Imprisoned Former Iranian VP Refusing Food and Water to Overturn Prison Sentence
Hamid Baghaei, who served as Iran’s vice president under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is in “serious condition” from refusing food for two weeks in Tehran’s Evin Prison, his lawyer informed the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Attorney Mehran Abdollahpour said Baghaei made a phone call from his cell on March 28, 2018, to say he had intensified his hunger strike by refusing to drink water and holds the judiciary responsible for “any consequences.”
Baghaei, who began serving a 15-year prison sentence for financial corruption charges on March 13, says he is innocent and has condemned his conviction as a political decision. He is demanding an immediate review, Abdollahpour told CHRI.
Baghaei served as former President Ahmadinejad’s VP for executive affairs from 2011-13. Ahmadinejad fell out of favor with Iran’s ruling elite during his second term for promoting his own version of Iranian nationalism and publicly criticizing powerful politicians, namely, Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani.
Ahmadinejad and Baghaei were disqualified from running in Iran’s May 2017 presidential elections.
On March 13, the Tehran Appeals Court upheld a 15-year prison sentence against Baghaei and ordered him to pay 430 billion rials (approximately $11.4 million USD) in fines. Baghaei was also sentenced to flogging.
The United Nations has declared flogging a cruel and inhumane punishment tantamount to torture.
A statement by the Tehran prosecutor’s office on March 15 claimed that the “most important” crime committed by Baghaei and other former senior officials under Ahmadinejad was the deposit of government funds into personal accounts for the construction of a private university as well as illegally benefitting from commercial deals on Kish Island in the Persian Gulf and other large state projects.
Before going to prison, Baghaei called the charges “baseless” and blamed Israel and the UK for his predicament.
“I am certain of this sad fact that I have become a victim of a well-calculated plot in line with the ominous aims of the Zionist regime and Britain,” he said in a statement on March 13.
“Nevertheless, I objected to the unjust preliminary sentence issued against me in absentia, without any hope for justice,” he added. “But during the appeal process, the judiciary under Chief Sadegh Amoli Larijani again held trials in secret in order to hide the truth from the people of Iran and shield the motives of those who worship foreigners.”