with a report.

“The doctor’s letter confirming Siamak’s unfitness for prison was never submitted to the judiciar,” this prisoner said. “Siamak’s medical file was only transferred to the investigators in October 2020, and he was only examined by this committee two months ago. After all the life-threatening dangers he has faced, the forensic doctor has still not sent this letter to Evin Prison Court.”

Echoes of Recent Tragedy

The Prisons Organization is responsible for ensuring the health of its inmates, including political prisoners. But this same ultimately illegal process also recently led to the long delay in confirming the intolerance to confinement of Behnam Mahjoubi, a Gonabadi dervish who recently died in Loghman Hospital after suffering seizures in prison and being denied his medication.

Mehdi Mahmoudian, human rights activist who closely examined Behnam Mahjoubi’s medical records, has written on his Twitter page describing theeight-month delay in the approval of his medical release. During this period, Behnam Mahjoubi’s illness was confirmed at least twice by his personal physician and by the doctors of the Aminabad Psychiatric Hospital, but seemingly disregarded by the judiciary.

Fear Stalking the Corridors of Fashafuyeh Prison

The process has already taken much longer in the case of Siamak Moghimi, and time is of the essence in his case. His detention in Fashafuyeh, which has a long history of heightened persecution of political prisoners, is an additional cause for concern.

In recent months, in deference to the so-called “principle of separation of crimes”, political prisoners were transferred to Halls 9 and 10 of the 2nd Brigade. But Siamak Moqimi’s fellow inmate says there are also convicted financial criminals and non-political inmates in his hall, a number of whom have repeatedly harassed the political prisoners.

Among these, he added, is a man named Paiman, who was convicted in the Ansar Financial and Credit Institution case and whose father is a member of the Revolutionary Guards and the Expediency Council.He is said to sexually abuse young political prisoners in these halls of 2nd Brigade, where a number of people in their 20s are currently being held.

“One of our fellow inmates,” the prisoner says, “who was harassed by this person, went to the prison authorities to complain about him, but he was told that he must have a witness to file a complaint of sexual harassment.

“Now consider that we, along with Siamak Moghimi, who has a mental health condition, are all also in Hall 9 of the same brigade, right next to the hall where Paiman is being held.  Siamak has a history of repeated suicides and self-harm. If he feels threatened, he may react dangerously.”

Who to Hold Accountable?

Siamak Moghimi has told his fellow prisoners that a large number of state officials, including members of parliament, officials in Evin Prosecutor’s Office, Ali Bagheri Kani, the judiciary’s “deputy human rights officer”, and many others are fully aware of his dire situation and have yet to step in.

Less than two years ago a young man named Alireza Shirmohammed Ali was murdered in Fashafuyeh, suffering some 30 stabwounds at the hands of two convicted drug offenders. The lives of political prisoners in Fashafouyeh Prison are at continuous risk and little is being done to protect them either from their fellow prisoners, or from themselves.

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