PHR sent this letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran expressing our deep concern over the imprisonment of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali on false charges.
March 1, 2017
Office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
Islamic Republic Street
I am writing on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) with urgency and great concern for the health and welfare of a distinguished and respected medical doctor, Ahmadreza Djalali. Dr. Djalali is an Iranian citizen who resides in Sweden. He was arrested during his last visit to Tehran in April 2016 while attending workshops on disaster medicine to which he had been specificlly invited by the University of Tehran and Shiraz University. The 45-year-old expert in disaster and emergency medicine has been detained in Evin prison since that time without a formal charge or a fair trial.
Based on information PHR has received from credible sources, Dr. Djalali was taken before Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on January 31, 2017, and, without his lawyer present, told by the presiding judge that he was accused of “espionage” and could face the death penalty.
In December 2016, Iranian authorities reportedly put Dr. Djalali under intense pressure to sign a statement “confessing” to be a spy for a “hostile government”. When he refused to sign, they indicated he would be charged with “enmity against God” (moharebeh), which carries the death penalty. In protest, Dr. Djalali began a hunger strike on December 26, 2016 and started refusing fluids on February 24. We are gravely concerned that his health has deteriorated since, putting his life at grave risk.
Dr. Djalali has taught in universities in Belgium, Italy, and Sweden. His many friends and colleagues have great admiration for his expertise, his teaching and mentoring abilities, and his important contributions to the field of humanitarian response to disasters. His colleagues indicate that they never knew him to speak critically of Iran or the Iranian government.
I respectfully implore you to ensure Dr. Djalali’s immediate release unless he is charged with a recognizable criminal offense, in line with international law and standards. We are concerned that he appears to have been targeted for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. I also appeal to you to ensure that Dr. Djalali has access to a qualified health professional who can provide health care in compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of confidentiality, autonomy, and informed consent.
Pending Dr. Djalali’s release, it is critical that he be protected from any punishment for exercising his right to peacefully protest his imprisonment by deciding to take up a hunger strike, and that he not be subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, which may amount to torture.
PHR also notes that Dr. Djalali has the right under Iranian law to have the lawyer of his choice represent him. We strongly urge you to ensure he has access to his family, including communication with his wife in Sweden.
As the Persian New Year approaches, my colleagues and I ask you to honor the tradition of mercy and compassion at the time of Nowruz, and release Dr. Djalali from detention so that he can continue his humanitarian work and be reunited with his family.
Kerry J. Sulkowicz, MD
Chair of the Board of Directors
Physicians for Human Rights
cc: Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani
President Hassan Rouhani