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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Trade Unionist Mahmoud Salehi seriously ill in prison in Iran

Trade union activist Mahmoud Salehi, who has been imprisoned since 9 April, is seriously ill and is not receiving the specialist medical treatment that he requires.

Mahmoud Salehi is the Spokesperson for the Organisational Committee to Establish Trade Unions, former President of the Saqez Bakery Workers’ Association, and co-founder of the Coordinating Committee to Form Workers’ Organisations. He was arrested after a peaceful demonstration to celebrate May Day 2004 along with six other trade union activists.

He was arrested along with six others for organising a 2004 May Day demonstration, and for his trade union activities. They were all were later released on bail that same month. According to Amnesty International and, in November 2005 he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and three years' internal exile in the city of Ghorveh, in the north western province of Kurdistan.

At his trial, the prosecutor cited his trade union activities as evidence against him, and referred to a meeting he had held with officials from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in April 2004, shortly before the May Day demonstrations. His conviction was overturned on appeal, but after a retrial he was sentenced on 11 November 2006 to four years’ imprisonment by Saqez Revolutionary Court for "conspiring to commit crimes against national security" under article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code. Following an appeal, whose last hearing took place on 11 March, this was reduced to one year’s imprisonment, and a three-year suspended prison sentence.

Mahmoud Salehi was arrested on 9 April 2007. His son, in a letter carried on the website of the Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network, described his father’s arrest:

"One of the officers of the Saqez security force went to where Mahmoud Salehi (my father) works and told my father that the Governor and the Prosecutor would like to talk to him about this year's May Day ceremonies. My father… went to courthouse with this officer. Immediately after he entered the courthouse my father realised that this had nothing to do with the issue of [this year's] May Day! Instead this was about the May Day celebration of 2004 and the four-year sentence passed against him. Recently the appeal court changed the sentence to one year in custody and three years suspended, which the legal authorities are, in an illegal way, trying to implement. The legal authorities, despite my father and mother's protests, and my father's refusal to sign the summons and without paying any attention to his appeals and protests, immediately used severe security measures. Several officers surrounded him and bundled him into a car. The car carrying my father was escorted by several police vehicles and… left town for an undisclosed destination. My father is the first person who has had his sentence carried out in this way and transferred to prison immediately. The summons is supposed to have been given to him beforehand so that he could prepare himself for it."

Mahmoud Salehi has only one kidney, is reported to be suffering from kidney stones, and is said to require dialysis treatment. A letter from his doctor, stating that Mahmoud Salehi requires treatment outside prison, was delivered to prison officials on 15 May. His lawyer announced on 8 June that Mahmoud Salehi had begun a hunger strike in protest at his detention in Sanandaj Prison, which is 400km from where his family live.

Amnesty International does not know whether he is continuing his hunger strike, but he is reported also to be suffering from heart and intestinal problems. On 17 June, he was reportedly taken to Towhid Hospital in Sanandaj, but was afterwards returned to prison.Mahmoud Salehi has been denied visits from his lawyer and family; his family have been able to contact him by telephone.

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