Jailed Iranian journalist Isa Saharkhiz [Iran Press profile] on Wednesday urged [letter, DOC, in Persian] UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Dr. Ahmad Shaheed to investigate prison conditions in Iran. Saharkhiz alleged that the treatment of both political and general prisoners in Iran amounts to crimes against humanity [RFE/RL report], and compared the conduct of prison authorities to that of Joseph Stalin in Soviet-era concentration camps. Saharkhiz believes that prison authorities are systematically mistreating prisoners, particularly political activists, with the goal of silencing and ultimately killing them. He further indicated that prison authorities would not allow him to seek medical treatment for his illness. Saharkhiz, a well-known press activist and former managing editor of the monthly Aftab, was sentenced [JURIST report] in July 2006 by an Iranian court to four years in prison for publishing articles against the constitution and offending the state media. He was later arrested in 2009 for insulting Iran's government and spreading propaganda following the controversial June 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive]. He is serving three years for that arrest, followed by a five-year ban on political and journalistic activities, and a one-year order to remain in Iran following release.
Iran's prison system has been heavily criticized in recent years. The Iranian government executed two men in February convicted of killing [JURIST reports] three anti-government protesters in prison in 2009, according to a report by pro-government website Khabarnameh Daneshjooyan. The men were charged with torturing and eventually killing Mohammad Kamrani, Amir Javadi-far and Mohsen Ruholamini while they were detained at Kahrizak jail south of Iran. Observers had accused the Iranian government of conducting the highly controversial trial [JURIST report] as a mere political move. The Iranian government was also sharply criticized by both pro-democracy leaders and government supporters for the death of the protesters, who were incarcerated after the June 2009 disputed presidential election. Authorities initially claimed that the three detainees had died from meningitis, holding that the torture accusations were propaganda of the opposition party. This viewpoint began to shift in August when government officials spoke out [JURIST report] against the abuse of protesters detained in Iranian prisons and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official website] ordered the closure of Kahrizak prison as a result. In January, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran [official website] claimed that Iran is on an "execution binge" [JURIST report], killing one prisoner every eight hours. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran [advocacy websites] also called for [press release; JURIST report] the UN General Assembly [official website] to appoint a special envoy to investigate allegations of human rights abuses following the 2009 presidential elections.