Iran: Concerns for health of Kurdish journalist following hunger strike
PEN is deeply concerned for the health of Kurdish-Iranian journalist and writer Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand. Kabudvand began a hunger strike on May 8, 2016 in protest at his continued imprisonment and the possibility of new charges being brought against him. Having been admitted to hospital on May 22 after falling unconscious he was returned to prison on June 5, 2016. He was released on June 14 on a four-day furlough. Kabudvand, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for ‘acting against national security by forming and managing an illegal organization (the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization)’, suffers from several health problems – including heart and kidney disease, and an enlarged prostate – all of which have been exacerbated by previous periods of hunger strike. PEN calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure that Kabudvand receives all necessary medical attention. PEN considers Kabudvand to be imprisoned for his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and continues to call for his immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.
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Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand (also written Mohmmad Sadigh Kaboudvand), editor of the banned weekly Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan (Kurdistan People’s Message) and co-founder and former chair of the Tehran-based Kurdistan Human Rights Organization (RMMK), was arrested on July 1, 2007 at his place of work in Tehran by plainclothes security officers. Following his arrest, Kabudvand was initially taken to his house in Tehran, where security officers confiscated three computers, books, photographs and personal documents, before taking him away to the Intelligence Ministry’s Section 209 of Evin Prison. He spent the first five months of his detention in solitary confinement, and was reportedly ill-treated. His family was unable to raise the bail that could have enabled him to be freed pending trial. Kabudvand’s trial began on May 25, 2008. Kabudvand was sentenced at a closed trial on June 22, 2008 to 10 years in prison by the Tehran Revolutionary Court for ‘acting against national security’ for forming a human rights organization in Iran’s Kurdish region and publicizing alleged human rights abuses, and an extra year of imprisonment on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system by disseminating news”. On October 23, 2008 the Tehran Appeal Court upheld his conviction, but reduced the sentence to 10 years in prison. In November 2012, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found Kabudvand’s detention to be arbitrary in opinion 48/2012 and called for him to be released and afforded an enforceable right to compensation.
According to recent reports, Kabudvand embarked upon a hunger strike on May 8, 2016 in protest against his continued imprisonment and the threat that fresh charges might be brought against him. Reports indicate that Kabudvand was summoned for interrogation three times in March 2016 in connection with investigations into whether he has been ‘spreading propaganda against the system’. On May 24, 2016, Kabudvand appeared before a revolutionary court in Tehran in relation to the allegations. No formal charges have been brought against him at this time.
Thirteen days into his hunger strike, Kabudvand was taken to hospital and placed in intensive care, having lost consciousness. Three days later, he was transferred to another hospital. Kabudvand’s health is reported to have seriously deteriorated, his pre-existing conditions aggravated by this latest hunger strike. The doctors are reported to have prioritized treating his stomach. PEN is deeply concerned by reports that Kabudvand was returned to prison on June 5, 2016 and is seeking assurances that Kabudvand is receiving appropriate medical care.
Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand suffers from a number of health complaints, including high blood pressure, kidney disease and an enlarged prostate, and his health is said to have deteriorated as a result of torture or other ill-treatment in prison, as well as previous hunger strikes. On May 19, 2008 Kabudvand reportedly suffered a stroke in Evin prison, after which he was denied access to adequate medical care. He is said to have suffered from a second stroke in December 2008. In December 2010 he was said to be in a critical condition and to be denied the specialist medical treatment he needed. In June 2011, Kabudvand was seen by an independent doctor who reportedly stated that he needed to undergo two operations for hardening of the heart arteries and an enlarged prostate. In July 2012, he ended a 59-day hunger strike, after he was granted the right to visit his sick son.
Kabudvand is an Honorary Member of Austrian PEN, PEN Català, Swedish PEN and Sydney PEN. In 2008, he was one of PEN’s emblematic cases for the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. He is the recipient of a Hellman/Hammett grant (2009) and the British Press Award for international journalist of the year (2009). Kabudvand has previously been targeted by the authorities for his critical writings and activism. The weekly newspaper which he edited, Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan (Kurdistan People’s Message), published in Kurdish and Farsi, was banned on June 27, 2004 after just 13 issues for ‘disseminating separatist ideas and publishing false reports’. On August 18, 2005 Kabudvand was convicted of ‘disseminating tribal issues and publishing provocative articles’ and ‘spreading lies with the intention of upsetting public opinion’ by a revolutionary court in Sanandaj and handed down an 18-month suspended sentence and a five-year ban on working as a journalist. Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand has reportedly written two books on democracy and a third on the women’s movement in Iran, which were not given publishing licenses.
- Expressing grave concern for the health and welfare of journalist and writer Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, and demanding that he is given all necessary medical attention as a matter of urgency;
- Calling on the Iranian authorities to quash all convictions and drop any fresh charges against Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand and release him immediately and unconditionally, as he is imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression;
- Urging the Iranian authorities to ensure that the right to freedom of expression in Iran is fully respected in law and practice as provided for under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.
Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran
Salutation: Your Excellency
Head of the Judiciary Ayatollah
c/o Public Relations Office Number 4, Deadend of 1 Azizi
Above Pasteur Intersection Vali Asr Street
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Salutation: Your Excellency
And copies to:
Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights
Mohammed Javad Larijani c/o Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St, Vali Asr Ave South of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject line: FAO Mohammad Javad Larijani)
It is recommended that you send a copy of your appeals via the diplomatic representative for Iran in your country. Contact details for embassies can be found here.