19 March 2009
On 18 March 2009, Omid Reza Mirsayafi, a 29-year-old Iranian blogger died in prison in
Mirsayafi was described as a cultural blogger who wrote primarily about traditional Persian music and culture. He was first arrested on 22 April 2008 and released after 41 days on bail of 100 million Tumans (approximately GBP 70,000). He was subsequently tried on 2 November and convicted under Articles 500 and 514 of the criminal code which states that “anyone who insults the Supreme Guide Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or the country’s leaders, is liable for six months to two years in prison” (Article 514) and “anyone making propaganda against the state is liable to three months to one year in prison” (Article 500).
Since his imprisonment Mirsayafi had reportedly become increasingly distressed and unable to cope with harsh prison conditions. Unconfirmed reports coming out of the Evin prison seem to indicate that Mirsayafi’s death may have been caused by an incorrect dose of the prescribed medications he had been taking. Dr Firouzi alleges that prison doctors ignored pleas to give him proper treatment when he was clearly in distress.
Mirsayafi’s sentence of two-and-a-half years in prison was the one of the longest handed down to a blogger in
“ARTICLE 19 is shocked at the news of Omid Reza Mirsayafi’s death in prison, especially on the eve of Norouz ,” says ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, Dr Agnès Callamard. “We call on the Iranian authorities to launch a thorough and urgent investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.”
Mirsayafi’s treatment is not an isolated case in
Shahnaz Gholami a women rights activist and editor of a blog called A Woman’s Rights are Human Rights was arrested in November 2008 for posting articles deemed to be damaging to national security on her blog. Gholami, who also experienced harsh prison conditions in jail, was released on bail of 200 million Tumans (approximately GBP 140,000) on 17 January 2009 after going on a hunger strike.
ARTICLE 19 calls for an urgent and impartial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mirsayafi’s death and urges the Iranian authorities to immediately halt its persecution of bloggers, activists and dissenting voices.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
• For more information: please contact Khashayar Karimi, ARTICLE 19 Iran Programme Officer at Khashayar@article19.org +44 20 7278 9292.
From Ifex News:
An Iranian blogger sent to prison last month for insulting the country's religious leaders and making propaganda against the state has died under questionable circumstances, report ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Omidreza Mirsayafi died in
Prison authorities said Mirsayafi, who suffered from depression, committed suicide by overdosing on sedatives. But his family questions their findings, maintaining he would not have possessed enough medication to kill himself.
According to RSF, Hessam Firoozi, an imprisoned doctor who has treated some of
Mirsayafi was awaiting a further trial on charges of insulting "sacred Islamic values". The offences were allegedly committed on his now defunct blog, Rooznegaar, which focused mainly on Persian music and culture, says RSF.
Mirsayafi had consistently denied the charges against him, saying his blogs were not political in nature. He told RSF in a recent email that he would "not have the energy to live in prison."
"We hold the Iranian authorities entirely responsible for the death of Omidreza Mirsayafi. He was unfairly arrested and they failed to provide him with the necessary medical care," RSF said.
According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Amir Hossein Heshmatsaran, founder of an Iranian opposition group called the National Unity Front, also died this month, on 6 March, while serving an eight-year sentence. Heshmatsaran's family alleged that he had died because of negligence, after suffering a stroke.
"Iranian leaders have relegated the administration of the prison system to a group of incompetent and cruel officials who are showing their utter disregard for human life," said Hadi Ghaemi, the campaign's spokesperson. "If the authorities do not move quickly to hold negligent officials responsible, they are reinforcing impunity and the lack of accountability."
Meanwhile, Iranian-American freelance journalist Roxana Saberi is still being held in Evin, with recent reports saying she may be held for years. She has been detained since late January. Earlier this month, CPJ delivered a petition to the Islamic Republic of Iran's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in
Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan has also been detained since November 2008, but his whereabouts remain unknown. At least five other Iranian journalists were serving time in various Iranian prisons as of 1 December 2008, according to CPJ.
Scrutiny of bloggers is not uncommon in
Visit these links:
- ARTICLE 19: http://tinyurl.com/cdqyfj
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/csryk2
- CPJ petition for Saberi: http://tinyurl.com/ccnejz
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30622
- International Campaign: http://tinyurl.com/dbo5gh