Iran: Akbar Mohammadi's death in custody signals need for justice reform
The death in custody of Akbar Mohammadi, a 38-year-old
former student, in the early hours of 31 July 2006 casts a pall over the entire
Iranian justice system, Amnesty International said today.
series of failures to afford Akbar Mohammadi justice have robbed him of his life
and his family of human dignity. There can be no more deaths in Iranian custody.
A thorough reform of the criminal justice system is urgently needed,” added the
“The Iranian authorities need to take urgent measures to
ensure that political prisoners are afforded a fair and open trial; that torture
and other ill-treatment in Iranian prisons is halted and that the practice of
delaying or denying medical care is stopped immediately.”
International is alarmed at reports indicating that following an inspection of
Akbar Mohammadi’s detention conditions by senior officials he was administered a
drug which may have resulted not only in his tranquillisation but possibly, as a
result of a complication, his death.
From around 21 July, Akbar Mohammadi
had reportedly undertaken a hunger strike, the last three days of which he
refused liquids as well as solids.
Amidst reports that an autopsy has
been carried out domestically by the coroner (pezeshk-e qanouni), Amnesty
International considers that there needs to be an independent investigation and
autopsy by fully independent pathologists to determine the cause of Akbar
Mohammadi’s death and the conditions that facilitated it.
Principle 9 of
the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of extra-Legal,
Arbitrary and Summary Executions states: “There shall be thorough, prompt and
impartial investigation of all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and
summary executions, including cases where complaints by relatives or other
reliable reports suggest unnatural death in the above circumstances. […] The
purpose of the investigation shall be to determine the cause, manner and time of
death, the person responsible, and any pattern or practice which may have
brought about that death. It shall include an adequate autopsy, collection and
analysis of all physical and documentary evidence and statements from
Amnesty International also expressed concern that political
prisoners Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, Ahmad Batebi and Akbar Mohammadi’s brother
Manuchehr are facing heightened risk following this latest death in
Akbar Mohammadi was one of the thousands of
students arrested in July 1999 after student demonstrations which erupted
following the closure of newspapers and one of the periodic clampdowns on
freedom of expression that occurred throughout the late 1990s in Iran.
Akbar Mohammadi and other students were sentenced to death in September
1999 following a manifestly unfair trial. He was brutally tortured while in
incommunicado detention, denied the right of legal representation and access to
family. Following domestic and international outcry, in November 1999 the
sentences were commuted to 15 years’ imprisonment.
From the day of his
arrest, Akbar Mohammadi was routinely tortured. While in the custody of the
Ministry of Intelligence, he was allegedly suspended by his arms, and violently
beaten. Guards beat him to the edge of consciousness, telling him that all he
had to do was blink to accept the charges against him.
available strongly indicates that the repeated delays or outright denials of
adequate medical care by Iran’s judicial and prison authorities have contributed
to his death in custody. At the end of November 2003, for example, judicial
authorities permitted his hospitalisation in response to urgent stomach and
kidney problems, internal bleeding and possibly a lung infection. Despite
medical advice that he be hospitalised for one month, he was returned to Evin
Prison one week later.
Between July 2004 and June 2006, Akbar Mohammadi
resided at his family home in Amol, northern Iran, where he received medical
treatment and wrote a prison memoir. He was re-arrested on 11 June 2006 and
returned to Evin prison where, once again, he was denied the right to meet with
his family. Following one visit by his lawyer, Akbar Mohammadi was said to be in
ill health and suffering from acute abdominal pain. Prison medical staff
reportedly advised that he should be removed from prison for medical
According to sources inside Evin prison, he sought medical
care from around 26 July during his hunger strike but he was chastised by
medical officials who rejected his request. Between 26 and 29 July, he was
reportedly provided unspecified treatment, though an Iranian parliamentary
delegation visiting Evin prison was denied permission to visit the section of
the prison -- possibly the clinic itself -- in which he was held.
around 29-30 July he was reportedly gagged and bound to a bed while senior
officials visited the prison. The Chief Prosecutor for the province of Tehran,
Said Mortazavi, and two senior prison officials, along with a prison guard
reportedly inspected him on 30 July, during which time he was administered an
unspecified ‘medicine’. His condition reportedly worsened in the course of that
day and he died on 31 July. Despite the call by his lawyer that his body be
examined by an independent team of pathologists, his body was transferred to a
coroner on 31 July.
Akbar Mohammadi’s parents arrived at Imam Khomeini
Airport in Tehran on Tuesday 1 August 2006, at 02:30 local time, from a visit
outside the country. They were forcibly taken directly from the aircraft to
awaiting vehicles and driven directly to their house in Amol, northern Iran.
They were denied permission to see the body of their deceased son, as was his
brother Manuchehr, who remains in Evin prison. At the time of writing, there are
reports that the body of Akbar Mohammadi has been buried.
... Payvand News - 8/3/06 ... --