UN experts urge Iran to release critically ill rights activist

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United Nations experts on Friday urged Iran to release a prominent rights activist with a life-threatening illness and expressed concerns over the fate of scores arbitrarily detained during nationwide protests.

Arash Sadeghi, who has been in and out of prison since 2009, was arrested again in October “for unknown reasons and placed in indefinite detention,” the UN rights office said.

Activists behind an Iranian protest movement sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death have taken up his cause, sharing pictures of the frail and bedridden dissident on social media.

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“Sadeghi suffers from life-threatening bone cancer, and he has been deprived of some medication he requires since his arrest in October,” the UN experts said in a statement.

The experts, including the UN special rapporteur on the rights situation in Iran, called for his immediate release, saying his life was at risk.

“Under international human rights law, when detaining a person, irrespective of the reason for the detention, the state bears full responsibility to care for the life and bodily integrity of detainees,” they said.

“However, in breach of their international human rights obligations, Iranian authorities are not only continuing the unlawful detention of Mr. Sadeghi, but once again putting his life at imminent risk.”

Sadeghi was detained one month into nationwide protests that erupted over the September 16 death in custody of Amini.

The 22-year-old, an Iranian of Kurdish origin, had been arrested in Tehran for an alleged breach of the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.

The UN experts also expressed concerns about people detained during more than two months of protests triggered by her death.

“We remain gravely concerned about the safety of prisoners in Iran, particularly those who have been arrested and arbitrarily detained in connection with the current wave of protests in the country,” they said.

Sadeghi, who was arrested for the first time in 2009, has been re-arrested and jailed on multiple occasions “for his activities in defense of human rights,” the UN statement said.

He was sentenced to 19 years in prison on national security charges in 2013.

Sadeghi went on hunger strike in 2017 mainly to “protest the arbitrary detention of his wife and his own poor detention conditions,” the statement said.

He is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison, where hundreds of protesters and their supporters, including academics, journalists and lawyers, have been held since their arrest during the Amini protests.

Iran’s security forces have killed at least 448 protesters so far, Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said on Tuesday. An Iranian general said more than 300 people have been killed.

UN rights chief Volker Turk said last week that 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested in the protest crackdown.

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