Imprisoned Iran-Born Swedish Resident Refusing Food and Water in Desperate Bid for Justice
Rouhani Officials Ignore Jalali’s Wife’s Letters
Iranian-born Swedish resident Ahmadreza Jalali is protesting his detainment in Iran since April 2016 without charge and denial of access to due process by refusing food and water.
“On Thursday (February 23) Ahmadreza’s relatives in Tehran visited him in prison and said he had lost a lot of weight and was in a bad mental state,” Mehran-nia told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “He also has chest and kidney pains.”
Jalali stopped eating food on February 15, 2017 and shifted to a dry hunger strike on February 24.
Officials within the administration of President Hassan Rouhani have meanwhile not responded to letters from his wife, Vida Mehran-nia, demanding justice for her husband.
“A month ago (January 2017), I wrote a letter to Hassan Rouhani and asked for his help,” said Mehran-nia. “For the sake of an innocent citizen behind bars, I asked him to look into the unjust treatment Ahmadreza has received and to investigate Judge (Abolghasem) Salavati’s death threats. I haven’t gotten a response yet.”
“Is this justice? I also wrote to the judiciary’s Human Rights director Mohammad Javad Larijani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif,” she said. “None of them have replied to me.”
Jalali has been repeatedly denied lawyers of his choice and told by his interrogators and the presiding judge before the start of his trial that he will be sentenced to death.
“Judge Salavati rejected Ahmadreza’s first lawyer, Mr. Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee (prominent human rights lawyer),” Mehran-nia told the Campaign.
“Then, four months ago, the court accepted Ahmadreza’s new lawyer, Ms. Zeinab Taheri, but now that we are getting close to the date of the trial, Judge Salavati is saying he won’t accept her either, and Ahmadreza has to find yet another lawyer,” she said.
“Judge Salavati rejected Jalali’s lawyer and demanded that the lawyer be changed or a public defender would be imposed by the court,” she added. “Jalali said he would not change his lawyer and that if his lawyer was not permitted to attend the trial, he would not show up in court either.”
“What could all this mean other than the fact that Ahmadreza is innocent?” said Mehran-nia. “They have nothing on him and they just want to take away his ability to defend himself in court.”
“Ahmadreza had no choice but to go on a hunger strike to make his voice heard,” she told the Campaign.
Salavati is infamous for imposing harsh sentences in politicized cases.
In interviews with the Campaign, several lawyers have criticized Salavati for ignoring arguments by the defense in court and bowing to the demands of the prosecution, especially in cases in which the arresting authority was the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization.
He is also the presiding judge in current cases against dual nationals including against Iranian-American Siamak Namazi, his father Bagher Namazi, and British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
In all these cases, the victims have been held without due process and under unclear or unannounced charges, and denied full and proper legal representation.
“We kept quiet for nine months and didn’t say anything about Ahmadreza’s detention because we thought he would go free, as the authorities kept saying he would,” Mehran-nia told the Campaign. “But we’ve had enough of all this injustice.”
In April 2016, Jalali, who lives in Sweden with his wife and two children, was officially invited by Tehran University to speak about his knowledge and experience as a disaster medical response expert.
On April 24, 2016 he was arrested by Intelligence Ministry agents and held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison’s Ward 209 where he was interrogated for seven months.
The charges against Jalali have not been publicly disclosed.
The Judiciary’s ongoing imprisonment of dual nationals contradicts Rouhani’s repeated calls for expatriates to return to Iran. The growing number of arrests also reflects hardliners’ efforts to prevent the engagement with the West that the Rouhani administration has sought to encourage.
Iranian-British dual citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016, has been held since April 2016; Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, held since October 15, 2015 and his father, 80-year-old Bagher Namazi, held since February 2016, have both been sentenced to ten years in prison; Iranian-American Robin (Reza) Shahini, held since July 2016; has been sentenced to 18 years in prison, British-Iranian Roya Saberi Nobakht, held since October 2013, has been sentenced to seven years; and Iranian-Austrian dual citizen Kamran Ghaderi, held since January 2016, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Iranian-American Karan Vafadari, held since July 2016, has not been sentenced yet.