Iranian Authorities Must Release Jailed Journalist and Prisoner of Conscience on Hunger Strike

Press Release
July 11, 2012

Iranian Authorities Must Release Jailed Journalist and Prisoner of Conscience on Hunger Strike

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) -- Amnesty International called on the Iranian authorities today to release a journalist and prisoner of conscience who has been on hunger strike since May 26 to protest the government’s refusal to allow him to visit his sick son. The human rights organization said “tormenting” the prisoner by keeping him away from his ailing son was further evidence of the authorities utter “cruelty.”

Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, a former newspaper editor and founder of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, is nearly halfway through a 10-and-a-half-year prison sentence on a conviction related to his journalism and human rights work. He is being held in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

"It appears that the authorities are denying Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand the possibility to visit his ailing son in an attempt to pressure him into stopping his ongoing activism from inside prison by way of open letters to officials," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

"Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand should not be in prison in the first place, as he is being held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and because of his journalist and human rights work. He should be released immediately and unconditionally. Further tormenting a father by denying him the right to visit his ailing son is another testament of the cruelty of the Iranian authorities".

Kabudvand's son Pejman has been ill since January with an undiagnosed condition. He has been allowed only one two-and-a-half hour hospital visit with his son in February.

Prison leave in Iran for family visits of this kind is permitted under prison regulations and is usually granted.

In an open letter dated May 27, Kabudvand wrote:

"The Prosecutor and the security apparatuses continue to deny [prison] leave because of their enmity, grudge and malice towards me as a human rights activist; this despite my having served half of my illegal and unjust prison sentence and my son's incurable diseases and acute emergency situation... Therefore, to protest the illegal and inhumane behavior of these judicial and security officials, I launch an indefinite hunger strike as of 9 PM, Saturday 26 May 2012."

Kabudvand's health has also deteriorated as a result of his prolonged hunger strike. Official medical personnel have recommended he be transferred to a hospital for appropriate care.

Kabudvand refused to be transferred as he was to be handcuffed, and he was concerned that he would be forcibly fed, including intravenously, in hospital.

He is now receiving daily injections from the prison doctors to support his weakened kidneys.

As well as his work with the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK), Kabudvand was editor of the weekly newspaper Payam-e Mardom-e Kordestan, which carried articles promoting the cultural, social and political rights of Iran's Kurdish minority.

Payam-e Mardom-e Kordestan was issued a 3-year ban by Iran's judiciary on June 27, 2004 for "disseminating separatist ideas and publishing false reports." On appeal to the Supreme Court, this ban was lifted, though the newspaper has not re-opened since.

In July 2009, Kabudvand appeared before Branch One of the Revolutionary Court in Mahabad, north-east Iran, on the charge of "propaganda against the system" for the publication and distribution of pamphlets about Kurdish women.

Kabudvand reportedly told the court that "the materials printed in the pamphlet referred to in the indictment have no resemblance to the literature published by HROK. The materials brought out by HROK have the logo and the address of the organization and we can only be responsible for the materials published on the website of the organization."

No verdict is known to have been issued in this trial.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.