A group of Iranian human rights activists and court attorneys has called on the Tehran Prosecutor to investigate the “moving and painful” deaths of Haleh Sahabi and Reza Hoda Saber.
The Jaras opposition website reports that their letter to the prosecutor describes the deaths as “apparent crimes” and says it is the prosecutor’s duty to pursue such cases.
Reza Hoda Saber, a Nationalist-Religious activist, died on June 12, 10 days into a hunger strike at Evin Prison. The Iranian opposition contends that his death was precipitated by beatings on the eighth day of his strike and later by the delay in transferring him to hospital.
Haleh Sahabi suffered a heart attack on June 1 when Iranian government forces overran her father’s funeral. She had been on a temporary furlough from Evin Prison to care for her ailing father.
The letter indicates that several witnesses are ready to testify in court, so the Tehran prosecutor should “immediately” begin his investigation.
In an earlier letter, 64 prisoners testified that Saber was beaten at the prison infirmary during his hunger strike.
Habibollah Peymon and several other people present at the funeral of Ezzatollah Sahabi have also testified that Haleh Sahabi was assaulted by security forces.
The signatories to this latest letter decry the lack of action in earlier cases of violence in Iranian prisons, writing: “We are of the belief that if the deaths of Zahra Kazemi and Zahra Bani Yaghoub had been given an impartial investigation that held the perpetrators accountable, our society would not have witnessed such lamentable events such as what happened at the Kahrizak detention centre. And if the perpetrators in that instance had been dealt with firmly, we would not have witnessed the deaths of Haleh Sahabi and Hoda Saber.”
Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist, died in 2003 at Evin Prison. An investigation initiated by then-president Mohammad Khatami found that Kazemi had suffered a skull fracture during interrogation by the Ministry of Intelligence. A year later the judiciary charged Mohammadreza Aghdam Ahmadi, a Ministry of Intelligence staff member, of “semi-intentional murder.” However, he was later discharged for “lack of evidence.”
Zahra Bani-Yaghoub was arrested by Basij forces while she was strolling in a park in Hamadan with her fiancé. She was later pronounced dead while in custody.
Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel Peace laureate who was Bani-Yaghoub’s attorney at the time, has said she is certain her client did not commit suicide, despite what authorities claimed. Ebadi said the authorities invented the suicide scenario to cover up her murder.
The Kahrizak Detention Centre was closed in the summer of 2008 by the order of the Iranian Supreme Leader, after news emerged of the torture and murder of detainees by prison authorities. While Ayatollah Khamenei cited “sub-standard” conditions as the reason for the closure, a parliamentary probe later reported that at least three detainees had died at the facility due to injuries sustained during questioning.