Friday, January 4, 2013

Denial of medical treatment to wrongfully imprisoned Iranian activist is horrible!

In a January 3, 2013 article, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) held an interview with Robabeh Rezaei, who is the wife of Reza Shahabi, a labour activist who is currently in jail. She spoke about her husband protesting the prison authorities barring him from seeking outside medical treatment through a hunger strike. She also describes meeting him on December 24 and seeing him in extremely poor health. Rezaei recalls her husband telling her that his health has started worsening the Sunday before, and that other prisoners were telling him to get help from the infirmary in the prison. However, he refused medication and prevented himself from being hooked up to an IV. Rezaei is extremely concerned about her husband's health, as he told her that he was suffering from low blood pressure. She stated that had the prison authorities not prevented her husband's hospital treatment, Shahabi would not be in the situation that he is in now. On December 17, 2012, Shahabi went on a hunger strike.

On June 12, 2010, Reza Shahabi, who is a member of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and is a part of their Board of Directors, which is affiliated with the Suburbs Bus Company labour union, was arrested. Information obtained from reports show that he had been beaten while being interrogated, which lead to spinal injuries needing medical attention. Last summer, he underwent neck surgery, but after only a few days,  he was already sent back to jail. In an earlier interview with Rezaei, she told the ICHRI that Shahabi was sent to the hospital only once after his surgery for a checkup. She also explained that over the past few months, Shahabi has also lost sensation in his fingers and feet. He is experiencing severe back and neck pain as well.

On December 15, Shahabi was finally sent to the hospital for an examination, after many requests from his family. He was scheduled to have an MRI, but before he could be treated by doctors, the prison guards who were with Shahabi abused him verbally and physically. He was then taken back to prison. He stopped taking his medication and started a hunger strike two days later to protest being denied an MRI by the prison guards, and the overall brutal conditions he has been forced to endure in jail.

Rezaei asked the Tehran Prosecutor and the Head of the Judiciary to allow Shahabi to have a leave of absence for medical reasons. She emphasizes that if her husband does not receive treatment, he remains at risk of becoming paralyzed. Rezaei also states that Shahabi has become apathetic as a result of his ordeal in jail, and was told by her husband last Monday that he will continue with his hunger strike until he receives a leave of absence for medical treatment.

On April 14, Shahabi was told that he will be jailed for six years. He has been charged with organizing with others to deceive the country's security (five years) and promoting false information against the government (one year); he has been banned from social activities for five years as well. Shahabi is currently being held at Ward 350 of Evin Prison.

Reza Shahabi's treatment in jail is further proof that the Iranian government and the prison authorities have no respect for human rights, and more pressure needs to be put on them by the international community so that Iranians can live in freedom. The denial of medical treatment for Shahabi and others like him is cruel and callous; it is also completely contradictory for a country that claims to be based on morality. By continuing to mistreat people the Iranian government deems "criminals," it is only making a mockery out of its own justice system and is fueling political unrest within Iran. Shahabi and others like him deserve justice, and the people who are complicit in torturing him are the ones who deserve to be imprisoned.

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