Political Prisoners Urge International NGOs to Investigate Case of Inmate With Suspected Cancer
Case Highlights Trend of Denial of Medical Care to Political Prisoners
Three human rights activists held in Rajaee Shahr Prison in Iran have written a letter urging international rights groups to help fellow political prisoner Majid Assadi, who has been denied outside medical treatment despite severe health problems.
“For a long time, Assadi—who is suspected of suffering from intestinal cancer—has been having difficulty sleeping because of the severity of the pain and constant vomiting, and yet his frequent visits to the prison clinic have not improved his condition,” said the letter, signed by political prisoners Arash Sadeghi, Saeed Shirzad, and fellow inmate Saeed Mansouri.
“Since the authorities do not have any sense of responsibility, we request Amnesty International, as well as Reporters and Doctors Without Borders, investigate this matter,” wrote the activists.
The case of former political prisoner Alireza Rajaee, who lost part of his face due to sinus cancer that he says was left untreated while he was held in Evin Prison, has put the spotlight on the ongoing denial of medical care to political prisoners in Iran.
In October 2017, labor activist Mohammad Jarrahi died from thyroid cancer that was left untreated while he was held as a political prisoner in Tabriz Prison, his former lawyer, Naghi Mahmoudi, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
A source close to the Assadi family told CHRI that the political activist has been denied access to his prescribed medications.
“His medications have been cut off and according to his doctor, the problems in his digestive tract could spread to other organs if he doesn’t receive treatment,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
“The signs are not good,” added the source. “His doctor said it could be anything from intestinal inflammation to cancer.”
The judiciary has denied pleas by Assadi’s mother for her ailing son to receive urgent medical treatment outside the prison, based in the city of Karaj.
“He has serious digestive problems and can’t eat anything,” Assadi’s mother, who requested that her first name be withheld, told CHRI. “He looked pale…he has lost 10 kilos. He doesn’t eat… The prison lacks facilities.”
A prominent human rights lawyer who was incarcerated in Rajaee Shahr Prison told CHRI in April 2016 that “the prison was not in any condition to hold that many prisoners.”
“The clinic did not have medicines to treat anything worse than a cold, let alone high blood pressure,” said Mohammad Seifzadeh, adding that the cells have severely limited ventilation. “Bad nutrition and lack of vitamins weakened the prisoners.”
Majid Assadi, 35, has been detained at Rajaee Shahr Prison since his arrest by Intelligence Ministry agents in Karaj on February 18, 2017. He was tried for the charge of “assembly and collusion against national security” on November 5, 2017.
“A verdict will be issued next week,” Mrs. Assadi told CHRI. “His trial was at Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court. I wasn’t in the courtroom, but I did see him. He couldn’t discuss his case.”
“They refused to free him on bail and instead extended his detention,” she added. “We asked to let him go free on bail to get treatment, but the court refused.”
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.
Intelligence Ministry agents previously arrested Assadi on July 3, 2008, while he was a student activist at Allameh Tabatabaie University in Tehran.
In March 2010, he was sentenced to four years in prison for “assembly and collusion against national security” by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court. After the Appeals Court upheld his sentence, Assadi began his prison term on October 5, 2011. He was released on June 8, 2015.
“When he was out of prison he was fine,” Mrs. Assadi told CHRI. “But when he first went to prison, he developed back pains. This time his stomach and intestines are a mess and the pain won’t let him sleep at night.”
“He got worse when he joined a mass hunger strike,” she added.
A mass hunger strike was launched by at least 20 inmates in Rajaee Shahr Prison in August 2017 after more than 50 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience were suddenly transferred without notice or their personal belongings from Ward 12 to the security-enhanced Ward 10 on July 30, 2017.