The authorities of Evin Prison in Tehran are refusing to transfer imprisoned filmmaker Keyvan Karimi to a hospital outside the prison for urgent medical care, his lawyer, Amir Raeesian, told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“My client called me this morning (Wednesday, January 18, 2017) and said his pulmonary inflammation had worsened and he had thrown up blood,” said Raeesian. “He went to the prison clinic, but it’s not clear why the staff are refusing to transfer him to a hospital.”
Political prisoners in Iran are singled out for particularly harsh treatment, including the denial of medical care.
Karimi, 31, has been in Evin Prison since November 23, 2016, when he began serving a one-year sentence for allegedly denigrating Shia Islam in his film, Neveshtan Rooy-e Shahr (Writing on the City), which documents graffiti in Tehran.
Some of the film’s scenes relate to the widespread street protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election in Iran. The Green Movement grew out of those peaceful protests, and is still a highly sensitive subject in Iran, referred to by hardliners as “the sedition.”
Karimi’s Kurdish and Sunni background may also have contributed to his harsh sentence. Iran’s Kurdish ethnic minority and Sunni Muslim religious minority are subjected to significant discrimination and persecution.
Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court initially sentenced Karimi to six years in prison and 223 lashes for “insulting the sacred.” Upon appeal his sentence was reduced to one year in prison and a five-year suspended prison term. He was also fined 20 million rials, approximately $700 USD.
On December 1, 2015, a week after Karimi surrendered himself to the prison, more than 130 Iranian documentary filmmakers issued a joint statement calling on the Judiciary to strike down his sentence. At the same time, several foreign colleagues at film festivals in France, Spain and Italy also condemned Karimi’s arrest.
Two of Karimi’s documentaries, Marz-e Shekasteh (Broken Border) and Zendegi-e Zan va Shohar (The Life of a Husband and Wife), have won international awards.