September 24, 2023

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Death of Iranian protester after ‘convulsion’ in jail ‘more than a little suspicious’

An Iranian man dying in prison after being arrested last year during nationwide protests is “more than a little suspicious” given the fundamentalist Islamic republic’s “egregious record of torture and mistreatment”, a human rights activist has said.

Javad Rouhi, 35, fell ill while awaiting re-sentencing after ‘s Supreme Court overturned his death sentence for taking part in the , state-run news agency IRNA reported yesterday.

Mr Rouhi, who was taken to a local hospital in the city of Noshahr on the Caspian Sea, 60 miles north of Tehran, the capital, where he was pronounced dead.

Authorities were investigating his death, IRNA said – but Tara Sepehri Far of Human Rights Watch, was highly sceptical about suggestions that his death was the result ineffective medical treatment after suffering a seizure in prison.

Ms Far, the pressure group’s senior Iran researcher, said: “The Iranian prison authorities’ egregious record of torture and mistreatment makes Javad Rouhi’s death in custody more than a little suspicious.

“An international inquiry is needed since there’s no reason to believe Iranian authorities will carry out a transparent investigation.

“The United Nations fact finding mission should investigate all torture and deaths in custody related to the protests in Iran.

“Sadly, the case of Javad Rouhi is just the latest one.”

Human Rights Watch has obtained information proving that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps agents arrested Mr Rouhi in September 2022 and held him in solitary confinement without providing any information to his family for over 40 days.

According to the source, Mr Rouhi had a mental health condition and previously sought in-patient treatment in a hospital.

He was one of thousands who took part in demonstrations last year after the death 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini.

Ms Amini was detained over not wearing a headscarf in September 2022, with the country’s so-called morality police accused of then beating her to death.

More than 500 people were killed and 22,000 others arrested in a security crackdown on the demonstrations.

The protests marked one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

With the one-year anniversary of Ms Amini’s death approaching, authorities already are detaining activists and others.

On December 13, 2022, Branch 1 of the revolutionary court in Sari city in Mazandaran province, following a trial that lasted only 45 minutes, sentenced Mr Rouhi to death on charges of “waging war against God,” “corruption on Earth,” and “apostasy.”

On May 23, Rouhi’s lawyer reported that the Supreme Court accepted his client’s appeal, striking down the death sentence and referring his case for a retrial.

On August 31, Nowshahr prison in Mazadanran province, north of Tehran announced Mr Rouhi had been transferred to a hospital early that morning “following a concussion” but died despite receiving medical assistance.

The statement said the Prosecutor’s Office was investigating his death. Rouhi’s lawyer confirmed his death in a tweet.

An insider said government security forces have pressured the family to arrange a private burial.

Amnesty said members of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard severely beat and flogged Mr Rouhi, shocked him with stun guns, exposed him to freezing temperatures and put guns to his head to force him into confessing.

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