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Sam Rajabi in incommunicado detention

Status: 
Imprisoned
About the situation

On 22 April 2020, environmental rights defender Sam Rajabi was returned to Evin Prison, despite having tested positive for COVID-19. He is currently in the prison’s clinic with reportedly scarce access to appropriate medical facilities and provisions.

On 18 February 2020, the Appeals Court in Tehran upheld the prison sentence against human rights defender Sam Rajabi. He had been found guilty of ‘espionage’ and ‘cooperation with a hostile state’, and sentenced to 6 years' imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on 23 November 2019.

As of 8 May 2018, Sam Rajabi remains in incommunicado detention in Evin Prison in Tehran. He was arrested at his home in Tehran on 25 January 2018 and has been held in incommunicado detention since 26 January.

About the HRD

hrd_sam_rajabi.jpgSam Rajabi is an environmental rights defender and member of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), a non-profit environmental organization, which had been managed by Kavous Seyed-Emami, the Iranian sociologist who died three months ago under suspicious circumstances while in custody. PWHF carried out ecological fieldwork, promoted local community involvement in conservation, and raised environmental awareness. Sam Rajabi also worked as an interpreter for other international environmental organizations.

24 April 2020
Environmental rights defender Sam Rajabi returned to prison despite testing positive for COVID-19

On 22 April 2020, environmental rights defender Sam Rajabi was returned to Evin Prison, despite having tested positive for COVID-19. He is currently in the prison’s clinic with reportedly scarce access to appropriate medical facilities and provisions.

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Sam Rajabi is an environmental rights defender and member of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), a non-profit environmental organisation. PWHF carries out ecological fieldwork, promotes local community involvement in conservation, and raises awareness about environmental issues. The organisation had previously been managed by Kavous Seyed-Emami, the Iranian sociologist who died on 8 February 2018 in Evin Prison under suspicious circumstances.

On 22 April 2020, Sam Rajabi was admitted to hospital for a check-up on his chronic condition but whilst there was diagnosed with COVID-19, with symptoms of a high fever, difficulty breathing and loss of taste and smell. Despite having complained of such symptoms since March 2020, he had been sharing a cell with 15 other prisoners until 22 April 2020. Later on the same day, he was discharged from hospital and returned to Evin Prison. He remains in the prison’s clinic with reportedly scarce access to appropriate medical facilities and provisions. According to Sam Rajabi’s family members, he suffers from asthma which makes him more vulnerable to the severe form of COVID-19. On 23 April 2020, the defender sent a letter to the prison's administration warning that if he was not admitted to hospital by 25 April 2020, he would begin a hunger strike.

Sam Rajabi was arrested at his home in Tehran on 25 January 2018. Following his arrest, he was subjected to prolonged incommunicado detention. On 23 November 2019, the environmental rights defender was found guilty of ‘espionage’ and ‘cooperation with a hostile state’, and sentenced to six years imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. On 18 February 2020, the Appeals Court in Tehran upheld the prison sentence against him and he has remained in Evin Prison since.

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned for the health and well-being of environmental rights defender Sam Rajabi, given his positive diagnosis for COVID-19 and his existing respiratory illness, and fears his condition will deteriorate if not promptly given adequate medical assistance. It  is also concerned for the health and well-being of the inmates with whom he shared his cell before going to hospital, some of whom are also environmental rights defenders. Front Line Defenders further reiterates its concerns about the continued imprisonment of Iranian human rights defenders despite their exposure to and high risk of contracting COVID-19 while being held in poor, unhygienic conditions.

19 February 2020
Appeals Court upholds prison sentence against Sam Rajabi

On 18 February 2020, the Appeals Court in Tehran upheld the prison sentence against human rights defender Sam Rajabi. He had been found guilty of ‘espionage’ and ‘cooperation with a hostile state’, and sentenced to 6 years' imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on 23 November 2019.

Both court sessions were closed to the public and the defender’s family was not allowed to attend. The judge banned the defender’s lawyer from speaking during the presentation of the indictment.

The human rights defender was arrested in January 2018. Following his arrest, he was subjected to prolonged incommunicado detention. He remains detained in Evin Prison, where he is frequently put in solitary confinement.

8 May 2018
Environmental rights defender, Sam Rajabi, remains in incommunicado detention

As of 8 May 2018, Sam Rajabi remains in incommunicado detention in Evin Prison in Tehran. He was arrested at his home in Tehran on 25 January 2018 and has been held in incommunicado detention since 26 January.

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On the evening of 25 January 2018, Sam Rajabi’s house was raided by security forces and he was illegally detained. It remains unclear why security forces confiscated a personal computer, documents, and books belonging to his deceased father, who was a well-known scholar of Iranian studies. Six other members of PWHF were illegally arrested on the same day.

On 26 March 2018, his mother, Lili Houshmand Afshar, was allowed her only visit to date with her son since his detention. Sam Rajabi is being denied legal counsel and has been  unlawfully kept in solitary confinement since his mother’s last visit.

Lili Houshmand Afshar had been told by prison authorities that she would be allowed to visit her son on 14 April 2018, but she was denied the visit on arrival at the prison.

Over the past few months, Iranian authorities have intensified the unlawful detention of environmentalists and human rights defenders in Iran, including Niloufar Bayani, Sepideh Kashani, Taher Ghadirian, Houman Jowkar, and Amir-Hossein Khaleghi, with vague allegations of espionage.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the welfare of Sam Rajabi and believes he has been targeted solely as a result of his legitimate activities in defence of environmental rights.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Iran to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Sam Rajabi, who Front Line Defenders believes is being held solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;

2. Ensure that the treatment of Sam Rajabi, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;

3. Allow Sam Rajabi immediate and unfettered access to his families and legal counsel;

4. Return the documents confiscated during the raid, as they are not linked to any criminal activity;

5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including deprivation of liberty and judicial harassment.