Five years and 32 lashes for criticising Iran's economic policy
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Amnesty International. To mark this, Amnesty, in association with The Irish Times, is profiling a prisoner each month . . .
ACROSS THE Middle East and North Africa, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets demanding change. They have toppled dictatorships and threatened undemocratic regimes.
But in Iran, the oppression and abuse of any who dare to speak out against the government continues. Bahman Ahmadi Amou’i is 43 and was editor of the Iranian daily business newspaper Sarmayeh, which frequently published articles criticising the government’s economic policies.
He was one of the country’s leading economic commentators and published two books analysing Iran’s economy.
Bahman was arrested on June 20th, 2009, and his newspaper banned in November. He spent the first two months of his detention in solitary confinement before being brought to trial.
The allegations against him were the familiar list of vague and ill-defined charges used against political dissidents. He was accused of “propaganda against the system”, “disrupting public security” and “insulting the president”. Convicted after an unfair trial at a Revolutionary Court in Tehran on January 4th, 2010, he was sentenced to more than seven years, reduced to five on appeal, and 32 lashes.
He is currently serving his sentence in Evin Prison, Tehran, notorious for its harsh treatment of inmates, particularly political prisoners. He is allowed one monitored visit from his wife, journalist and former prisoner Jila Baniyaghoob, each week but no other visits or phone calls.
Despite the harsh conditions of his imprisonment, Bahman continues to resist the authorities. In June he was one of 12 prisoners who went on a hunger strike to protest the deaths of fellow prisoners Haleh Sahabi and Hoda Saber.
Haleh Sahabi was a pro-democracy activist and a member of Mothers for Peace. She died at the funeral of her father on June 2nd, while on temporary release.
Eyewitnesses said she died after she was struck by a member of the security forces.
Journalist Hoda Saber was a prisoner of conscience linked to an Iranian opposition party. He died in custody on June 12th following a hunger strike launched in protest at Haleh Sahabis death. According to a letter from more than 60 of his fellow prisoners, he was beaten and denied adequate medical treatment before his death.
This is what life is like in Iran’s prisons for the hundreds of people still detained simply because they do not agree with their government and because they have campaigned peacefully for change.
Bahman and the other prisoners ended their hunger strike at the end of June. Today, they remain in Evin Prison, at the mercy of an increasingly brutal prison regime.
Earlier this year, investigative journalist and prisoner of conscience Emadeddin Baghi was released so we know international pressure can make a difference.
Please write immediately calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Bahman Ahmadi Amou’i to His Excellency, the Iranian ambassador to Ireland, Mr Hossein Panahiazar, Embassy of Iran, 72 Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Or log on to www.amnesty.ie and take action online.
Update: In February, as part of this series with The Irish Times, we profiled Chinese prisoner of conscience Mao Hengfeng.
We are delighted to report that she has been released early from the Re-education Through Labour camp in which she was held.
Although her health is very poor following her prolonged detention, she is back with her family and improving.
We would like to thank everyone who took action on her case.