Human rights organizations are calling for an investigation into the death of Omidreza Mirsayafi. The 28 year-old Iranian blogger died March 18th in Tehran's Evin prison. Prison authorities told his family he had committed suicide.
Mr. Mirsayafi had recently begun serving a 30 month prison sentence for the purported crime of insulting the country's leaders in his personal blog. Most of the articles on Mr. Mirsayafi's blog were about traditional Persian music and about culture. After his conviction, he told the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders, "I am a cultural and not a political blogger. Of all the articles I have posted online, only 2 or 3 were satirical. I did not mean to insult anyone."
Reporters Without Borders expressed shock at Mr. Mirsayafi's death. Hassam Firouzi, a doctor imprisoned in Evin, told Mr. Mirsayafi's lawyer that prison authorities failed to provide the young blogger with adequate medical help. Reporters Without Borders said in a statement that Mr. Mirsayafi's death "is a sad reminder of the fact that the Iranian regime is one of the harshest in the world for journalists and bloggers. We call for the setting up of an independent commission to determine this young man's cause of death."
Freedom House and the Committee to Protect Journalists have also urged an independent, transparent investigation into Mr. Mirsayafi's death.
Mr. Mirasayafi is the second Iranian political prisoner to die this month. On March 6, Amir Saran, who was serving an eight-year sentence at Gohardasht prison in Karaj for political activities, also died unexpectedly. His family and associates allege that torture and lack of proper care by prison officials caused his death.
In its 2008 Human Rights Report on Iran, the U.S. State Department noted that "security forces were implicated in custodial deaths." It also noted that "prison conditions were poor [and that] many prisoners were held in solitary confinement or denied adequate food or medical care as a way to force confessions."
The U.S. urges Iran's leaders to free all those who are imprisoned solely for their beliefs and to ensure that those imprisoned receive adequate medical care and are not subject to torture.