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Inside Evin Prison: A Witness’s Account of Sina Qanbari’s Death

Inside Evin Prison: A Witness’s Account of Sina Qanbari’s Death

Sina Qanbari, 23, was arrested in a protest in Tehran and taken to Evin Prison. On January 8, 2018, Iranian officials announced his death. The head of Tehran Province prison system stated that Qanbari had committed suicide by hanging. Accounts of individuals held in the same ward as Qanbari told a very different story. In an interview with IHRDC, a witness who wanted to remain anonymous described what happened on the night that Qanbari died.

Sina had difficulty sleeping. We realized this the first night. Sina asked one of the officials in the quarantine ward for a sedative. That person went to the infirmary and obtained a medicine and gave it to Sina. But every time Sina took the pill it had strange effects on him. He became anxious. Sometimes he would sit in a corner and talk to himself.  On Thursday [January 4] Sina got into a verbal fight with the guard who had given him the pills. An hour later, around 8 pm, he took Sina out of the quarantine ward, ostensibly to give him cigarettes…Sina returned after half an hour and we saw bruises and wounds on his body and face. We asked him what had happened. He jokingly said, “We wrestled and did this to ourselves.” Sina was up until 3 am. He would leave the room and talk to that guard every 30 minutes. It was clear that he wanted something from him. The last time he returned I saw a large quantity of pills in his hand. We slept at around 3 am. We woke up at 4:30 am when we heard one of the guys screaming. He had seen Sina’s body wrapped in a blanket on the restroom floor.”

Prison authorities threatened those detained at the ward to say nothing about Sina’s death. They insisted that Sina had committed suicide, but the witness who spoke with IHRDC believes that he died because of overdosing on the drugs that was given to him at the prison.

The interrogator pressured the detainees to produce written testimonies stating that Sina Qanbari was addicted to methadone. They repeatedly stated that speaking about Sina Qanbari, whether in prison or on the phone with our families or outside the prison, can have consequences for us….They forced us to write a sentence stating that disseminating any information regarding Sina Qanbari’s death can result in criminal prosecution.” 

Intimidation of detainees was not limited to Sina Qanbari’s death. IHRDC’s witness stated that on January 3, Tehran Prosecutor Jafari Dolatabadi visited the quarantine ward and threatened the detainees that if they did not confess and express remorse for participating in demonstrations they would stay in prison for a very long time. After this threat, TV cameras were brought inside the ward, and some detainees expressed regret for taking part in the protests.



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