By Jubin Katiraie

Iranian political prisoner Maryam Akbari Monfared refused to appear in Evin [Prison] Courthouse last week after she was verbally summoned to be arraigned on new charges levied against her. 

She didnt attend the courthouse in protest to her lack of access to a lawyer, not receiving a written summons, and the government’s failure to address the coronavirus outbreak in prisons. 

 

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Akbari Monfared is now being charged with chanting anti-regime slogans on February 11, the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution, and the case is presided over by Judge Haji Moradi at Branch Two of the Interrogation Department of Evin Courthouse. 

The 50-year-old is eligible for release, given that she has served more than two-thirds of her 15-year prison sentence without any period of temporary leave, but the court has refused to grant her petitions. Her initial conviction was entirely based on the fact that she made phone calls and one visit to relatives who were members of the banned Iranian opposition group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Iraq, according to Amnesty International. 

This has a worrying correlation to the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran, including Akbari Monfared’s sister Roghieh and brother Abdolreza. Many of the prisoners were not released despite having served their sentence because they refused to renounce the MEK. They were then cut off from the outside world, at a time of great crisis for the government when the mullahs feared imminent overthrow and executed en-masse in secret before their bodies were dumped in mass graves. 

Another political prisoner, Atena Daemi, was summoned and arraigned at the courthouse on June 7, on the charge of "disrupting the prison’s order through chanting slogans against the Islamic Republic;" something Daemi rejected. 

In a related case, political prisoner Zahra Safaei was threatened with murder on Sunday in Qarchak Prison by three violent offenders hired by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).

This is not an uncommon occurrence in Iran, where political prisoners are housed with violent criminals as a means of intimidation, despite Iranian and international law requiring the separation of criminals based on the category of their crime. In June 2019, political prisoner Alireza Shirmohammadali was stabbed to death by dangerous inmates in the Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary. 

Human rights groups are now saying that the regime is also using coronavirus as a way to suppress the political prisoners by denying them appropriate medical care, cleaning supplies, and a means to quarantine sick prisoners. 

 

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