20 March 2009
Investigation urged into death of Iranian blogger Omid Reza Mirsayafi
Omid Reza Mir Sayafi, a 29-year old Iranian blogger (Rooz Negar blog) and journalist died in Evin Prison in Tehran on March 18. In December, he was sentenced to two and half years in prison for allegedly insulting religious leaders, and engaging in propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mir Sayafi was still awaiting an additional trial for insulting Islam.
According to the Human Rights activists in Iran website, Omid Reza suffered from deep depression in jail and was prescribed medications of which he apparently took too many. Dr. Hesam Firouzi, a jailed doctor and human rights activist says he urged prison authorities to send Omid Reza to a hospital outside prison but that prison doctors refused, and would not perform even basic tests.
A campaign has been launched in Facebook to “Hold Iran Responsible for Death of Blogger Mirsayafi in Prison”.
Human rights organisation Article 19 has called for an investigation into the death of Iranian blogger Omid Reza Mirsayafi, who died in Evin prison, Tehran.
Mirsayafi was sentenced to two and a half years in November last year under Articles 500 and 514 of the criminal code, which state that "anyone who insults the Supreme Guide Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or the country’s leaders, is liable for six months to two years in prison"(Article 514) and "anyone making propaganda against the state is liable to three months to one year in prison" (Article 500).
According to Article 19, unconfirmed reports coming out of the Evin prison seem to indicate that Mirsayafi’s death may have been caused by an incorrect dose of the prescribed medications he had been taking.
Human rights activist Dr Firouzi alleges that prison doctors ignored pleas to give him proper treatment and that officials made little attempt to save his life.
Article 19 Executive Director, Dr Agnès Callamard said: "Article 19 is shocked at the news of Omid Reza Mirsayafi’s death in prison, especially on the eve of Norouz.
"We call on the Iranian authorities to launch a thorough and urgent investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death."
Many bloggers in Iran receive prison sentences, including Shahnaz Gholami, a women rights activist and editor the blog A Woman’s Rights are Human Rights, arrested in November 2008 for posting articles deemed to be damaging to national security on her blog.
Gholami, who also experienced harsh prison conditions, was released on bail of 200 million Tumans (approximately £140,000) on 17 January 2009 after going on hunger strike.
Mirsayafi’s treatment is not an isolated case in Iran. Indeed it is another example of the ongoing persecution and repression of dissident voices by Iranian authorities. For example, Hossein Derakhshan, the most prominent blogger imprisoned in Iran, has been incarcerated without trial since November 2008.
ARTICLE 19 calls for an urgent and impartial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mirsayafi’s death and urges the Iranian authorities to immediately halt its persecution of bloggers, activists and dissenting voices.