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Jailed Iranian Activist’s Child Under Investigation for Criticizing Ailing Father’s Detention

Undated image of Iranian dissident Abbas Vahedian Shahroudi, who has been detained at Mashhad's Vakilabad prison since August 2019.
Undated image of Iranian dissident Abbas Vahedian Shahroudi, who has been detained at Mashhad's Vakilabad prison since August 2019.

A jailed Iranian activist’s child is under investigation by Iran’s judiciary for speaking out about the plight of the ailing activist whose request for medical leave from a coronavirus-infested prison has been denied.

An informed Iran-based source told VOA Persian in a Thursday phone interview that the chief of prisons in the northwestern province of Razavi Khorasan has filed a formal complaint against the adult child of detained Iranian dissident Abbas Vahedian Shahroudi.

The source said the child, whose name VOA Persian has withheld from publication to protect that individual’s safety, had made recent public criticisms of Iranian authorities for continuing to detain Shahroudi, despite the activist’s poor health, at Vakilabad prison in the provincial capital Mashhad.

Since early March, rights activists have been reporting coronavirus outbreaks spreading through Iran’s prisons. Official case numbers for the virus in the prison system have not been disclosed.

The source said the complaint by Razavi Khorasan prisons chief Khashayar Jamshid has prompted Iranian judicial authorities to investigate Shahroudi’s child for the alleged offense of “spreading false information” about the conditions of the activist’s detention.

According to VOA Persian’s source, the child of Shahroudi recently had criticized Vakilabad’s health care and food standards as dire and had accused prison guards of failing to abide by regulations requiring inmates to be housed separately according to their alleged crimes.

The source said the individual who criticized the prison’s conditions now fears also being imprisoned, as the individual’s father has been since his arrest in Mashhad on August 18, 2019.

The only family member of Shahroudi to make recent public comments about his case is his daughter, Hengameh Vahedian Shahroudi. In a March 11 article, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said she told the New York-based group that her father was suffering from coronavirus symptoms after being kept in a ward with other inmates suspected of having the virus.

“We are very worried about this situation, but when we make inquiries, the authorities respond with threats,” Hengameh Vahedian Shahroudi told CHRI. “When I informed the public about the lack of health products and procedures in prison, the head of the State Prisons Organization accused me of spreading falsehoods. We really don’t know what to do.”

Iranian authorities detained Abbas Vahedian Shahroudi, a prominent civil rights activist and author, after he joined 13 other activists in signing a June 2019 open letter demanding the resignation of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The source said Shahroudi’s family has learned that the activist has continued to suffer multiple health problems in the Mashhad jail, including a lung infection and an allergic condition. The source said family members repeatedly have asked local court officials to grant Shahroudi a furlough to receive medical treatment outside of prison, but the officials responded by saying they would not do so because the case against Shahroudi remained open.

Iran’s judiciary has granted furloughs to tens of thousands of prisoners since late February, in part to curb the spread of the virus in its crowded and unsanitary jails.

Authorities said the temporary releases would not be granted to dissidents with more than five-year prison sentences for engaging in activities designated as security offenses. Shahroudi, who has yet to face a trial or conviction, does not appear to fall into that category.

VOA Persian cannot independently verify conditions in Iran’s prisons because it is barred from reporting there.

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