Elderly dissident Iranian cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Nekounam has been on hunger strike for 31 days in protest at his detention and the denial of specialized medical care by the authorities. After suffering from a stroke and heart attack while in detention, he is in extremely poor health and in urgent need of specialized medical care.

Dissident Iranian cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Nekounam, 68, who is serving a five-year prison sentence in Salehi Prison in the city of Qom, near Tehran, Iran’s capital, has been on hunger strike since 21 December 2016.

He is protesting his arbitrary detention and abusive practices by Iran’s Special Court for the Clergy, including their refusal to allow him access to specialized medical care and intimidation of his followers. He has also stopped taking his medication. He was transferred to a hospital outside prison on 13 January after his health severely declined. Doctors have warned that he is at risk of falling into a coma and suffering a second stroke; he previously suffered a stroke on 3 March 2015 while in solitary confinement. He has lost weight, his vision has deteriorated, and he is suffering from diabetes, chest pain, heart palpitations, and has kidney, heart, liver and thyroid problems. In complaint letters he has written from prison, he has said that his requests for specialized medical care have been ignored. 
Prior to his detention, Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Nekounam was a teacher of Islamic jurisprudence at the Qom Seminary. He had openly expressed criticism of the Supreme Leader and the establishment and accused the authorities of “misusing religion for political purposes and for suppressing the public”. He was arrested without a warrant on 1 January 2015 following his criticism of a fatwa issued by one of Iran’s most prominent clerics who had declared that high-speed internet goes against Shari’a and “moral standards”. During this period, he was treated in ways that violate the international prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment. He was held for 56 days in solitary confinement, in an undisclosed location, without access to his family or a lawyer. His interrogators also questioned him for over 10 hours a day, subjecting him to death threats and ignoring his special dietary needs, which he says led him to develop diabetes and high blood pressure. Following a 10-minute trial before the Special Court for the Clergy in March 2015, he was convicted of “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “state-sanctioned clerics” and sentenced to two years in prison. In June 2015, his sentence was increased to five years after an appeal, of which he was not informed, by the prosecution. He believes this was done in reprisal for complaints he had filed about his treatment by the Office of the Special Prosecutor for the Clergy during his detention and trial.
Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
  • Calling on the authorities to release Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Nekounam immediately and unconditionally as he has been targeted solely for exercising his right to freedom of belief, expression and association; 
  • Calling on them to ensure that, pending his release, he is granted access to the adequate specialized medical care he needs outside prison and is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, which the denial of medical care can amount to; 
  • Expressing concern that trials held before the Special Court for the Clergy are grossly unfair and do not to meet international fair trial standards.  
Contact below official by 3 March, 2017:
Office of the Supreme Leader
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 867-7086  I  Phone: (212) 687-2020  I  Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
Salutation: Your Excellency
Here’s why it is so important to report your actions: we record the number of actions taken on each case and use that information in our advocacy. Either email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with “UA 19/17” in the subject line or click this link.

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