Iran protester's custody death 'suspicious' after 'torture': rights groups

Iran protester's custody death 'suspicious' after 'torture': rights groups
Javad Rouhi was arrested in September 2022 during the anti-government protest movement that was sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.
2 min read
01 September, 2023
Human Rights Watch, along with other rights groups, have called for an international inquiry into Javad Rouhi's death [Getty]

Human rights groups on Friday called for an investigation into the death in prison of an Iranian man arrested over last year's protests, alleging he had been "horrifically tortured."

Javad Rouhi, 31, was arrested in September 2022 in Nowshahr in the northern Mazandaran province during the widespread protests that erupted over the death of Mahsa Amini who had been arrested for allegedly violating the strict dress rules for women.

He was convicted two months later and sentenced to death, although the sentence was later struck down and a retrial ordered.

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Human Rights Watch said he was "horrifically tortured" following his arrest and then died "under suspicious circumstances" on 31 August, 2023.

Norway-based Iran Human Rights echoed that he died "under suspicious circumstances."

The Iranian judiciary's Mizan Online news website reported he died early Thursday "after suffering a seizure while in prison" in Nowshahr.

"The Iranian prison authorities' egregious record of torture and mistreatment makes Javad Rouhi's death in custody more than a little suspicious," said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at HRW.

"An international inquiry is needed since there's no reason to believe Iranian authorities will carry out a transparent investigation."

According to HRW, which cited an informed source, he had in custody suffered torture including being exposed to freezing temperatures and having ice cubes placed on his testicles and other parts of his body for 48-hour periods.

"The attackers also beat him severely with batons and whipped his body, including the soles of his feet, while he was tied to a pole," it added.

IHR's director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, said Rouhi's death must be investigated "as an extrajudicial killing in prison" by the UN fact-finding mission set up to investigate human right abuse committed during Iran's crackdown on the protests.

"The United Nations fact-finding mission should investigate all torture and deaths in custody related to the protests in Iran," Sepehri Far said. "Sadly, the case of Javad Rouhi is just the latest one."

The protests have now largely subsided, despite some sporadic outbursts, after a crackdown which saw thousands detained, according to the UN, and hundreds shot dead by security forces, according to activists.

Rouhi was sentenced to death on the charge of "corruption on Earth" for "leading a group of rioters," "inciting people to create insecurity," and "apostasy by desecration of the Koran by burning it," Mizan said in January.