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Iran Opens New Case on Jailed Dissident, Dashing Release Hopes

Undated image of jailed Iranian dissident Majid Asadi, who was transferred from Karaj's Rajaei Shahr prison to Tehran's Evin prison on July 22, 2020 in apparent connection with a new case against him, opened by Iran's intelligence ministry. (VOA Persian)

Iran has opened a new investigation into a dissident whom it has jailed for most of the past decade, allowing the government to prolong his detention rather than release him this month as he had hoped.

In a Tuesday interview with VOA Persian, the Iran-based mother of dissident Majid Asadi said he told her about the new case against him in a July 22 phone call from prison.

Asadi, who is in his late 30s, has been in detention since February 2017, when he was arrested at his home in Karaj, near the Iranian capital, Tehran. The dissident, a former student activist who had been working as a translator for a private company, was sentenced in November 2017 to six years in prison on charges of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and spreading anti-government propaganda.

Asadi previously had been jailed from October 2011 to June 2015 on accusations of national security offenses related to his activism at Tehran’s Allameh Tabataba'i University. He had been arrested in June 2008 while studying at the university, released on bail three months later, then sentenced in March 2010 and jailed when his appeal was denied.

The reasons for Asadi’s February 2017 arrest have remained unclear, but the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran cited an informed source in March of that year as saying that Asadi’s friendly relations with former cellmates may have upset Iranian security officials.

Speaking to VOA, Asadi’s mother, Fatemeh Vakili, said her son told her in the July 22 phone call that he had expected to be conditionally released from Karaj’s Rajaei Shahr prison two days earlier, based on good behavior and having served a required minimum of half of his six-year sentence.

But Vakili cited Asadi as saying that his hopes were dashed when prison authorities notified him that he would be transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison later in the day on July 22. She said he also told her that Iran’s intelligence ministry opened a new case against him, but he did not know why.

There was no comment in Iranian state media regarding the new case against Asadi or how long he would remain in Evin prison.

Vakili also expressed concern about her son’s medical condition. He has suffered spinal and digestive problems for years due to poor living conditions inside the prisons where he has been detained.

“Why do they make a new case for a prisoner who is under their watch,” Vakili said, referring to Iranian authorities. “Why don’t they release him? He is sick and needs care.”

In a Wednesday tweet, the dissident’s brother Morteza Asadi said Majid was suffering multiple additional ailments including liver problems, coronavirus symptoms and physical weakness.

The Trump administration repeatedly has criticized Iran for its treatment of dissidents. The latest State Department annual report on human rights practices in Iran, released in March, said the nation’s Islamist rulers often charged political dissidents with vague crimes, imposed strict penalties on government critics for minor violations, and held some detainees in prison for years on unfounded charges of sympathizing with real or alleged terrorist groups.

This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service. Click here for the original Persian version of the story.