The life of a wrongfully imprisoned Iranian Kurdish human rights defender and journalist rests in the Iranian authorities’ hands, said Amnesty International. He is gravely ill in hospital nearly a month into an ongoing hunger strike.
The 54-year old prisoner of conscience Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, who is approaching the end of a decade-long prison sentence on fabricated charges, has been on hunger strike since May 8. He is protesting against the authorities’ efforts to condemn him to a further prison sentence on a spurious charge of ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ from inside the prison.
“Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand has already spent close to a decade in prison simply for doing his legitimate human rights work and journalism. The fact that the authorities are building a fresh case against him so close to his release date suggests they are plumbing new depths in their efforts to keep this resolute defender of human rights behind bars,” said James Lynch, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.
Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand’s health – already marred by heart and kidney problems for which his family says he rarely received adequate treatment while in prison – has deteriorated drastically during his hunger strike. Doctors have warned that he is at imminent risk of a heart attack. An informed source told Amnesty International that he is experiencing severe drops in blood pressure, as well as digestive complications and internal bleeding in his stomach and prostate.
He was transferred from Evin Prison in Tehran to a hospital on May 22 – 13 days into his hunger strike – after he lost consciousness. However, Amnesty International understands that he asked to be returned to prison after hospital personnel tried to force-feed him intravenously. Three days later he was transferred to another hospital where he remains.
“The Iranian authorities must stop toying with Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand’s life. As a first step toward rectifying this abhorrent situation, the Iranian authorities must drop all charges against him and release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Lynch.
Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand has been in prison since July 2007 serving a 10-year sentence imposed for his human rights work as the founder and Chair of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, and a six-month sentence imposed for his work as editor of the weekly newspaper Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdistan. Amnesty International has repeatedly called the Iranian authorities to ensure that these unjust convictions, which exemplify Iran’s utter disdain for the rights to freedom of expression and association, are quashed.
The fabrication of a new charge against Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand began in March 2016 when he was taken to the Office of the Prosecutor in Evin Prison three times for interrogations. He was subsequently informed that he was being charged with ‘spreading propaganda against the system.’
The basis of this new charge, which is regularly used by the Iranian authorities to criminalize peaceful expression, remains unclear. Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand has said he was questioned about a letter he wrote to Selahattin Demirtaş, co-leader of the Kurdish-rooted, left-wing Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey urging HDP to promote peace between Kurdish groups and the Turkish government. He also was questioned about his doctoral dissertation, which his interrogators mistakenly believed to be about prisoner rights in Iran but which actually focuses on minorities in Turkey. He said he was also questioned about a statement he wrote from inside prison, in which he expressed concern about the atrocities carried out by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) against the Kurdish people in Kobani, Syria.
On May 24, 2016, he was put on trial before a Revolutionary Court in Tehran in relation to these accusations. The session apparently lasted no longer than 30 minutes. He was only told about the court appearance the day before it happened and was not represented by a lawyer. The court has not yet issued its verdict.
“The Iranian authorities must put an end to this catalogue of injustices before it culminates in a tragedy for Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, his family and the wider human rights community in Iran and around the world. He should never have been behind bars in the first place, and the Iranian authorities must release him now,” said Lynch.
Amnesty International considers Mohammed Sadiq Kabudvand a prisoner of conscience and has campaigned extensively for his release, including through its flagship annual Write for Rights campaign in 2011.
Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand has been on several hunger strikes in the past including one that lasted 63 days in 2012 and which contributed to his health problems.