Two of the other death row inmates are housed in another prison. It is unclear whether or not the 11th from Ghezel Hesar is Mahmoud Barati, a schoolteacher who was the subject of an Amnesty International call to action on Monday.
Amnesty emphasized that Barati is the victim of the Iranian judiciary’s mandatory death sentence for various drug-related crimes, which do not meet international law standards for capital punishment. In part because of these mandatory sentences, Iran has executed more than 700 people so far in 2015.
Amnesty adds that Barati was convicted on the basis of a confession that he later retracted and that was alleged to have been obtained under conditions of torture.
According to the initial NCRI report, the movement of the 13 prisoners into solitary confinement coincided with a raid on the inmates of Karaj Central Prison – the second of its kind in recent weeks. The report pointed out that such raids are commonly utilized as punitive and repressive measures by the Iranian regime, adding to overall poor conditions and prisoner mistreatment.
IranWire elaborated on this in a report published Sunday on the general topic of prison inspections and trade in contraband, including drugs. The report quotes one Iranian prisoner as saying that recurring raids “create an atmosphere of terror” and give prison officials an opportunity to steal prisoners’ personal belongings. Beatings and humiliation are commonplace in the context of such raids.
Furthermore, raids on wards containing political prisoners are often aimed at confiscating reading materials and other sources of information and communication that are otherwise permitted.
This is far from being the only way in which Iranian authorities bend their own rules in order to keep pressure on political prisoners and other undesirables. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported on Monday that Bahareh Hedayat, a prominent women’s and students’ rights activist, is still in prison nearly a month after she was scheduled to be released.
Authorities are now enforcing a two year sentence that had been suspended, and the statute of limitations for which expired in 2012 while she was serving a five year prison term for “acting against national security and publishing falsehoods.” Under Iran’s New Islamic Penal Code, this is the only sentence that she could legally serve, as it is the longest of more than one simultaneous sentences. But in Hedayat’s case and others, the authorities have elected to ignore that provision of the law, as well as the statute of limitations. The International Campaign points out that this is part of a recurring policy of sitting on sentences for political prisoners so as to re-issue them at a later date in order to artificially protract their prison sentences.
In an arguably more extreme example of this, labor rights activist Behnam Ibrahimzadeh recently received nearly eight additional years in prison after serving his sentence of only five years, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency. Prison authorities have been known to deny release out of a sense that such release would allow them to escape their due punishment. This may be the motivation behind the Ibrahimzadeh case, insofar as he was initially sentenced to 20 years before having this reduced to five on appeal.
Some prisoners are also retained in spite of conditions that would ordinarily justify furlough or early release. In some cases, prison authorities hold them even in defiance of orders or release based on medical conditions and the perception that continuation of the sentence may kill the inmate.
Along these lines, HRANA reported on Monday that Hassan Tafah, an 86 year-old prisoner in Rajai Shahr Prison, remains in prison despite a year-old order declaring his intolerance to further punishment. Tafah suffers from leukemia, and in addition to being denied release, he has been disallowed from receiving a short term leave from absence or even visiting a hospital.
Similar conditions have been visited upon Afshin Baymani, according to another report by HRANA. Baymani was initially sentenced to death for helping his brother, an associate of the dissident group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, to escape the authorities. His sentence was commuted to life in prison, but denial of medical care arguably stands to indirectly lead to his death at the hands of prison officials.
Baymani suffers from severe heart disease and has been in prison for 16 years. But throughout that entire period of time he has never received medical leave or been permitted to transfer to a hospital.