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Parents Sue Iran Prison For 'Deliberate Negligence' In Death Of Activist

A lawyer representing a pro-monarchy political prisoner, Sasan Niknafs, who died on Saturday at the notorious Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary says he has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of his client against the prison for "pre-meditated murder".   

Speaking to Emtedad news website on Wednesday, Ali Sharifzadeh-Ardakani said after filing the lawsuit, he and the parents of the deceased had a meeting with Deputy Prosecutor of Tehran, Mohammad Shahriari, who ordered reviewing CCTV footage from the prison, prison infirmary records, and the forensic case file.

In a statement on Sunday, the Judiciary claimed Niknafs, 36, had taken medication he received from another inmate which made him ill and led to his death. The family say he died due to the refusal of the prison authorities to allow him get him proper care outside the prison despite multiple mental and physical health issues.

Niknafs, a civil rights activist who was jailed despite being unfit for prison due to serious health issues, including epilepsy and diabetes, was serving a five-year sentence since July 2020 on charges of "acting against national security", "propaganda against the regime", and insulting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He had been moved into the violent offenders' wing of the notorious Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary, also known as Fashafuyeh or Hasanabad-e Qom Prison, on June 7. His lawyer said he had appealed to the prison medical board about his hospitalization outside the prison, but his request was refused.

The attorney said that all his client had done was to post a few pictures and comments on social media in support of exiled Prince Reza Pahalavi and the monarchy.

Sharifzadeh-Ardakani told a discussion on the Clubhouse application on Sunday that his client had been suffering from psychiatric problems and that he had noticed evidence of suicide attempts on his client's arms during visits on two separate occasions.

“This mounting death toll of political prisoners is the result of a decades-long policy of treating critics of the state as less than human, and the judiciary chief’s (Reesi’s) refusal to protect prisoners,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“These individuals shouldn’t be in prison in the first place yet they’re dying in state custody while [Chief Justice Ebrahim] Raeesi (Raisi) focuses on his latest power grab,” he said. Raeesi is running for president in the controversial elections of June 18 and is widely believed to be the frontrunner.

In February, prisoner of conscience Behnam Mahjoubi died in state custody after mistreatment in prison and being denied proper care by independent doctors in a hospital. An informed source on February 16 told Iran International TV that prison authorities had deliberately put the life of the 33-year-old Mahjoubi, a Gonabadi Dervish, in danger by refusing to allow him to be taken to hospital even after he had seizures and lost his speech.

Sharifzadeh-Ardakani also warned about the health of another prisoner, retired teacher Masoumeh Askari who is serving a five-year sentence at Tehran's Evin prison. According to him, prison authorities deny an approved four-month medical furlough to Askari who suffers from mental health issues including bipolar disorder. 

In a tweet on Tuesday, Iran's exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi said he is mourning the death of Sasan Niknafs. "His name and memory should inspire us to reach the goal for which he lost his life: The freedom of Iran and our brave young people from the chains of the Zahhāk of our era," he wrote. King Zahhāk the Snake Shoulder is an evil figure in ancient Persian folklore who fed the brains of young men to the snakes growing from his shoulders.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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