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Rights Group: Investigate Suicides by 2 Friends of Jailed Activist

01 Oct 2011 19:30Comments

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Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

NahalSahabiTall.jpg7:30 p.m., 9 Mehr/October 1 Following the suicide this past week of blogger Nahal Sahabi (pictured), the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) called for an investigation into her death and that of Behnam Ganji, also by suicide, earlier in September. Both Sahabi and Ganji were former detainees in Tehran's Evin Prison and close friends of human rights activist Kouhyar Goudarzi, who has been held incommunicado in Evin since the three were arrested together two months ago. Goudarzi was previously detained in December 2009 while on his way to attend the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri and last June was sentenced to a year in prison on charges centered around "gathering and circulating news directed against the regime." In November 2010, he was named the recipient of the John Auchobon Award for press freedom by the National Press Club. According to ICHRI's news release,
Security forces detained Goudarzi, along with several of his friends, including Behnam Ganji, 22, 31 July 2011. Another friend, Nahal Sahabi, 37, was subsequently interrogated by authorities. Ganji was subsequently released on bail while Goudarzi has remained in detention without any charges. Parvin Mokhtare, Goudarzi's mother, was simultaneously arrested in her home in Kerman and has since been put on trial on charges including "actions against national security by interviewing with foreign media."

"Interrogators and intelligence agents are on a rampage inside prisons and there are no constraints on their horrific treatment of prisoners," said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign's spokesperson.

Following their release, Ganji and Sahabi committed suicide on 1 September and 28 September, respectively.

"There is an urgent need to investigate what happened to Behnam Ganji and Nahal Sahabi inside prison and during their interrogations that led to their tragic suicides, and what is happening to Kouhyar Goudarzi right now," Ghaemi added.

Authorities have maintained absolute silence since Goudarzi's arrest. The Campaign is seriously concerned that these suicides are the result of unbearable psychological abuse suffered by Ganji and Sahabi during and after their detention and interrogation. Prior to Ganji's suicide, he had been summoned to the Intelligence Ministry. A friend of Ganji's told the Campaign that he was terrified to go back to prison again.

Over the past two months, authorities have denied Goudarzi's lawyer's requests to meet with him. They have provided no information as to why he was arrested and cannot exercise his basic rights and, more importantly, why his mother was simultaneously detained in Kerman.

A source close to Ganji told the Campaign in early September that "Behnam Ganji did not have any political or student activities in the past and was merely arrested for his friendship with Kouhyar Goudarzi."

"Kouhyar Goudarzi, Behnam, and another one of their friends were arrested illegally at Behnam's house on 31 July. Behnam had gone to buy bread and just as he entered the home, plainclothes forces who were hiding ambushed him and entered the house behind him by force. They were arrested by those plainclothes forces and were transferred to solitary cells inside Ward 240 of Evin Prison. Behnam himself told me these details after his release. Behnam did not have any political or student activities in his past, but he was interrogated every morning and afternoon inside Ward 240 of Evin Prison. And he was under increasing pressure from security forces and interrogators [who pushed him] for confessions against himself and Kouhyar Goudarzi. The interrogators questioned him about his personal affairs and his private life and tried to put him under pressure to confess against Kouhyar, but they did not succeed," the source told the Campaign.

"Given that he [Ganji] was not politically active, he was not mentally prepared for arrest and solitary confinement, stressful interrogations with blindfolds and being put under psychological pressure and white torture. These events had a huge impact on him and caused severe depression and isolation for him during the days after he was released from prison. After his release from prison, he was so frightened, he even feared his own shadow and never went anywhere alone," the source added.

Nahal Sahabi was a blogger who wrote political poetry and literature. In her summer 2011 blogs, she specifically addressed the prison death of political activist Hoda Saber and the death of Haleh Sahabi during the funeral procession for her father, Ezatollah Sahabi.

"The Iranian intelligence [service] has a long history of putting prisoners under unbearable pressure and using inhumane means to destroy their mental stability, often leading to severe consequences even after their release," said Ghaemi.

According to the Daily Mail, Sahabi and Ganji, who by some accounts were romantically involved, "have been described as the modern day Romeo and Juliet after being driven to suicide by their country's regime." Sahabi's father has denied that that there was any romantic relationship between the two.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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