Committee of Human Rights Reporters – Labor activist and political prisoner Shahrokh Zamani passed away in Rajai Shahr prison today after suffering a fatal stroke. The Kaleme website reports that the labor activist who was sentenced to eleven years in prison and jailed since 2011, died behind bars today.
According to CHRR, Shahrokh Zamani, labor activist was arrested on June 7, 2011, sentenced to 11 years in prison, transferred to various prisons before his last transfer to Rajai Shahr prison. He spent long periods of time in solitary confinement and was often banned from face-to-face visitations and phone calls.
Zamani was a member of the Council of Representatives of Labor Organizations and the Painters’ Union. His heavy sentence was handed down by Branch 1 of the Tabriz Revolutionary Court on the charges of “propaganda against the regime”, “endangering national security” and “participating in organization of an illegal group” by setting up a coordination committee to help with the creation of independent labor unions.
According to CHRR, one year after his arrest Zamani published a letter addressed to international human rights agencies, trade unions and all freedom loving people unveiling the torture and illegal treatment of prisoners behind bars.
In a letter to Amnesty International, Shahrokh Zamani stated that his lawyer was not given access to his court files or allowed to speak in court, and that his sentencing was pre-determined. He described how he had been kept in solitary confinement for 36 days and put under severe psychological and physical duress in an effort to extract a false confession, which he refused. He was transferred to the public ward after launching a hunger strike and endured 4 months of brutal interrogations before his court date. His hunger strike began in solidarity with members of the Dervishes (Sufi group) who had been imprisoned, and was later extended to the grim situation of all political prisoners. It was reported that he lost massive amounts of weight and suffered serious health problems as a result of his hunger strike. Amnesty declared Zamai a prisoner of conscience and published a statement saying “he is facing reprisals for demanding prisoners’ rights inside Raja’i Shahr Prison.”
In a letter on April 9, 2014 to Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Zamani wrote of the prisoners’ grievances and ill treatment. He wrote, “As a trade unionist, I have been arrested and imprisoned illegally and have been exiled to one of the worst prisons in Iran, which is comparable to the prisons of the middle ages.” He ended his letter saying, “Considering the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran are responsible for any mental and physical harm [that might come to me], I urge you to dispatch an inquiry commission and put pressure on the Islamic Republic to fulfill their obligations according to their own laws.” Representing the political prisoners of Ward 12 of Rajai Shahr prison, Zamani wrote, “[I am] trying to defend the rights of the prisoners, by objecting to those in charge about the closing of the only library of the prison, the increase in the spread of dangerous electrical noises, and the beating of prisoners. I asked the authorities to respect the prisoners’ rights in accordance with the internal bylaws of the prisons through a letter.”
In December 2014 Zamani wrote a letter from prison addressed to international labor organizations. In it he stated, “with no control from below by workers’ or people’s organizations and the banning of the slightest freedoms of speech, press and parties, the ruling class, ranked 144th out of 157 countries of the world for bribery, has increased the scale of open looting, embezzling and stealing of the national treasury to disastrous levels.” He described his illegal arrest for exercising his legal rights. “I have been condemned merely for legitimate and legal defense of the right to establish independent organizations, to strike – universal rights that are officially recognized throughout the world – and in defense of wages that match inflation, job security, unemployment and health insurance, pensions, and a labor law that guarantees the basic rights of the 50 million members of Iran’s workers’ households.”
On top of his heavy prison sentence Mr. Zamani was further harassed in the past years by being transferred to various prisons including Tabriz, Yazd, Ghazal Hesar and finally Rajai Shahr Prison. He was not allowed to attend his daughter’s wedding or his mother’s funeral. Before her death, in a February 2013 interview with CHRR, Zarin Najti, mother of Shahrokh Zamani disclosed that her son was denied medical furlough, prison visitation and phone calls. She shared that the family was suffering great stress from not being able to make ends meet without Mr. Zamani’s wages. She said to CHRR, “I ask that they allow me to see my child. He is a laborer; he has a wife and kids. What is his crime? Clearly he is a laborer so he defended his fellow workers and there is nothing wrong with doing that. They must release him.”
She died without seeing her son or his release. Shahrokh Zamani who was known to be strong and athletic was in good health before his arrest. He died in prison today of a reported brain aneurism and stroke.