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Media Watch | Reformist Cleric Ahmad Ghabel in Coma, Reported Brain Dead


17 Oct 2012 03:39Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

AhmadGhabelHome.jpg[ in focus ] According to Saham News and Emrooz, the family of Ahmad Ghabel has confirmed that the reformist cleric has been declared legally brain dead following a severe heart attack that put him in a coma. Ghabel, 58, was previously diagnosed with a brain tumor while in prison on anti-state charges.

First arrested in 2001 when he was the leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) -- once the country's largest reformist political group, now banned -- Ghabel has been repeatedly accused by the Iranian regime of defaming Supreme Leader Ali Khameini in public remarks. He was rearrested and briefly detained in 2007 on "security charges" and barred in 2009 from traveling abroad.

He was arrested yet again in December 2009 on his way to the funeral of his mentor, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri (the two clerics are pictured together below). Released on bail from Vakilabad Prison the following June, he was arrested once more in December 2010. The immediate cause of this final arrest were public statements he made concerning the Islamic Republic's prolific executions of drug offenders. Like Montazeri, Ghabel was a long-time advocate of prison reform in Iran and supported the work of human rights groups such as the Committee for the Defense of Prisoners' Rights.

Ghabel's six months at Vakilabad Prison in 2009-10 allowed him to document and release a report on 50 men who had been executed with no prior warning for drug convictions. His testimony was part of the basis for a report published by the Green Voice of Freedom in 2010 on the Islamic Republic's secret mass executions (his name appears differently due to the GVF website's Farsi-to-English transliteration style):

"The statistics I kept with myself during those three months was more than fifty people [were executed]," Qabel told the Campaign. "When I say more than fifty, it is because I do not wish to misstate the number by even one person. If I take note of what other prisoners reported as well, adding them, perhaps the numbers would be more than this."

"It seems to me that in order to avoid a huge international uproar about the issue, [Vakilabad prison officials] do this in silence and don't make any announcements about the executions," Qabel added.

His revelations deeply embarrassed the regime and led to his reincarceration last December on charges of distributing anti-regime "propaganda." Ghabel's wife, Marzieh Pasdar, notes that he was already in trouble for daring to give a public talk about his time at Vakilabad shortly after his release. He was tried in a Revolutionary Court and, according to the Associated Press, "was also given additional sentences of three years' exile, a ban on interviews and lectures during that time, and a fine for possessing a satellite receiver. His laptop was also confiscated." Ghabel's family has told human rights observers that all of his trials in the past half decade were closed to the public and that he was not afforded legal counsel.

When the Vakilabad executions were made public by Ghabel and other former prisoners in 2010, the Times of London reported that "the Supreme Court in Iran has begun approving mass secret executions in the city of Mashhad in an effort to wipe out a chronic drug problem," without giving notice to the families of the condemned. Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, confirmed Ghabel and his colleagues' account last October. Right now, the fate of several death row inmates at Tehran's Evin Prison is being investigated by Amnesty International. Their planned executions were first postponed following another scathing report from Shaheed, and then apparently not carried out on their newly scheduled date of Saturday.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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