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Baktash Abtin’s death part of Iran ‘systematic killing’ of jailed dissidents: Inmates

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The death of dissident Iranian poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin is part of the Iranian regime’s “systematic killing” of imprisoned dissidents, a group of political prisoners in Iran said on Monday.

Abtin, a prominent poet and author, died in a hospital in Tehran, the Iranian Writers Association said on Saturday.

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Abtin, who was serving a six-year prison sentence, was earlier put into an induced coma. The 48-year-old had contracted COVID-19 twice in prison.

Blaming the Iranian judiciary and prison authorities for Abtin’s death, a group of political prisoners in Iran, in a statement published Monday, described his death as a continuation of the “chain murders” – a series of murders of Iranian dissidents and intellectuals critical of the Iranian regime in Iran and abroad in the 1980s and 1990s.

The statement also described Abtin’s death as the “systematic killing of political prisoners” by Iran.

“Baktash, like the rest of those imprisoned by the Islamic Republic, was on the one hand sentenced to a gradual death due to the deplorable health conditions of prison, and on the other hand sentenced to a certain death after the emergence of the coronavirus,” the statement said.

Abtin was sentenced to six years in prison and transferred to Tehran’s Evin Prison in September 2020. The charges against him included his membership in the Iranian Writers Association and visiting the graves of victims of the chain murders.

Along with fellow Iranian Writers Association board members Keyvan Bajan and Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Abtin had been given the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write award by writers’ rights group PEN America in September 2021.

Abtin’s death ‘aided and abbeted’ by the regime

Abtin’s death was “utterly preventable,” PEN America’s Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Nossel said on Saturday, adding that his death was “aided and abetted” by Iranian authorities.

“COVID is a natural killer, but Abtin’s death was aided and abetted by the Iranian government every step of the way. Tehran’s Evin Prison was a perpetual super-spreader event, making his unjust imprisonment since September of last year an effective death sentence,” Nossel said in a statement published on PEN America’s website.

“Abtin was denied medical treatment, his comorbidities were ignored and at times he was shackled to his bed.”

Read more: US freedom-of-expression group honors imprisoned Iranian writers

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