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Death of ill political prisoner in Rajaee Shahr prison

(8 June 2012) – Sources close to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) have provided details about the death of Kurdish political prisoner Mehdi Zalieh on the evening of Monday, June 4, 2012 from longstanding medical complications. Prior to his death, Zalieh—a 41 year old originally from Sanandaj—had been incarcerated for 20 years in Mahabad, Orumiyeh and Rajaee Shahr prisons, where he had been reportedly been denied adequate medical care.

According to sources interviewed by IHRDC, Zalieh was arrested by Iranian security forces in the spring of 1992 in Sardasht in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. Following his arrest, he was subjected to interrogations in detention centers in Mahabad and Orumiyeh for about six months. During this period, Zalieh was held in solitary confinement at these detention centers and was denied telephone calls or visits from his family. Eventually, after six months of visits to the authorities in the judiciary and security branches in Mahabad and Orumiyeh, Zalieh’s family was finally permitted to briefly visit him after he was transferred to Mahabad prison.

Following his transfer, Zalieh was detained at Mahabad prison for two years, during which time the Mahabad prosecutor allowed no further telephone calls or visits from his family. After two years of detention at Mahabad prison, Zalieh was sentenced to death for the crime of muharibih (“waging war against God”) for his alleged membership in Komala (Sazman-i Inqilabiyih Zahmatkishan-i Kurdistan-i Iran, or the Organization of Revolutionary Toilers of Iranian Kurdistan), a Kurdish political party. The order for Zalieh’s execution was handed down by Judge Jalilzadeh of branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Mahabad. Reportedly, Zalieh was not permitted to have an attorney of his own choosing—rather the court appointed an attorney for him. On appeal, Zalieh’s death sentence was commuted to 30 years of imprisonment.

Following the sentencing, Zalieh was transferred to the central prison in Orumiyeh. He was incarcerated at Orumiyeh’s central prison until 2007 and then transferred to Rajaee Shahr prison for unknown reasons. His family was not notified of his transfer to Rajaee Shahr prison—which at around 250 miles away from Sanandaj is at a considerably farther distance from Orumiyeh.   

Prior to his incarceration, Zalieh sustained serious injuries in the Iran-Iraq war and thereafter suffered from respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments up until his death. Despite his need for proper medical care, he was not given adequate medical attention during his years of incarceration at Mahabad, Orumiyeh and Rajaee Shahr prisons and was not granted furlough for medical reasons during that entire period up until shortly before his death.

Zalieh suffered pulmonary failure on May 23, 2012 and was transferred to the medical clinic in Rajaee Shahr prison. As Zalieh’s condition deteriorated, the heads of the prison clinic transferred Zalieh to Shahid Rajaee hospital in Karaj for further treatment. His family traveled from Sanandaj to Rajaee Shahr to visit him but the prosecutor in Karaj and the Rajaee Shahr prison heads reportedly denied them permission to visit their loved one in the hospital, and they headed home to Sanandaj.

Shortly thereafter, on Tuesday, June 5, 2012, one of Zalieh’s cellmates informed the family about Zalieh’s death the evening before. The family then visited a center of forensic medicine in Karaj to retrieve Zalieh’s body—on Wednesday, June 6, 2012, the center announced that the cause of Zalieh’s death was hepatitis and resulting liver and kidney failure.

Since Zalieh’s death, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has reportedly threatened Zalieh’s family with arrest if they hold a funeral service for him.

Zalieh’s death follows the death of Mansour Radpour, another political prisoner incarcerated in Rajaee Shahr prison, who died on Monday, May 21, 2012 from medical complications.


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