Continued Imprisonment Could Cause Irreversible Damage to Her Health
(January 17, 2014)—The Iranian Judiciary should immediately release imprisoned student activist Bahareh Hedayat before continued imprisonment and lack of adequate medical treatment for her chronic reproductive system problems cause irreversible damage to her health, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. The Judiciary and the Prisons Organization should also release the other activists still imprisoned for their peaceful protests of 2009, as allowed by Article 134 of the new Islamic Penal Code, the Campaign added.
“If Article 134 of the new Islamic Penal Code is used in Bahareh’s case, she can be released after serving half of her [9.5-year] sentence, which is five years,” Amin Ahmadian, Hedayat’s husband, told the Campaign. Hedayat was arrested on December 31, 2009. Ahmadian also told the Campaign that Hedayat has been experiencing serious health issues that could potentially leave her sterile if left untreated. “Bahareh suffers from chronic reproductive system problems and the doctors believe that if her treatment is delayed, she may not be able to have children in the future,” he said.
“The fact that by law these prisoners should be released, and yet those laws are not being enforced, exacerbates the unacceptable prison conditions and inhumane treatment of political prisoners in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “There has been a pattern of negligence and even of prison officials ignoring prisoners’ health as a form of additional punishment, which has caused permanent damage to a number of prisoners in the past. This must be stopped,” Ghaemi added.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has consistently reported on the deteriorating health of prisoners of conscience inside Iranian prisons, where they are denied access to proper and effective medical treatment, particularly specialized treatment. Bahareh Hedayat is one of several political prisoners facing irreversible health conditions due to their lack of access to proper medical care. In November 2013, Abdolfattah Soltani, an imprisoned lawyer and human rights activist, embarked on a hunger strike together with three other political prisoners to protest the conditions of sick prisoners who need medical treatment and have been refused transfers to a hospital. In at least one case, the case of Hoda Saber, a prisoner died at Evin Prison when prison authorities failed to transfer him to a medical facility in time.
Ahmadian also told the Campaign that according to Article 134 of the new Islamic Penal Code, convicts with multiple charges should receive only the maximum penalty for their most serious charges, rather than consecutive penalties for each lesser charge. Most of the individuals arrested in the post-election unrest in 2009 were charged with multiple interrelated crimes such as “propaganda against the regime,” “acting against national security,” and “insulting the Supreme Leader or the President,” combining to form long prison sentences.
Amin Ahmadian told the Campaign that currently 15 female political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are being kept inside Evin Prison’s Women’s Ward, but that Article 134 of the new Islamic Penal Code should allow for their release. “If this article is enforced, many of the current political prisoners will be released. But of course what lies behind these [prison sentences] is not an article of the law alone, but a political will to let them go or not,” he added.
Lawyer and member of the Defenders of Human Rights Center Mahnaz Parakand described the potential impact of the new Islamic Penal Code on prisoners of conscience in an interview with the Campaign earlier this month. “According to the old Islamic Penal Code, if a person was convicted of several crimes, he would have to endure all the related sentences, whereas under the new Islamic Penal Code, if a person commits several crimes, he will only be sentenced to punishment for the crime with the heaviest sentence. After 2009, we have had many prisoners who have been charged with several crimes such as ‘propaganda against the regime,’ ‘assembly and collusion against national security,’ and ‘insulting the Supreme Leader.’ If sentences for all of these charges were to be added together, the individual would receive more than ten years in prison, but no court has so far implemented the new Islamic Penal Code for these individuals. If implemented, many of them should be released now or their sentences would be decreased,” Parakand explained.
The Campaign urges the Iranian Judiciary and Prisons Organization to enforce Article 134 of the new Islamic Penal Code also for prisoners already serving time in prisons, allowing for earlier release. “The Iranian Judiciary circulated the new Islamic Penal Code to the Prisons Organization for enforcement about four months ago, and the Prisons Organization informed prison officials of the new law. Bahareh said that about three months ago, prison authorities asked inmates with multiple convictions to submit requests for enforcement of this article in their cases. As far as I know, all political prisoners have submitted their requests,” Ahmadian told the Campaign.
Student and women’s rights activist Bahareh Hedayat, now 32, is a former member of the Central Council and the Spokesperson for the nationwide student organization Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat. A Tehran court sentenced her to a total of nine years and six months in prison, comprised of two years for “insulting the Supreme Leader,” six months for “insulting the President,” and five years for “acting against national security and publishing falsehoods.” She was also sentenced to an additional two years in prison for “acting against national security through holding a protest gathering for women” on June 12, 2006, currently suspended.
Iranian students see Bahareh Hedayat as a symbol of independent dissident students. In order to pressure her and warn others not to protest, authorities kept her at Evin Prison’s Methadone Ward with prisoners detained on drug trafficking charges and suspended her visitation rights for months at a time. In 2012, Bahareh Hedayat was awarded Sweden’s Harald Edelstam Prize for her “outstanding contributions and exceptional courage in standing up for active justice against violations of human rights in Iran.”
“We hope that with the changes in the political atmosphere, students who were convicted by virtue of their  elections activities and for protesting the previous administration are released, because that issue has ended. That administration is gone and a new cabinet has begun work and the new government is putting former officials from [former President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad to [former Tehran Prosecutor] Saeed Mortazavi, on trial. Therefore there is no more reason for keeping students who were arrested merely for protesting what was happening back then in prison,” Amin Ahmadian told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“Bahareh’s lawyer is also pursuing this matter from outside the prison, but they have not responded to her lawyer yet. If they agree to the request, her case will be forwarded to the lower court, Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court under Judge Moghiseh, for reconsideration,” he added. Asked about Bahareh Hedayat’s health conditions, her husband told the Campaign, “The doctors have said that she needs to be in a stress-free environment, and this is not possible inside the prison. When she came home on furlough last September she began her treatment, but her treatment was abandoned when she had to return to prison.”
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran calls on the Iranian Judiciary to provide adequate health services to prisoners, to enforce the new Islamic Penal Code and release all political prisoners, and to immediately release Bahareh Hedayat to undergo urgent medical treatment.
“Ms. Hedayat’s case highlights the bigger issue of denial of urgent healthcare in Iranian prisons,” said Executive Director Ghaemi. “The Iranian Judiciary is responsible for the health of the individuals it sends to prison. Any harm caused by negligence or refusal of care amounts to inhumane treatment, going against domestic and international law,” he added.