Detained Iranian-Born Swedish Resident Jalali Starts Hunger Strike After Judge Dismisses Lawyers

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Iranian-born Swedish resident Ahmadreza Jalali, detained in Iran since April 2016, began a second hunger strike in Evin Prison on February 15, 2017 to protest against his lawyers being dismissed by the judge shortly before his trial, the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned.

Jalali’s wife, Vida Mehran-nia, also told the Campaign that her husband was moved to solitary confinement as punishment for his decision to go on hunger strike.

“Ahmadreza asked the judge why he had accepted his lawyers at first, but decided to dismiss them now that the trial is approaching,” she said.

“He also called for the [Intelligence Ministry] official who had promised to review his case, but Judge (Abolqasem) Salavati replied that Ahmadreza would never see that official again,” she added. “So, when my husband returned to prison (from Salavati’s office), he phoned the family and told them what had happened and said he was going on hunger strike again.”

“Now we’ve heard he has been transferred to solitary confinement in Ward 240,” she said. “We’re very worried about him. We think he’s under a lot of pressure.”

Vida Mehran-nia, who lives in Sweden, explained that her husband had earlier been tricked into ending his first hunger strike, which he began in December 2016 to protest the denial of due process and being threatened with the death penalty. “About eight days ago (February 8), an Intelligence Ministry official told Ahmadreza in Evin Prison that they would look into his case and asked him to end his hunger strike,” she told the Campaign. “The official swore on the Quran (Islamic holy book) that there was nothing to worry about and his case would be reviewed.”

“So Ahmadreza broke his strike (on February 12) because he thought someone who swears on the Quran would definitely be telling the truth,” said Mehran-nia.

“But on Wednesday [February 15, 2017], Ahmadreza was taken to the office of the presiding Judge Abolqasem Salavati,” she continued. “I don’t know why he was summoned, but the judge said he would not accept Ahmadreza’s lawyers and he should choose others and if he won’t, the court would appoint one for him.”

“The family had introduced two lawyers to defend Ahmadreza: Mr. Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee and Ms. Zeinab Taheri, but Judge Salavati rejected both,” she added.

Tabatabaee regularly represents political prisoners in Iran.

The Intelligence Ministry arrested Jalali, who lives in Sweden with his wife and two children, on April 24, 2016.

A non-practicing general medicine physician, Jalali has a post-doctorate degree in emergency and disaster medicine and computer science applied to medical practice from the University of Eastern Piedmont, Novara, Italy.

He was visiting the Iranian capital based on an official invitation from Tehran University. The authorities have not disclosed any details about the charges, if any, have been laid against him.

Jalali began his first hunger strike on December 25, 2016, the day his interrogators told him he would receive the maximum punishment.

“Previously, they had told him that his case had been reviewed and his trial would start soon,” Mehran-nia told the Campaign at the time. “But they put him under so much psychological pressure that he decided to start a hunger strike on the same day.”

About a month later, Salavati threatened Jalali with the death sentence before the trial had even begun.

“Ahmadreza made a short phone call to the family on Tuesday, January 31 and said that on the previous day Judge Salavati had read the indictment in the Revolutionary Court and told him ‘Your sentence is death and it won’t change at the end of the trial… Eat your food,’” Mehran-nia told the Campaign.

The Judiciary’s ongoing imprisonment of dual nationals contradicts Rouhani’s repeated calls for expatriates to return to Iran. The growing number of arrests also reflects hardliners’ efforts to prevent the engagement with the West that the Rouhani administration has sought to encourage.

Iranian-British dual citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016, has been held since April 2016; Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, held since October 15, 2015 and his father, 80-year-old Bagher Namazi, held since February 2016, have both been sentenced to ten years in prison; Iranian-American Robin (Reza) Shahini, held since July 2016; has been sentenced to 18 years in prison, British-Iranian Roya Saberi Nobakht, held since October 2013, has been sentenced to seven years; and Iranian-Austrian dual citizen Kamran Ghaderi, held since January 2016, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Iranian-American Karan Vafadari, held since July 2016, has not been sentenced yet.

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