Kurdish-Iranian journalist and human rights activist Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand has returned to Evin Prison after authorities refused to extend his four-day medical leave.
The 54-year-old prisoner of conscience, who suffers from a range of health issues, including heart and kidney problems, is gravely ill after a month-long hunger strike and almost 10 years behind bars in Iran.
In mid-June, he was released on a four-day medical furlough to receive treatment outside prison. According to the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, he had been informed that the furlough would be extended.
“At first, the authorities promised to extend his furlough, but this never happened, so Kaboudvand had to end the treatment at hospital and return to prison after four days,” the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan reported.
It is unclear why authorities refused to extend his leave from prison. Intelligence Ministry agents have reportedly interrogated his wife in recent days.
Kaboudvand is serving a 10-year prison sentence for founding the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan and for his work as an editor of the weekly newspaper Payam-e Mardom (“People’s Message”).
Since his arrest in July 2007, he has been on several hunger strikes, including one that lasted 63 days in 2012, which contributed to his health problems.
On May 8, 2016, he started a hunger strike to protest new charges brought against him – charges that according to Amnesty International had been fabricated to keep him in prison.
Thirteen days into his hunger strike, Kaboudvand was transferred to a hospital after he lost consciousness. Doctors warned that he might suffer a heart attack if he continued his hunger strike.
According to Amnesty, Kaboudvand has been summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office in Evin Prison three times for interrogations since early March 2016. On May 24, 2016, he was put on trial before a revolutionary court in Tehran; he was given only one day’s notice and was not represented by a lawyer, Amnesty said.
Kaboudvand is reportedly facing a new charge of “spreading propaganda against the regime.” According to Amnesty the basis of the new charge remains unclear, but Kabudvand has said he was questioned about a letter he wrote, in which he called for peace between Kurds and the Turkish government, and about his university thesis on the human rights situation in Iran’s prisons.
“Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand has already spent close to a decade in prison simply for doing his legitimate human rights work and journalism,” said James Lynch, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director. “The fact that the authorities are building a fresh case against him so close to his release date suggests they are plumbing new depths in their efforts to keep this resolute defender of human rights behind bars.”
Kaboudvand ended his hunger strike temporarily after 34 days on June 10 at the request of his family, friends, and other activists. According to some reports, Kaboudvand has been assured that his sentence would not be extended.