Iranian-American “Completely Isolated” in Iran’s Gorgan Prison
Iranian-American political prisoner Reza (Robin) Shahini is being held in adverse conditions with dangerous criminals in Gorgan Prison, 186 miles northeast of Tehran in Golestan Province, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned.
“Reza is facing a lot of discrimination and hardship and the prison officials justify it because he’s accused of national security crimes,” an informed source told the Campaign. “He is being kept in a ward with murder suspects and drug traffickers. His cellmates call him names like ‘foreigner’ and ‘spy’ and have warned him not to speak to them. So, basically he has been completely isolated and has become very weak.”
According to Article 1 of the Separation and Classification of Prisoners Regulations, inmates should be held in separate wards based on gender, type of crime, legal status (suspect or convict), and health to “preserve the rights and dignity of prisoners and maximize security within prisons.”
Born in Iran, Shahini, 47, immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 and settled in San Diego, California. He traveled to Iran to visit his family in late May 2016 and was arrested on July 11, nine days before he was scheduled to return home.
On October 15, 2016, the Revolutionary Court in Gorgan sentenced him to 18 years in prison for “acting against national security,” “participating in protest gatherings in 2009,” “collaborating with Voice of America (VOA) television” and “insulting the sacred on Facebook.”
“The appeal against the prison sentence has not yet been submitted to the court, but his new lawyer is going to do that in the next few days,” the informed source told the Campaign.
“Reza has asked many times to be moved to Evin Prison because there are no other political prisoners in Gorgan Prison,” added the source. “But unfortunately he has been denied every time. He doesn’t even have permission to borrow a book from the library and when he goes to the prison clinic for medication for his severe asthma, they don’t treat him right.”
Political prisoners in Iran are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of medical care.
In May 2016 Shahini graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in international security and conflict resolution and had been accepted to the university’s homeland security graduate program.
“All the accusations against Reza were based on his writings and photos posted on his Facebook page, as well as his interviews with Voice of America several years ago, and a couple of other articles in the IranGlobal and Khodnevis websites,” a source told the Campaign in October.
“For instance, he posted photos on Facebook showing people celebrating and protesting before and after the (contested) 2009 presidential election,” added the source. “He also posted photos of people like [former Crown Prince] Reza Pahlavi, [former President] Abolhassan Banisadr and [political commentator in exile] Akbar Ganji… But after 2011 he had no [political] activities and after hearing Rouhani’s speeches, he thought he could return to Iran and visit his family without any problems.”
A number of other dual nationals who were initially detained by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization are currently imprisoned in Iran without access to due process including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father Bagher Namazi, Kamal Foroughi, and Karan Vafadari.
The growing number of arrests reflects hardliners’ efforts to prevent the engagement with the West that President Hassan Rouhani, who will seek a second term in office in May 2017, has sought to encourage.