GENEVA: UN rights experts voiced alarm on Tuesday at reports that imprisoned dissident Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad was so ill he risked “serious complications and possible death”, demanding he be released immediately.

Nourizad, who has written and directed several films, has since 2019 been serving a prison sentence totalling over 17 years on charges of insulting Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to the human rights group Amnesty International.

“We are seriously concerned at the mistreatment of Mohammad Nourizad and his continued imprisonment for expressing his opinion,” six independent UN experts, including those on the human rights situation in Iran, on torture, and on the right to freedom of expression, said in a statement.

The experts, who are appointed by the United Nations but do not speak on its behalf, warned against “his continued detention despite medical professionals finding he cannot stay in prison given his serious health condition.” “The resulting denial of adequate medical care may amount to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” they said.

The experts, who also included the UN special rapporteurs on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, on the right to physical and mental health and on extrajudicial executions, pointed out that Nourizad had carried out hunger strikes in detention and refused to take medications to protest his imprisonment and his family’s mistreatment by the authorities.

“He has also reportedly attempted suicide in prison, and began to self-harm as a form of protest on February 19, 2021,” their statement said.

This was particularly worrying, it said, since he has been diagnosed with a heart condition and has frequently lost consciousness while in detention.

He also suffers from diabetes, according to Amnesty, which last month warned that Iranian authorities were “cruelly toying with the life” of Nourizad.

The UN experts said the filmmaker was transferred to Loghman Hakim Educational Hospital in Tehran on April 14 after fainting, and had been injected with a substance he did not know the content of and had not consented to.

“It is clear that Mohammad Nourizad is not in a medical state to remain in prison,” the experts said, pointing out that the Iranian judiciary’s own legal medical organisation and other medical professionals had reportedly found he should be released on medical grounds.

“The Iranian authorities must release him immediately in line with these medical opinions and give him free access to the required medical care and treatment,” they said.

The experts said Nourizad’s treatment reflected that of many detained in Iran for “merely exercising their right to freedom of expression”, including some who have reportedly died due to denial of adequate medical treatment.

“His case is emblematic of the situation many Iranian political activists face in detention,” they said.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2021

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