In an audio message from Evin Prison, a political prisoner has informed IranWire that five prisoners who had protested the death of Baktash Abtin are still under pressure and new, fake charges have been brought against them. Abtin, an imprisoned poet, writer and filmmaker, died on January 8 from Covid-19 due to medical negligence.
According to this political prisoner, on February 8, five prisoners of Evin’s Ward 8, who had protested the circumstances surrounding Abtin’s death were summoned to Evin’s public prosecutor’s office and new charges were brought against them. They were charged with “propaganda against the regime” and “disrupting order in prison” and were ordered to offer their “final defense” there and then without a trial. The five included human rights activist Mojtaba Nayeri, alias Amir Alavi, and Peyman Pourdad.
According to IranWire’s source, officials are trying to intimidate other Ward 8 prisoners by framing these five political inmates.
Baktash Abtin, birth name Mehdi Kazemi, was sentenced to six years in prison and jailed alongside two other members of the Iranian Writers’ Association in the middle of the pandemic. He contracted coronavirus in Evin Prison.
The death of Baktash Abtin due to medical negligence led to protests in the prison – even though the prisoners must have known they would face reprisals. After his death, on January 8, seven political prisoners at Evin went on hunger strike in reaction to the death of their fellow inmate. They demanded accountability from Iranian judicial figures over Abtin’s having contracted Covid-19 in prison and the medical neglect that allowed him to become seriously ill before receiving treatment.
Later, Abtin’s family filed a lawsuit against those whom they believed to be responsible. Advocacy groups, including the Writers’ Association, PEN America and Reporters Without Borders, blamed the authorities for Abtin’s “utterly preventable” death.
“All the medical records related to his illness were communicated [to authorities] by his lawyers nearly a year ago,” Abtin’s brother Arman Kazemi said in an interview. “The onset of symptoms was on November 27, 2021, but his leave was granted only for December 13. Both the first and the last time he was sent back from Taleghani Hospital to prison, he was chained up; the ankle cuff they had applied was such that, after we were able to take him to a private hospital for a few days, my brother's wife had to treat the injury until the bruises were healed.
“The second time they had put on the ankle cuff, it not only restricted my brother, but severely affected him mentally and emotionally, adding to his stress. His illness was at its peak and he could not go to the toilet. A catheter was attached to him. Certainly, if he had had the ability to move, he would not have needed a catheter. He was nevertheless chained to his bed.”