Human Rights Activist’s Hunger Strike Nearingits Seventh Week

 On 28 June, LatifHasani was transferred to Tehran’s Evin Prison and shortly thereafter to Raja’iShahr Prison in Karaj, where he is currently held in a section with violent offenders. He has said he will continue his hunger strike until he is transferred to the political prisoners section of Raja’iShahr Prison. His health has weakened as a result of his hunger strike, possibly exacerbating his pre-existing health conditions, including an irregular heartbeat for which he takes medication, severe low blood pressure and stomach pains.

 Latif Hasani and four other men–  MahmoudFazli, BehboudGholizadeh, ShahramRadmehr, and AyatMehr-Ali Beyglou – were arrested between January and March 2013 for their membership in YeniGamoh’s Central Council, an Iran-based Azerbaijani cultural and political rights advocacy organization. After their arrest, the five men were detained incommunicado, then moved to Tabriz Central Prison, where they were not permitted access to lawyers until one week before their trial. A family member of one of the five said that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated while detained by the Ministry of Intelligence.

 All five men were sentenced by Branch Three of the Revolutionary Court of Tabriz on 29 April 2013 to eight years imprisonment for “forming an illegal group with the intent to harm national security,” plus one-year imprisonment for “spreading propaganda against the system.”

 AyatMehr-Ali Beyglou was also previously on hunger strike from 15 April to 21 May 2014 in protest at the treatment of political prisoners, including the refusal to grant prison leave and the harassment of political prisoners’ families. Beyglou ended his hunger strike after the prison authorities agreed to transfer him from Tabriz Central Prison to a prison closer to his home in Sofian, north of Tabirz, northwest Iran.

 All five men went on hunger strike on 12 July 2013 in protest at their nine-year prison sentences, which the Appeal Court had confirmed the previous month, on 13 June 2013. The prison authorities transferred all five to Raja’iShahr Prison on 25 July 2013, possibly in retribution for their hunger strikes. Shortly afterward, the prison authorities transferred ShahramRadmehr and Mahmoud Fazli to Raja’iShahr Prison’s clinic on 28 July 2013 after their health deteriorated as a result of their hunger strike. Radmehrcontinues to suffer from stomach pains, kidney stones and knee pain, which has made it difficult for him to sit or walk.

 Hasani, Radmehr and Beyglou were previously arrested in May 2010 and taken to the Tabriz Central Prison. Hasani and Radmehr spent seven months in solitary confinement where they say they were tortured. Radmehr, during one of many interrogations by the Ministry of Intelligence, lost consciousness and spent at least three days in a hospital outside of the prison administered by the Revolutionary Guards.

 Iranian Azerbaijanis, the largest minority group in Iran, speak a Turkic language and are mainly Shi’a Muslims. They live mainly in the north and north-west of the country and in Tehran. Although generally well-integrated into Iranian society, in recent years members of their community have increasingly called for greater cultural and linguistic rights, including the right to education in Azerbaijani Turkic, which is not recognized as an official language in Iran. Those who seek to promote Azerbaijani cultural identity and linguistic rights are viewed with suspicion by the Iranian authorities.