Iran 'torturing' prize-winning activist by denying her proper health care

Mohammadi is being held in the notorious Qarchak women's prison south-east of Tehran

Prison authorities at Qarchak are denying prisoner Narges Mohammadi access to vital medication at the jail, Amnesty International says. AFP
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Iran is subjecting the prize-winning rights activist Narges Mohammadi to torture by denying her proper health care in a reprisal for her campaigning, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Mohammadi is being held in the notorious Qarchak women's prison south-east of Tehran, where conditions have long alarmed rights campaigners.

In April, Amnesty accused Iranian authorities of “committing shocking violations of the right to life by deliberately denying vital health care to ailing prisoners and refusing to investigate deaths in custody”.

Her husband Taghi Rahmani, who is based in Paris, had this week on social media accused the prison authorities of deliberately withholding medication sent by her family to treat a lung condition.

"Iran's authorities are torturing human rights defender Narges Mohammadi in prison, including by intentionally denying her adequate health care and refusing to provide her with medication in reprisal for her human rights work," Amnesty said.

The human rights group said Mohammadi, who suffers from lung and heart conditions, had been admitted to hospital on June 23 after experiencing shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat.

Since her return to jail from hospital, prison authorities "have been denying Narges Mohammadi some of her required medication".

Medical services offered in prison clinics are generally limited to basic forms of health care such as checking prisoners’ blood pressure or heart rhythm, an Amnesty report said in April.

Prison clinics are not equipped with the infrastructure required for diagnosing or treating complex health problems.

The prisons are not staffed by an adequate number of qualified general practitioners, let alone medical specialists, who are required to visit only for one or a few hours a week, “as needed”, the report said.

Mohammadi is currently serving a prison sentence of 10 years and eight months on charges from two separate cases in which she is accused of spreading propaganda against the regime, Amnesty said.

She was sentenced to eight years and more than 70 lashes on national security charges in January and is concurrently serving another sentence of two-and-a-half years dating back to 2021.

Amnesty also expressed alarm that in recent weeks there have been reports of "overflowing sewage" at Qarchak, "putting prisoners at risk of disease".

A colleague of Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaigner Shirin Ebadi, who now lives outside Iran, Mohammadi has campaigned for justice for protesters killed in a purge in street demonstrations in November 2019.

She has won numerous international awards in recognition for her work, including in 2011 the annual Per Anger Prize, issued by the Swedish government.

Updated: July 01, 2022, 5:40 AM
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