Mohammad Sadat Khansari
Iran Regime’s Treating Prisoners Alone Debunks Mullahs’ Effort to Depict U.S. Sanctions for Coronavirus Epidemic
The high rate of infections and the dire conditions in prisons prompted a prisoner of conscience, Mr. Mohammad Nourizad, to commit suicide in prison two days ago in protest against these conditions and also against widespread arrests, including the arrest of his son. He was transferred to the hospital.
Iranian regime reportedly declined to acknowledge that any Iranian coronavirus cases had been recorded until roughly a month after the first relevant hospitalizations. The first public statement on the topic came on February 19, in response to two patient deaths. But the National Council of Resistance of Iran obtained documents showing that several suspected cases of coronavirus infection had been recognized by the National Emergency Organization in the last week of January.
This early neglect of the outbreak set the stage for a range of subsequent denials that included statements insisting no known outbreaks had occurred in Iranian prison facilities. However, these claims proved unbelievable to Iranian human rights activists and former political prisoners, who are aware of the harsh conditions that permeate most of Iran’s detention facilities.
Simultaneous to its cover-up, the Iranian regime has been pursuing a campaign through its apologists abroad to depict the United States Sanction as the reason behind the coronavirus high mortality rate. Not releasing all the prisoners amid the coronavirus alone debunks this claim and campaign.
Along with not releasing all prisoners, regime’s mistreatment of prisoners, such as depriving them necessary hygienic facilities and shooting those who protest or try to break free from prisons, is another sign that mullahs’ are not willing to help the Iranian people and resolve the coronavirus crisis. These actions further reject any claim and notion that sanctions are preventing the regime from helping people of Iran.
Regime’s oppressive approach toward prisoners resulted in multiple large-scale riots and attempted prison breaks throughout early April. Amnesty International has confirmed that at least 36 inmates were killed as a result of prison authorities’ brutal response to the unrest, but local reports suggest there were many more fatalities that have yet to be confirmed. The regime also executed prisoners who were later arrested. One of them, Shayan Saeedpour was a juvenile offender who was under the legal age at the time of arrest.
The Iranian regime claimed it has issued a mass furlough. These claims were quickly rejected with a new wave of arrests of political opponents of the regime and sending them to prison amid the coronavirus epidemic.
The situation of eight political prisoners in Mashhad prison, who had asked for Khamenei’s resignation is concerning. One of them, Mohammad Hossein Sepehri, was infected with COVID-19 last month.
On February 4 and April 8, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), strongly condemned the harsh, long-term sentences for these prisoners and urged the United Nations and Human Rights Council to take action to secure their release. Mrs. Rajavi asked the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran to immediately visit Mashhad prison, obtain information about the condition of prisoners, and take measures to save their lives.
Among other examples, various participants in last November’s nationwide protests against the clerical regime are still being placed on trial and condemned to several-year sentences. In at least one case from mid-April, one of these protestors was sentenced to death. And the prospect of that sentence being carried out it presumably amplified by the volume of capital sentences that have already been implemented against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) reported that Iranian regime’s judiciary had accelerated its schedule of public executions as a tactic of intimidation, spurred by fear of public unrest over issues that include the regime’s mishandling of the public health crisis. The NCRI noted that at least 15 hangings had been carried out on April 23 alone, with several others following in the week thereafter.
While public execution is a common practice in Iran by the regime to intimidate public, regime’s authorities also have a long history of maintaining a veil of secrecy over the full extent to which capital punishment is implemented. There is no doubt that Iran has the highest per-capita rate of executions in the world, but the precise number of annual hangings is difficult to ascertain, since it depends partly on official records and partly on disclosures by fellow prisoners and other witnesses to unreported executions.
This secrecy has been highlighted anew showing that Tehran could be exploiting the chaos of the coronavirus outbreak to purge the prison system of inmates, particularly the political prisoners.
The NCRI announced on Sunday that the actual death toll is more than 38,000, and this is broadly supported by Iranian medical professionals’ descriptions of an overwhelmed healthcare system. However, such descriptions have been labeled “rumor mongering” by the judiciary, and on Tuesday a spokesperson for Iran’s armed forces admitted that at least 3,600 people had been arrested on that charge, which may carry a sentence of three years in prison.