Australian family demand release of 83-year-old man from Iran's Evin prison

Dual national Shokrollah Jebeli has been held since January 2020 over a financial dispute

Shokrollah Jebeli has been held for more than a year at Evin jail over an apparent financial dispute. Supplied
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The family of an 83-year-old man held in Iran's Evin jail have called for his immediate release after he received substandard medical treatment for a series of health problems.

The family of Australian-Iranian Shokrollah Jebeli fear that he is giving up hope after becoming unable to walk and falling over last week.

The father of three previously suffered a stroke but was returned to the prison after hospital treatment on the same day, Australian media reported.

Mr Jebeli, one of the oldest prisoners in the notorious jail in Tehran, is believed to be in prison over a financial dispute involving less than $20,000. He has been held for 17 months without trial.

The dispute is reportedly connected to a deal involving a man who once claimed to be from the Ministry of Intelligence, raising fears that the pursuit of Mr Jebeli is politically motivated.

In a recorded phone call from prison, Mr Jebeli told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers that the man was responsible for his detention.

“He punished me, this person,” he said. “That person … is a bad person. I am innocent.”

The family told The Sydney Morning Herald that the case was "still a mystery" to them. "We call on the Iranian authorities to release him. At the very least he should be released into the care of a close contact where he can receive the constant medical attention and care he needs, on health grounds," they said.

Amnesty International raised the case of Mr Jebeli last month as one of 10 dual citizens being held by Iran.

Mr Jebeli was the only Australian on the list, which also included a Swede, four Britons, Austrians and Germans. The campaign was aimed at putting pressure on the leaders of G7 nations, who met in the UK this month, to do more to secure their release.

Supporters say they are all being held on trumped-up charges. Many are serving long sentences and campaigners believe they are being used to put diplomatic pressure on their governments to secure political concessions.

Amnesty International said on Monday that despite Mr Jebeli's age and critical health condition, Iranian authorities "denied him access to the urgent specialised health care he needs and have rejected requests for his release on medical grounds."

It said he relied on the help of other inmates to get around the prison and perform basic daily tasks.

Amnesty said that under international law, pre-trial detention should be "exceptional and strictly necessary" with consideration given to the seriousness of an offence, the suspect's age and health.

Mr Jebeli, who first moved to Australia in 1976 before returning three decades later, is the latest prisoner with connections to the country to have been held by Iran.

The Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert was detained for more than two years after she was accused of spying. She was released in November 2020 as part of a complicated prisoner swap arrangement.

Daren Nair, a UK-based campaigner who has highlighted a number of the cases, said: “Shokrollah is one of the oldest prisoners in Evin prison.

“He can’t walk any more and fell over three days ago. He told his family his arm was bleeding and he has bruises.

“He wasn’t sure the prison authorities would take him to hospital. There are no disability services or equipment.”