LONDON: More than 20 human rights organizations have signed a letter urging the Iranian government to release three activists who sounded the alarm at Tehran’s mismanagement of the country’s COVID-19 crisis.
Among the groups to sign the joint statement were the Washington-based Human Rights Watch and Project on Middle East Democracy, as well various groups dedicated to fighting for minority rights in Iran.
They wrote: “We, the undersigned civil society and human rights organizations, call for the immediate release of prominent human rights defenders Mehdi Mahmoudian, Arash Keykhosravi and Mostafa Nili, who have been arbitrarily detained by the Iranian authorities since Aug. 14, 2021.”
They were arrested, the rights groups said, “as they prepared to file a complaint against the country’s National Task Force against Coronavirus, including the Minister of Health and other officials responsible for the mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.”
The pandemic has ravaged Iran as wave after wave hit the country, which has struggled to vaccinate its population.
Among the issues that the Iranian people have faced during the pandemic was a Khamenei-issued decree that banned British and American-made vaccines from entering the country, effectively leaving many people defenseless in the face of the virus.
The human rights organization said: “With more than 128,000 total deaths since the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities have failed to provide details of their plans for domestic vaccine production and repeatedly changed policies on vaccine imports.”
The letter continued: “Iranian citizens have been expressing their anger on social media at the government’s mismanagement, lack of transparency and unclear vaccination policies during the first six months of 2021. In their unfiled complaint, Mahmoudian, Nili and Keykhosravi echoed the sentiment of countless Iranians, arguing that authorities who delayed vaccine production and imports were responsible for worsening health consequences of the pandemic.”
Journalist Mahmoudian and human rights lawyers Nili and Keykhosravi are currently on trial for “corruption of public order.”
The human rights groups expressed concern about the conditions the three activists face in jail, following a letter sent in October this year detailing the human rights violations they had experienced while in prison, including being held in solitary confinement for more than a month.
“The Iranian government should immediately and unconditionally release the three arbitrarily detained human rights defenders and drop all charges,” concluded the letter, adding: “We furthermore call on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the member states of the Human Rights Council to raise their cases with the Iranian government at the highest levels.”