Fate of Iran’s Youngest Political Prisoner Raises Concerns

By Firoozeh Ramezanzadeh

Mohammad Saber Malek Raisi is an ethnic Baluchi who has served nearly nine years of his 15-year sentence in Ardabil Prison – thousands of kilometers away from his home province of Chabahar. At the time of his arrest in 2009, Raisi was only 15 years old.

Mohammad Saber Malek Raisi

Raisi was convicted of “collaborating with enemies of the state” by the Public Revolutionary Court of Zahedan Province. He has always maintained that his confession was extracted under torture, according to HRANA [Human Rights Activists News Agency], who quoted Raisi himself.

A source close to Raisi who wished to remain anonymous told Kayhan London: “He was arrested while visiting his brother at a hospital in Chabahar. Most couples in Zahedan get the birth certificate a year before their child is born. He was only 15 at the time of his arrest, even though most reports said he was 16.”

Raisi’s family was informed by the security police that he had been charged with political crimes. “These were all trumped up charges. They arrested him because of his brother, Abdolrahman, who was 20 years old at the time. Security forces are holding Mohammad Saber hostage. They will only release him if his brother were to turn himself in,” the source said.

Speaking about the two years that Mohammad Saber spent in Zahedan security prison, the source said: “They didn’t sentenced him at the time of his arrest because he was a minor. They moved him to Ardabil Prison after two years. He has now been in jail for eight years and nine months.”

“Mohammad Saber’s mother has visited him only twice at Ardabil Prison. His father is paralyzed and cannot walk. He hasn’t seen his son since his imprisonment. Raisi’s family can’t afford to travel between Ardabil and Zahedan that often,” the source told Kayhan London.

Last year, on its website, the Baluch Activist Campaign published an open letter by Mohammad Saber’s father, Dadali Malek Raisi, in which he spoke about his son being physically and mentally tortured in prison. He asked that his son be transferred to Ardabil Prison.

Mohammad Saber has been on a hunger strike since November 29. He is hoping to draw attention to the harsh treatment, including frequent torture, that he has been subjected to in prison. He also demands to be transferred to Ardabil Prison. “He will not end his hunger strike until his complaints are thoroughly investigated. In a show of support for their son, the parents will only drink water and tea and won’t eat food until his demands are met,” the anonymous source said.

“Raisi’s parents can’t even call him. They have pleaded his case with various government officials including the office of the Prosecutor General of Zahedan Province. No one has helped them so far. Mohammad Saber has been repeatedly assaulted and tortured in prison,” the source told Kayhan London.

The source added: “They’ve threatened to kill Raisi, saying that he would not leave the prison alive. He is being systematically terrorized by Parviz Sourazar, the head of Ardabil Prison security. Sourazar routinely harasses and humiliates Raisi. He also encourages other prisoners to assault Mohammad Saber.”

“They tied Saber to a flagpole in the prison yard for 14 hours last winter. That was his punishment for his questioning a decision by the prison authorities to make the toilets and showers available to inmates only twice a day,” the source said.

Raisi has written an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani about the “appalling” conditions in Ardabil Prison. He previously went on a 20-day hunger strike, after which he wrote two letters in January to Ms. Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, urging her to investigate the “inhumane” treatment of prisoners of conscience in Iran.

“Raisi has also been harassed and mistreated by Farhad Nowrouzi, the head of the prison’s rehabilitation office, and Ghafour Sadeghzadeh, a senior prison guard. They recently tied Raisi’s hands and legs, beat him up and placed him in isolation with another inmate who assaulted Mohammad Saber three times in a period of three hours,” the source claimed.

The source added: “Prison authorities have told Raisi that he could file a grievance against other prisoners. Mohammad Saber has, however, indicated that he only wishes to lodge a complaint against Parviz Sourazar, Farhad Nowrouzi and Ghafour Sadeghzadeh.” Raisi was transferred to Tehran’s Evin Prison for medical observation in March of this year. He was sent back to Ardabil after three months.

For nearly four decades, the Islamic Republic has systematically discriminated against ethnic and religious minorities, including Sunni Muslims, many of whom have been convicted on fabricated charges of “collaborating with the enemies of the state”, “plotting to topple the regime”, “spreading propaganda”, “being the enemy of God,” “moral corruption” and “being a member of a Salafi Muslim group.” Many of them are quietly waiting for their death sentences to be carried out.