Evin Prison hunger strike highlights inhumane conditions

New York, August 5, 2010A hunger strike by Evin Prison inmates, including at least five journalists, underscores inhumane conditions at the prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today as it called for the release of all journalists unjustly jailed for their work.

“We are gravely concerned about the health of our colleagues, who are on their second week of a hunger strike,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on the Iranian authorities to release all imprisoned journalists and to respect freedom of the press.”

At least 37 journalists were behind bars in Iran as of June 1, when CPJ conducted its most recent in-depth survey. About half were being held at Evin Prison.

The five journalists are among at least 16 political prisoners transferred to solitary confinement last week, after objecting to restrictions on family visits and inhumane treatment, according to news reports. Radio Zamaneh said the strikers are demanding respect for prisoners’ rights, improved health care, and their own return to the general prison population.

Several prisoners—including journalists Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, a contributor to reformist newspapers, and Kayvan Samimi, manager of the now-defunct monthly Nameh—began the hunger strike on July 26 after being transferred to solitary confinement, according to the reformist news website Kalema. Both journalists were arrested in June 2009 following the disputed presidential elections.

Additional prisoners—including journalists Ali Malihi, Kouhyar Goudarzi, Mohammad Hossein Sohrabi Rad—joined the strike a day later and were themselves transferred to solitary confinement. Malihi, a journalist for reformist publications, has been sentenced to four years in prison on antistate charges. Goudarzi, a journalist for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters was arrested in December 2009 and charged with heresy, propagating against the regime, and participating in illegal congregations. Sohrabi Rad was arrested in September 2009 in connection to his work in preparing a documentary on prisoner abuse at the Kahrizak Detention Center. (Public outcry over the abuse led to the closing of Kahrizak.)

In an unrelated matter, several media outlets reported that an explosive device went off near the convoy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday in the western city of Hamedan. The government later denied the reports, saying a firecracker had been thrown near the motorcade. The incident occurred near a bus carrying journalists, according to Khabar Online, a government-affiliated news service. CPJ is seeking information on possible injuries to journalists.