Outspoken Political Prisoner Maryam Akbari-Monfared Denied Medical Care and Furlough
Political prisoner Maryam Akbari-Monfared is being denied specialized medical care despite her worsening health, according to her husband, Hassan Jafari.
“Thyroid disease is causing her a lot of suffering,” he told CHRI in an interview on September 25, 2017. “We also scheduled a gynecologist to see her for a feminine issue, but unfortunately it was denied.”
“The clinic in Evin Prison does not have specialist doctors or proper facilities to be able to help her,” he added. “Maryam is in a really bad situation and I’m very upset and worried about what might happen to her.”
He continued: “My wife has not been granted furlough for eight years and they won’t allow her to get treatment. We are worried for her every day. They allow us to visit her in prison and we feel as if they have given us the world and yet this is our legal right.”
Furlough, temporary leave typically granted to prisoners in Iran for a variety of familial, holiday, and medical reasons, is routinely denied to political prisoners as a form of additional punishment.
“It’s not a joke that she has not been given furlough in eight years,” said Jafari. “In 2014 we left a 1.15 billion tomans ($362,000 USD) security deposit as demanded for the furlough, but so far nothing has happened.”
“They won’t grant her furlough and they won’t tell us why,” said Jafari. “They just say the Intelligence Ministry or the prosecutor is against granting her furlough.”
Letters From Prison
In a recent open letter, Akbari-Monfared criticized a group of foreign ambassadors based in Iran for going on a state-organized “dolled-up” tour of Evin Prison while political prisoners were hidden from their view.
“Every day I am witnessing the physical health of my cellmates getting worse, especially Ms. Mahvash Shahriari, who is nearing the tenth year of her imprisonment,” she added.
Political prisoners in Iran, including elderly inmates, are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of medical care. The threat of withheld medical care has also been used as an intimidation tool against prisoners who have challenged the authorities or filed complaints.
In 2016, political prisoner Omid Kokabee was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer after years of repeatedly being denied treatment for his symptoms. Former political prisoner Alireza Rajaee, a journalist, lost part of his face to sinus cancer that he says was left untreated while he was in Evin Prison.
Akbari-Monfared, 48, whose four siblings were executed in the 1980s for allegedly engaging in political opposition, was arrested in December 2009 during street protests against that year’s widely disputed presidential election and charged with collaborating with the banned Mojahedin-e Khalgh organization (MEK, also known as MKO and PMOI).
In June 2010, Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced her to 15 years in prison for the charge of “waging war against God.”
Another one of her brothers, Reza Akbari-Monfared, held in Rajaee Shahr Prison, will soon complete a five-year prison sentence for “assembly and collusion against national security” for his alleged involvement with the MEK.
“My brother-in-law’s sentence ends on February 11, 2018, but he’s not feeling well,” Jafari told CHRI. “He was on hunger strike and we don’t know his current condition. He has been banned from making phone calls and has not been allowed visitation for the past two weeks.”
In an October 2016 open letter, Akbari-Monfared demanded a judicial inquiry into the execution of her siblings and the locations where they were buried.
“Three of my brothers and one of my sisters were executed in prison in the 1980s,” said the letter. “My youngest brother, Abdolreza Akbari-Monfared, was executed in 1980. He was only a 17-year-old high school student when he was arrested. He was charged with distributing MEK literature. Although he was sentenced to only three years in prison, he was incarcerated until his execution in the summer of 1988 along with scores of other prisoners.”
She continued: “Another brother, Alireza Akbari-Monfared, was arrested on September 8, 1981 and he was tried and executed ten days later… On the seventh night of mourning for my brother Alireza, agents raided our house and arrested a number of guests as well as my mother, and sister Roghieh Akbari-Monfared. My mother was released after five months but my sister was sentenced to eight years in prison. She was executed in August 1988 near the end of her prison term… My other brother, Gholamreza Akbari-Monfared, was arrested in 1983 and died under torture in 1985.”
Akbari-Monfared has been eligible for parole since 2015 based on Iran’s Islamic Penal Code. According to Article 58: “…the deciding court can issue the order of conditional release for convicts sentenced to more than ten years imprisonment after half of the sentence is served, and in other cases after one-third of the sentence is served.”