UN Experts Warn Jailed Iranian Activist May Face Death
United Nations human rights experts expressed concern Tuesday [May 4] over imprisoned Iranian filmmaker and journalist Mohammad Nourizad, calling his case "emblematic" of the situation faced by many Iranian political activists in detention.
"His health has reportedly deteriorated so severely that he risks serious complications and possible death if he remains in prison and does not receive appropriate medical care," warned a statement signed by Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and several other UN experts.
During his stay in prison, Nourizad has reportedly attempted suicide and began to self-harm as a form of protest on February 19. He has also gone on hunger strikes and refused to take medication, most recently since March 10, to object against his imprisonment and his family's treatment by the authorities.
The experts said Nourizad being deprived of adequate medical care for his heart condition might “amount to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." Their statement said many Iranians were detained for "merely exercising their right to freedom of expression" and reminded the Iranian government that this was "a clear violation of several of their human rights obligations under the [United Nations] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
Disillusioned with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s support for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the crackdown on protesters after the disputed 2009 presidential elections, Nourizad, a hardliner who had written fiery commentaries and editorials for Kayhan newspaper, joined the Green Movement. He was arrested in 2010 for writing an open letter to Khamenei demanding the leader apologize for the harsh treatment of protesters.
Since 2009, Nourizad has written more than 30 such open letters to Khamenei. In his first few, he addressed Khamenei as "father" and stressed his loyalty but his tone became harsher when he felt his pleas for freedom of speech and release of jailed prisoners were ignored.
Nourizad was arrested again in 2019 along with several other signatories of the open letter to Khamenei known as "Fourteen Civil and Political Activists' Statement,” which protested at the trial of a dissident in Mashhad, and demanded Khamenei’s resignation and a “secular democracy.” In February 2020 Nourizad was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Several other signatories of the letter, including retired teacher Hashem Khastar, were also arrested and sentenced. Like Nourizad, they reported threats against their families and being targeted by unknown assailants.