“If Something Should Happen to My Father, Khamenei Himself Is Responsible,” Says Saharkhiz Son
Iranian journalist Issa Saharkhiz is on a hunger and medicine strike at Evin Prison in Tehran, his son told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. According to Mehdi Saharkhiz, Issa Saharkhiz embarked on a hunger strike on the evening of August 28, when he was transferred back to Evin Prison, and began refusing medicine on September 4.
“The night they transferred my father from hospital to prison, he announced he was going on a hunger strike and that if he were kept in prison, he would refuse his medicine, too. According to letters from the Medical Examiner and the Medical Commission, my father’s continued treatment should have taken place at home and he should not have been returned to prison under any circumstances, because the prison conditions and atmosphere are dangerous for him. Even so, in an abrupt move, without the knowledge of my father’s medical team or our family, they transferred him from the hospital to Evin Prison on the night of August 28,” Mehdi Saharkhiz told the Campaign.
Issa Saharkhiz, political activist, journalist, and former head of the Ministry of Culture and Guidance’s Domestic Press in Mohammad Khatami’s cabinet, was arrested on July 3, 2009, in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election. Security forces assaulted Saharkhiz during his arrest, breaking his ribs. During his stay in prison, he has developed acute heart and muscular problems. He was transferred to a hospital on February 16, 2012, where he remained under medical care until August 28.
“Unfortunately, since the day he was returned to prison, we have had no news about him. My father’s condition is acute, due to his illnesses, and may even lead to his death. If something should happen to my father, Khamenei himself is responsible for it. He is a man who cannot tolerate even the smallest criticism, and this is why he treats imprisoned journalists as a personal vendetta, and because of his unwarranted illusions of grandeur,” the younger Saharkhiz told the Campaign.
Issa Saharkhiz was sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “propaganda against the regime,” and two additional years in prison for his previous journalistic activities. In a July 2011 letter addressed to Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, he asked Shaheed to travel to Iran as soon as possible and to closely observe the conditions of political prisoners. One year after writing that letter and exactly one day before the arrival of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Tehran to attend the meeting of the Non-Alligned Movement, Saharkhiz was abruptly moved from the hospital to Evin Prison.
“Maybe Ban Ki-moon had asked to see my father in the hospital, and that’s why they suddenly transferred him to prison at night. I don’t know, but judging from this treatment, I think it’s possible that because of the letters my father wrote to the United Nations, the authorities wanted to get him out of the hospital before the UN Secretary-General’s arrival, so that he would no longer be accessible,” Mehdi Saharkhiz added.
Since his arrest in July 2009, Issa Saharkhiz has not been allowed a single day of furlough. In August 2012, before his sudden transfer, Saharkhiz wrote a letter to the Tehran Prosecutor asking to use his legal right to furlough, which, according to Mehdi Saharkhiz, never received a reply.