Several Iranian activists who had plans to sue government officials for its poor handling of the COVID-19 outbreak have been jailed, an appeals court in Iran’s capital city has confirmed.
Known as “health defenders,” the activists were seeking to file legal charges against the government and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for mishandling the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines’ rollout, Radio Farda reported on Wednesday.
Iran has had the Middle East’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, with 7,488,493 confirmed cases and 143,093 deaths so far, according to data from John Hopkins University.
Many Iranians also saw Khamenei’s ban on the import of vaccines from the US and Britain as a solely political move that led to thousands of preventable deaths, Radio Farda said.
Security officers arrested five people in August 2021 for refusing to sign a letter pledging they would not sue Khamenei or other officials over the COVID-19 response, Radio Farda reported.
Activist Mostafa Nili said the court had confirmed sentences against him and other activists before the group could file a suit against the government.
The report added that Mehdi Mahmudian was jailed for four years and sentenced to two years of deprivation of media activity, while Arash KEykhosro was facing a jail term of two years and a one-year ban from advocacy and media activities.
Mohammed Reza Faghihi was sentenced to six-months in prison and Maryam Afrafaraz was given a 995-day jail term.
During a closed trial, the group was convicted of “colluding to commit crimes against national security,” Radio Farda said.