By Jubin Katiraie
Twelve of the 17 inmates tested at random for coronavirus on Ward 8 of Evin Prison on Sunday were found to have contracted the disease and were transferred to the prison’s medical ward.
Several political prisoners were among this number, including:
- Jafar Azimzadeh, who suffers from complications of the kidney, heart, and circulatory system
- Esmail Abdi, who has asthma
- Amir Salar Davoudi
- Majid Azarpay
- Fereydoun Ahmadi
- Saeed Sharifi
Of course, this should not surprise anyone. Human rights organizations repeatedly warned that there would be an outbreak inside prisons and called for the release of political prisoners, with Amnesty International even revealing leaked letters from senior officials at the Prison Organization to the Ministry of Health over a four-month period about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in prisons.
The letters, which cite severe shortages of protective equipment, cleaning products, and medical devices, call for urgent funding and assistance, but as of early July, the Ministry of Health had not responded.
On March 25, the officials asked for enough of this equipment to last three months and stressed that inaction would cause “irreparable harm” because the prisons are “populated with individuals who have pre-existing medical problems, use drugs, and/or suffer from malnutrition, anaemia, and infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis”. This is particularly troubling for those with a weak immune system, including people who are older, pregnant, or nursing, as well as babies.
Essentially, the regime has deliberately denied medical treatment to political prisoners, which has been used in the past as punishment or torture to extract executions and put their lives at risk.
Another political prisoner, Gholam Hossein Kalbi, is suspected to be infected. He is serving a life sentence in Ward 7 of Sheiban Prison in Ahvaz, placed on the ward for drug-related convicts, who brought the virus in and infected others. He should never have been put on this ward and should be placed with political prisoners, according to both Iranian and international law, but the regime refused.
Iran Human Rights Monitor (Iran HRM) said: “[We are] seriously concerned about the health of these political prisoners and other inmates who have been infected. The sick prisoners must be released immediately and unconditionally, and urgently treated in public medical centers. The Iranian regime and Judiciary must be held to account for the life and health of Iranian prisoners and the humanitarian catastrophe in Iran prisons.”