A photo of imprisoned Swedish resident and scientist Ahmadreza Djalali in which he appears thin and haggard has raised concerns for the health and medical condition of the Iranian-born death row prisoner.
According to Nature, Djalali, an emergency medicine researcher who was sentenced to death in Iran in October 2017, recently sent a letter to scientists around the world thanking them for their support and stating that he has been suffering from serious health problems.
His wife, who said the photo was taken in mid-April 2018, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on April 28 that Djalali has been repeatedly denied crucial medical treatment by the judge presiding over his case.
“If you put his photo before imprisonment next to the current one, you will notice a big difference,” his wife, Vida Mehran-nia, told CHRI on April 28. “It shows a sick man who urgently needs medical attention.”
“Ahmadreza’s family, lawyer and himself have made many requests for him to be transferred to a hospital to get examined,” she said. “The Swedish government has asked Iran several times to enable him to receive treatment.”
“His mother has repeatedly told the authorities that she would pay all the expenses if he would just be allowed to get treatment,” she continued. “But unfortunately, no one cares. Who will take responsibility if something happens to Ahmadreza? Why is he being tormented and harassed to such an extreme?”
Political prisoners in Iran, including elderly inmates, are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of medical care. The threat of withheld medical care has also been used as an intimidation tool against prisoners who have challenged the authorities or filed complaints.
Mehran-nia added: “Before Eid (Iranian New Year, March 21), he was only given blood tests through the official medical examiner and the results that came back for one of the tests a month and a half later showed that his white blood cell count is lower than normal. This is very dangerous. Ahmadreza must be hospitalized as soon as possible. In addition, he needs a hernia operation.”
Djalali’s wife, who lives in Sweden with their two children, told CHRI that the judge presiding over Djalali’s case, Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, “is opposed to letting him go outside the prison [for treatment].”
In interviews with CHRI, several lawyers have criticized Salavati for ignoring arguments by the defense in court and bowing to the demands of the prosecution, especially in cases in which the arresting authority was the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Intelligence Organization or the Intelligence Ministry.
Salavati has presided over many cases against dual nationals, including Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Jason Rezaian, who were released in January 2016 in a prisoner swap deal with the US. He is also the presiding judge in current cases against dual nationals including against Iranian American Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and British Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
In all these cases, the victims have been held without due process and under unclear or unannounced charges, and denied full and proper legal representation.
The Intelligence Ministry arrested Djalali in April 2016 while he was visiting Tehran after being officially invited by the University of Tehran.
In an undated letter from Evin Prison, Djalali, who was working at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm before his arrest, wrote that he was imprisoned for refusing to spy for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
His wife has stated that her husband was forced to rehearse and read the confession that was later broadcast on state TV, and that his interrogators threatened that his family and children would be killed if he did not make the taped statement.
The young physicist Omid Kokabee was imprisoned in Iran for over five years for refusing to conduct military research for Iran.
In November 2017, 175 Nobel laureates urged Iran to release Djalali.
“As members of a group of people (and organizations) who, according to the will of Alfred Nobel are deeply committed to the greatest benefit to mankind, we cannot stay silent, when the life and work of a similarly devoted researcher as Iranian disaster medicine scholar Ahmadreza Djalali is threatened by a death sentence,” said the laureates in a statement published by the Committee of Concerned Scientists.
In December 2017 UN officials called on Iran to annul Djalali’s death sentence, which is currently under review.
“No formal charges were brought against him for nearly 10 months and he was effectively prevented from exercising his right to challenge the legality of detention,” the human rights experts said.
“Furthermore, Dr. Djalali’s rights to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal and to an effective defense have been violated,” they added.