An Iranian teachers union leader, who has been jailed in Iran since 2016 and whose prison term was recently extended by a decade, is receiving inadequate medical treatment for severe pain, according to his wife.
In a Tuesday interview with VOA Persian from her home in Tehran, the wife of Esmail Abdi said the dissident told her about his health in a recent phone call from the city’s Evin prison.
Monir Abdi said her 46-year-old husband has been suffering pain in the left side of his body since he contracted the coronavirus at the prison in August. She said the illness compounded Esmail Abdi’s other health problems, which include asthma, high blood pressure and weakness resulting from two previous hunger strikes, the last of which was two years ago.
Monir Abdi said she learned from her husband that the only treatment he has received from Evin’s health clinic has been several electrocardiogram tests and some medication. She said the measures have not alleviated the pain in his left side.
Esmail Abdi has been imprisoned at Evin since November 2016, when he began serving a six-year sentence for alleged national security offenses related to his peaceful advocacy of teachers rights.
Abdi would have qualified for parole in June, but he remained in prison after judicial authorities acted a month earlier to revive a 10-year suspended sentence that he had received in 2010 for an earlier conviction related to his labor rights activism. Abdi’s lawyer, Hosein Taj, criticized the judiciary's move in an interview with state news agency ILNA published May 4.
Abdi was given the 10-year suspended sentence for two charges of “gathering information with the intention to disrupt national security” and spreading anti-government propaganda.
Taj appealed to Iran’s Supreme Court to cancel the 10-year suspended sentence, arguing it had expired five years after being issued in 2010. But an October 6 article by state-approved news site Ensaf cited Taj as saying the top court rejected his appeal, prompting him to submit a request to Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi to intervene.
Power to overturn
Article 477 of Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedure gives Iran’s judiciary chief the power to order the Supreme Court to overturn a verdict that he deems to be “evidently in contravention of sharia [Islamic law]” and issue a new one.
Monir Abdi told VOA she was awaiting the judiciary’s decision on whether it would cancel her husband’s 10-year sentence under Article 477.
“Esmail’s activities were peaceful,” she said. “Judicial authorities have revived a closed case against him from 10 years ago only to instill fear among other activists and undermine their work with labor unions.”
There has been no comment from Iranian officials about Abdi’s case in state media over the past month.
The labor activist has had several furloughs from prison since his 2016 incarceration, including from March 17 to April 20 and January 9-20, 2018.
Abdi’s latest prison leave earlier this year coincided with Iran's temporary release of tens of thousands of prisoners to reduce the risk of coronavirus contagion in its overcrowded and unsanitary jails. Since his last furlough ended in April, his wife has told VOA that she has appealed unsuccessfully to Evin authorities to grant him another temporary release.