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8/3/06

U.S., Humanitarian Groups Condemn Death of Iranian Activist

Jailed for participating in protests, dissident Akbar Mohammadi dies in custody

Washington – U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack joined human rights advocates around the world in condemning the death of a jailed Iranian student dissident, Akbar Mohammadi. Mohammadi, 38, died July 30 after a nine-day hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

“The United States condemns the Iranian government’s severe repression of dissidents, and its continued crackdown on civil society and those fighting for personal freedom in Iran,” said McCormack in a statement issued August 1.  The detention and harsh treatment of dissidents and opposition leaders, he said, is “part of a deliberate campaign by the Iranian government to silence the student movement in particular, and civil society more broadly.”

Mohammadi had been arrested and sentenced to death for throwing Molotov cocktails during the 1999 protests at Tehran University. His sentence was commuted to 15 years imprisonment. He was given nearly two years leave for medical treatment of injuries sustained during his incarceration. He was arrested again in June.

Iranian Justice Minister Jamal Karimirad told Reuters Mohammadi was on a hunger strike. “He was under intense supervision by the prison physician. Last night his health deteriorated,” he said, adding that the coroner will investigate his death.

But Mohammadi’s lawyer Khalil Bahramian said he would distrust results of a forensic examination unless a neutral doctor conducted it. He also said he had been denied access to his client by prison authorities.

Human Rights Watch calls Mohammadi’s death “suspicious,” and Amnesty International, in an August 1 statement, said it “signals a need for justice reform” in Iran. The human rights groups also called for a halt to “torture and other ill-treatment in Iranian prisons.”

Human rights advocates and the U.S. government have also expressed concern about the well being of Mohammadi’s brother Manouchehr Mohammadi, who is in Evin Prison for participating in the same 1999 protests. Former Member of Parliament and student leader Ali Akbar Moussavi Khoeini and labor union leader Mansour Osanloo are two among a number of dissidents who remain imprisoned for speaking out.

“[W]e call on the Iranian Government to respect the human rights of all Iranian citizens, including students, members of religious minorities, workers and women, and to release those arrested and imprisoned as a consequence of defending universally accepted human rights and freedoms,” McCormack said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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