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Rights Groups Say Iranian Inmate 'Unfit' For Jail Dies In Custody


Sasan Niknafs

A man has died while serving a five-year jail sentence in Iran, with activists accusing the authorities of contributing to his death by neglecting his medical condition.

Sasan Niknafs had been serving a sentence since July 2020 on charges including disseminating "propaganda" against the state and Iran's leadership, the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) and the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) said in separate statements late on June 7.

The groups held the head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, responsible, saying he is ultimately in charge of the care of prisoners.

The ultraconservative Raisi is expected to win the June 18 presidential election.

Niknafs was imprisoned "despite displaying multiple physical and mental health issues," including a history of attempted suicide, according to the CHRI.

The IHR said he had been suffering from diabetes, epilepsy, and depression but that the authorities "refused his release despite numerous requests."

The Mizan Online judiciary news agency quoted the Tehran prison service as saying it had provided Niknafs with medical treatment after being informed of his suicidal tendencies.

Niknafs said he had taken pills supplied by another prisoner and subsequently fell ill, according to the prison service.

It said he was transferred on June 5 to a hospital in Tehran, where he died.

CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi denounced "a decades-long policy of treating critics of the state as less than human, and the judiciary chief's [Raisi's] refusal to protect prisoners."

In February, Iranian authorities said Behnam Mahjubi, a jailed activist from the Sufi Gonabadi dervish religious minority, died after being hospitalized for what they say was poisoning caused by the consumption of medication.

There has also been alarm over the fate of imprisoned dissident filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad, with United Nations rights experts warning early last month he was reportedly so ill he risks "serious complications and possible death."

With reporting by AFP
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