March 06, 2014

A letter from Barbara Lochbihler to Catherine Ashton about Iranian prisoners

Baroness Catherine Ashton
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs
and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission

Helga Schmid
Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs
European External Action Service

Brussels, 4 March 2014

Dear Catherine Ashton
Dear Helga Schmid

First of all, let me stress that I explicitly welcome your visit to Iran, scheduled for the end of this week. With an interim deal on its nuclear programme in place, Iran has taken an important step towards improving relations not only on the nuclear dossier, but in general. Whatever the final result, this is an important success of (inter alia) European diplomacy. At the same time and more than ever before, keeping the momentum and continuing talks in an honest and open manner will be paramount.

Honesty and openness, however, implies that talks of whichever nature should not be conducted in a human-rights vacuum. This holds for trade talks with China or Colombia as much as for geo-strategic discussions with Saudi Arabia or Israel. And it is true for Iran. Indeed, despite first signs of openness and reform such as announcements in recent days to take back a number of media restrictions, the human-rights situation in Iran remains alarming. I therefore would like to call on you to also address the human-rights situation in Iran during your upcoming discussions with Tehran. And I would particularly like to ask you to discuss a number of individual cases ‒ for which the window of opportunity tends to be wide open in situations of possible change like the one we are experiencing today.

Among others, I am deeply concerned about the situation of Reza Shahabi, Reza Pourshajareh, Amanollah Mostaghim, Mohammad Banazadeh Amirkhizi, Saleh Kohandel, and Hossein Kazemeini-Boroujerdi. All are political prisoners in urgent need of medical care and have only been released for medical treatment temporarily.

Iranian trade unionist Reza Shahabi, held in Tehran's Evin Prison, is serving a six-year prison sentence after he was convicted in April 2012 of "gathering and colluding against state security" and "spreading propaganda against the system". Hospital doctors concluded, in contrast, that Reza Shahabi required care outside of prison and warned that, without further treatment, he may suffer paralysis on the left side of his body.

Mohammad Reza Pourshajari, a 53-year-old blogger, was handcuffed and taken to hospital because of different medical problems, but never got treated appropriately. He has recently been held at Karaj Central Peditentiarry prison, and his health is reported to be alarming, partly due to alleged torture and ill-treatment by prison personnel.

Amanollah Mostaghim, Mohammad Banazadeh Amirkhizi and Saleh Kohandel are in a similar situation, only at Rajaii Shahr prison. According to my information and despite ever-more critical health conditions, they do not receive proper medical treatment. Special examinations in medical centres outside of prison, prescribed by the doctors, seem not to have been allowed by the authorities to date.

Hossein Kazemeini-Boroujerdi was arrested at his home in Tehran on 8 October 2006, along with more than 300 of his followers, during violent clashes with the security forces. He is reported to be gravely ill, but has been prohibited from receiving the medical care he needs. Moreover, there are reports of torture and ill-treatment.

I would very much appreciate if you could take the chance offered by the upcoming talks to speak in favour of these imprisoned men, as much as of all other political prisoners in Iran detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Thank you in advance.

Sincerely Yours

Barbara Lochbihler
Member of the European Parliament
Chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee in the European Parliament

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