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Voice of Freedom :On Tuesday, 6 November, the prison authorities informed the family members of Blogger Sattar Beheshti that he had died in custody and they had to prepare for his burial. According to a complaint he filed with Evin prison's officials on 1 November, while he was still in the prison's Public Section 350, Mr. Beheshti said that he had been detained by the cyber police, officially known as the "Police Department in charge of Information Production and Exchange", without an arrest warrant on 30 October. He also showed his cellmates the signs of severe physical torture he had suffered during the previous two days. On 1 November, he was taken away for interrogation again, but never returned. Finally, his body was not handed over to his family and was hastily buried on 8 November.
In the past few years, a considerable number of prisoners of conscience, including several members of the Kurdish, Arab and Baluch ethnic minorities, have lost their lives in custody in various prisons including Evin, Rajaishahr, Urumieh, Ahvaz and Zahedan prisons, either under torture or under extremely dubious conditions. The cases of around 20 such victims were documented in a joint FIDH-LDDHI report last year, but the real number is considerably higher. Several other prisoners of conscience have died within days of being released, apparently as a result of torture and other cruel treatment in prison. An unknown number of common prisoners have also died in custody.
FIDH and LDDHi are seriously concerned that cases of death in custody have either not been investigated or been covered up, while culprits have enjoyed impunity and been appointed to other government positions. Saeed Mortazavi, the former prosecutor of Tehran, who was directly involved in the death of the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in 2003 and was also implicated in the events leading to deaths of at least three protestors detained in Kahrizak Detention Centre in 2009, is now director of the Social Security Organisation.
In recent weeks, the Iranian authorities have stepped up their attacks on female prisoners of conscience. Notably, Ms. Nasrin Sotudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer, was compelled to go on hunger strike on 17 October to protest the pressures exerted on her family including her 12-year-old daughter and violation of her visitation rights. After Nasrin Sotudeh was awarded the Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament on 26 October , the Iranian authorities responded by transferring her to solitary confinement in Section 209 of Evin prison which is run by the Ministry of Intelligence. Ms. Sotudeh was detained arbitrarily in September 2010 and finally sentenced to 6 years imprisonment and 10 years of ban on practising law. There are now serious concerns for her health.
Also, nine female prisoners of conscience staged a one-week hunger strike in Evin prison on 31 October to protest "insulting treatment and sexual harassment by prison officials." Rather than investigating their grievances, the prison officials threatened them with punishment in solitary confinement.
"We draw the attention of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran and the Special Rapporteur on torture to the plight of the Iranian prisoners who are suffering at the hands of an extremely cruel regime. We also call on all UN member states to live up to the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by supporting a resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran in the UN General Assembly in December," said Karim Lahidji, vice president of the FIDH and president of the LDDHI.
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