Omidreza Mirsayafi

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Mirsayafi, 28, author of the cultural news blog, Rooznegar, died in Tehran’s Evin Prison, where he was serving a 30-month term on charges of insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 revolution.

Prison officials said Mirsayafi had committed suicide, the journalist’s lawyer, Muhammad Ali Dadkhah, told the U.K.’s Times Online. Dadkhah‎ said Mirsayafi ‎had expressed concerns about his health, “but the doctors there didn’t take this seriously and said he was faking it.” The journalist, convicted in November 2008, had begun serving his prison term in February 2009.

Hissam Fairoozy, an inmate, told Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) that Mirsayafi had suffered from depression and had been taking antidepressant medications. Fairoozy, a physician, said that he was concerned about his fellow inmate’s condition and had unsuccessfully sought to have prison doctors hospitalize him.

Mirsayafi’s brother, Amirparviz, disputed claims that the journalist suffered from depression. He told the U.S. government-funded Voice of America (VOA) on March 28 that his brother had no history of taking antidepressant medications. He also said that his brother’s body showed signs of abuse, including a left ear that “was covered with blood.” VOA posted a photo of Mirsayafi’s face, which showed facial bruises.

The government did not publicly disclose any details about Mirsayafi’s death.

Mirsayafi, in an interview with HRAI after being sentenced, said he had been coerced into making a false confession. He said the court didn’t specify the blog entries that it considered offensive. An unidentified Iranian blogger told the Times Online that the journalist’s imprisonment may have been linked to an entry in which he questioned Iranian support for Hezbollah.

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