On Hunger Strike, Imprisoned Music Distributors’ Health Deteriorates
Imprisoned music distributors Mehdi Rajabian and Hossein Rajabian are in poor health after starting a hunger strike on September 8, 2016 in Evin Prison. The brothers are protesting being held in separate wards and the denial of access to medical care.
An informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that judicial officials have rejected Mehdi Rajabian’s requests for treatment for symptoms of multiple sclerosis detected by doctors after he endured intense interrogation sessions. Both brothers are also suffering from blood infections.
“On September 8, following a discussion with prison officials about the need for medical furlough (temporary leave) to receive treatment, guards entered Ward 7 and separated Mehdi from his brother and moved him to Ward 8. The brothers protested and immediately began a hunger strike,” said the source.
Political prisoners in Iran routinely receive discriminatory treatment, including denial of necessary medical treatment.
The Rajabian brothers, along with Yousef Emadi, were managing partners in Barg Music, a popular online music distribution service launched in 2009, when they were arrested on October 5, 2013 by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization and accused of “spreading corruption” for distributing music without a permit and working with female singers (who are prohibited from singing solo) and “anti-revolutionary” musicians abroad. The three maintain that they sought but never received permits for their work, which was never political in nature.
In May 2015, during a trial that lasted less than an hour, Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced the three men to six years in prison and imposed a fine of 200 million rials (approximately $6,600 USD) each for “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state.” The Appeals Court reduced their prison sentences to three years with an additional suspended three-year prison sentence.
The three were summoned to Evin Prison to begin their sentence on May 26, 2016, but the date was postponed until June 4 because Mehdi Rajabian was undergoing medical treatment.
The year of 2015 saw an alarming number of artists harassed and punished in Iran, with heavy prison sentences issued for creating and publishing work deemed offensive by the authorities.
Since 2013, when President Hassan Rouhani was voted into office while promising a more open society, numerous state-sanctioned musicians, including the popular musical artists Alireza Ghorbani and Sirvan Khosravi, have also seen their concerts canceled at the last moment.