Suspicious death in prison

Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI) urge the Iranian authorities to investigate the death in prison of Mr. Ebrahim Lotfollahi. FIDH and LDDHI furthermore express their deep concern over the increasingly frequent arrests of student activists and women’s rights defenders over the past months.

Mr. Ebrahim Lotfollahi, a Kurdish law student, died in the prison of Sanandaj, in Iran’s Kurdish northwestern region, on January 15th, 2008. Mr Lotfollahi was arrested, for unknown reasons, on January 6th, 2008. According to the Iranian authorities, Mr. Lotfollahi committed suicide, however, his family, who had visited him a few days prior to his death, claims that he was then in good spirits. Mr. Lotfollahi was burried without the autorisation from his family who had requested in vain for an autopsy to be conducted.

FIDH and LDDHI recall another case of suspicious death in prison: Ms. Zahra Bani-Ameri, a physician, died in prison in the city of Hamedan, on October 13th, 2007 in what was also claimed to be a suicide. Her brother nevertheless claimed that she had seemed to be fine when they spoke on the phone just 30 minutes before her death. Ms. Bani-Ameri was arrested, with her fiancé, on October 12th, 2007, for having an « illegal relationship ». According to Iranian law, immoral relationships between men and women who are not married may be subject to criminal punishment.

At present there are over 50 students held in detention in Iran. Mr. Majid Tavakoli, Mr. Ahmed Ghassaban and Mr. Ehsan Mansouri, three student activists accused of defaming Islam in a student newsletter, are in detention since May 2007. Mr. Yasser Goli, a member of the « Kurdish democratic student association », is in detention, for unknown reasons, since the beginning of October 2007.

Ms. Ronak Safarzadeh and Ms. Hanna Abdi, two women’s rights activists, members of the « Azarmehr Association of Women of Kurdistan », and active within the « One Million Signatures Campaign » are in detention since September and October, 2007. The mother of Mr. Yasser Goli, Mrs. Fatemeh Goftaria, also a member of the « AzarMehr», has been recently arrested. The « AzarMehr » association is under strict police surveillance.

FIDH and LDDHI strongly urge the Iranian authorities to put an immediate end to the current harsh repression against civil society, and especially the student and the women’s right movement, in conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). FIDH and LDDHI further request that the alleged suicides of Mr. Lotfollahi and Ms. Bani-Ameri be thoroughly investigated.

Press contact : Karine Appy + 33 1 43 55 14 12 / + 33 1 43 55 25 18

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