Two coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the political prisoners’ section of the Ahwaz central prison in the Shiban district, putting all the other prisoners at the risk of contracting the virus, local sources told the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO). 

The two infected prisoners are Milad Baghlani and Hamid Reza Makki.

Prison authorities were very late in isolating and getting medical help for the two prisoners which has worsened their condition and increased the risk of the virus spreading to everyone else in the prison, local sources told AHRO.  

Prison authorities have also refused to test the prisoners who shared a cell with Baghlani and Makki for coronavirus. 

Local sources added that prison authorities have sent one of the infected prisoners to a hospital after his health deteriorated, but still refuse to send the other infected prisoner to a hospital or put him in quarantine. This has increased the risk of the virus infecting other prisoners. 

Families of political prisoners in Ahwaz have expressed concern over the risk of their loved ones contracting the virus.  

The families have visited courthouses and gone to the relevant judicial authorities in the past few days to check on the health conditions of their imprisoned loved ones and to ask for their release, but to no avail. 

“I went to branch 12 of the revolutionary court in Ahwaz to follow up on my son’s case and I found many other families of Arab political prisoners in there trying to see the judge,” the father of an Arab prisoner arrested in the Kut Abdollah district in Ahwaz during last November’s protests told AHRO. 

“Most of the families in the court were there to inquire about the health of their loved ones in prison due to coronavirus fears, but they were not allowed to see the judge,” he added. 

The lawyer of an Ahwazi Arab political prisoner told AHRO: “We have to demand the relevant authorities in the Iranian judiciary not to send anymore prisoners to prisons – especially Sepidar and Shiban prisons in Ahwaz – due to coronavirus concerns.”

“We must ask the public prosecutor in Ahwaz to monitor the health and safety of prisoners, and to give them access to medical equipment and the guidelines and means necessary to fight coronavirus,” the lawyer added.  

Sepidar and Shiban prisons in Ahwaz were filled with detainees after the anti-government protests last November.  

The prison staff at Shiban prison are also known to torture and discriminate against Arab political prisoners. 

Fearing a coronavirus outbreak in prisons, the families of the prisoners demand the Iranian judiciary to monitor the health conditions in Shiban and Sepidar prisons.

The families also demand that all political prisoners and other non-dangerous prisoners are released as part of a recently issued pardon – a pardon which has not included the majority of political prisoners.  

A delegation from AHRO that participated in the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 11 warned in a statement that prisoners in Ahwaz are at risk of contracting coronavirus because the Iranian authorities are not taking appropriate measures to protect them.

AHRO also called on the Human Rights Council and other international bodies to pressure the Iranian authorities for the immediate release of all political prisoners and all prisoners who have not committed serious crimes in Iran in order to prevent the spread of the epidemic in prisons.

Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO)

18 March 2020