09/01/2023, 13.25
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Javad Rouhi, pro-Mahsa Amini protester, avoids death penalty but dies in prison

Judges had initially sentenced the 35-year-old to death for rioting and apostasy, but the Supreme Court overturned the sentence. Official version of death speaks of epileptic seizure. Activist groups denounce flogging, torture and lack of treatment. The wave of arrests continues nearly a year after the 22-year-old Kurdish woman was killed because of her hijab.

Tehran (AsiaNews) - An Iranian protester, who was imprisoned and sentenced to death for participating in the street protests following the killing of 22-year-old Kurdish Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police about a year ago, died in prison for the violence suffered under mysterious circumstances.

The judges during the trial had imposed the death penalty against Javad Rouhi, but last May the Supreme Court annulled the sentence, postponing the trial to other judges for a new hearing in the courtroom.

According to the official version, the 35-year-old died due to inadequate medical care, following hospitalization for an epileptic attack that occurred in his cell.

A version disavowed by pro-rights groups and people close to the man, for whom the death is to be attributed to the prison authorities. The Mizan website, close to the Iranian judiciary, states that "unfortunately [Rouhi] died despite the actions of the medical staff" and an investigation "has been filed to shed light on the causes".

However, an hour before the official announcement made yesterday, several activists had anticipated his death on social networks, pointing the finger at the judicial authorities and security officials who allegedly "killed" him.

Rouhi was arrested a few days after the death of Mahsa Amini, who was killed in the custody of the morality police who had previously arrested her on the streets of Tehran, in mid-September last year, for not wearing the hijab correctly, the obligatory veil.

During the trial, reports the BBC, the man was found guilty of having "led" the revolt, of having "destroyed property" and of "apostasy" because - again according to the indictment - he allegedly burned a Koran during a demonstration . In reality, videos released on the net show him dancing and there are no references to alleged acts of violence.

Amnesty International reports that the 35-year-old was allegedly subjected to floggings, freezing temperatures, electric shocks and a gun was pointed at his head to force him to speak during interrogation.

Initially a court in Nowshahr, in the north of the Islamic Republic, handed down a triple death sentence for blasphemy, destruction of public property and revolt against national security.

Evidence uncovered during the review confirmed that he was participating in the protests in a personal capacity and his actions did not fall within the legal definition of “moharebeh” (war against God) and “corruption on earth”, crimes which can carry the death penalty according to the Islamic jurisprudence.

Meanwhile, the wave of arrests and repression launched by the Iranian authorities in anticipation of the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini continues, a sensitive date that could trigger new street protests for freedom and rights.

The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence has announced the arrest of 14 people in various provinces on charges of having carried out acts aimed at "instigating chaos and disorder". The official note defines the detainees as "terrorists" affiliated with a "Zionist-extremist network" and refers to the seizure of "43 explosive devices".

Finally, still with regard to the 22-year-old Kurdish woman, a court of revolution in Tehran has opened the trial against the lawyer who follows the story. Saleh Nikbakht, on bail after being arrested last March, must answer for the charge of "propaganda against the system", most likely linked to interviews with foreign media. In the past, the lawyer has also represented director Jafar Panahi and other political activists and cultural figures critical of the Iranian authorities.

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