Iranian Writer Dies In Detention After Covid Infection: Rights Groups

Dissident Iranian poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin has died in detention in Tehran after falling ill with Covid-19, rights groups said Saturday, blaming the Islamic republic’s leadership for his death.

“Baktash Abtin has died,” the Iranian Writers Association said in a statement on its Telegram channel after the author was put into an induced coma in hospital earlier in the week.

Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) confirmed his death in a statement on Twitter, saying he “had been unjustly sentenced to six years in prison and was in detention in hospital, ill with Covid-19 and deprived of the necessary care.”

“RSF blames the regime’s authorities for his death,” it added, posting a picture of Abtin in striped Iranian prison uniform shackled by his leg to a hospital bed.

Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of New York-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said “Baktash Abtin is dead because Iran’s government wanted to muzzle him in jail.”

“This is a preventable tragedy. Iran’s judiciary chief (Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie) must be held accountable,” he added.

Abtin had been convicted with two IWA colleagues in 2019 on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and for “propaganda against the system”. He had begun serving his sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison in 2020.

Along with fellow defendants Keyvan Bajan and Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Abtin had in September 2021 been given the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write award by writers’ rights group PEN America.

There has been growing concern in recent months among activists over deaths of prisoners in detention in Iran, especially in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic which campaigners fear is raging in Iranian prisons.

Amnesty International in September published a study accusing Iran of failing to provide accountability for at least 72 deaths in custody since January 2010, “despite credible reports that they resulted from torture or other ill-treatment.”

– By AFP – Agence France Presse.