Evin Prison Director Accused of Denying Outside Medical Care For Imprisoned US Resident Nizar Zakka
Zakka Pressured to Sign Farsi-Language Documents
The director of Evin Prison in Tehran, Ali Chaharmahali, is refusing to allow outside medical treatment for imprisoned US permanent resident Nizar Zakka, his US-based lawyer told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on September 7, 2017.
“The prison director two or three days ago was yelling in front of Nizar himself saying, ‘You’re not going anywhere’ and wouldn’t give a reason why,” said attorney Jason Poblete.
“Under US law, I cannot talk about Nizar’s illness, but he has authorized me to say that it is something that has developed inside prison,” added Poblete. “He was not having these problems when he went into prison and it has been getting worse.”
“Even the people at the prison clinic are saying that he needs treatment outside the prison, but the director says no,” Poblete told CHRI. “We believe him because frankly they don’t want anyone photographing him. They don’t want outside doctors to diagnose him and find out what’s wrong with him.”
Poblete also told CHRI that Zakka has repeatedly been pressured to sign documents in a language he can’t read.
“They told him yesterday [September 6, 2017] to sign some papers, but everything was in Farsi and nobody would translate for him,” Zakka’s lawyer told CHRI. “But he’s not going to sign anything he doesn’t understand. Before they had tried to make him sign confessions, which he will never do. He has no idea what they want him to sign.”
“You don’t tell somebody to sign a piece of paper and I’ll give you [medical] care,” he added. “That is a barbaric act.”
In August 2017, Iran’s Appeals Curt upheld a 10-year prison sentence and $4.2 million fine against Zakka for unspecified espionage charges.
Zakka, who was born in Lebanon, was living and working as an internet freedom advocate in Washington, DC, before he was arrested in Tehran in September 2015 while attending a conference on women and sustainable development.
Zakka had received an official invite from Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Mowlaverdi. Mowlaverdi is now President Hassan Rouhani’s special assistant for citizens’ rights.
“They should let him go,” Poblete told CHRI. “They shouldn’t keep him there. We realize they are keeping him for political purposes, but exploiting someone’s health to do these things is, of course, torture.”
The growing number of arrests of dual and foreign nationals in Iran reflects efforts by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Intelligence Ministry, as well as other hardline security agencies, to prevent the engagement with the West that the Rouhani administration has sought to encourage.