Iranian dissident writer Baktash Abtin dies in custody after contracting Covid-19


Dissident Iranian poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin, who was serving a prison sentence in Tehran for security reasons, has died after falling ill with Covid-19, rights groups said on Saturday.

“Baktash Abtin is deceased,” the Iranian Writers Association said in a statement on its Telegram channel after the author was put into a medically induced coma earlier in the week.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders confirmed the death of the 48-year-old writer in a statement on Twitter, saying he blamed the Iranian authorities for not saving his life.

Respected poet and author of several books, Abtin was sentenced to five years in prison on May 15, 2019 for “illegal assembly and collusion against national security” and to one year for “spreading propaganda against the state”, in connection with his co-author of a book on the history of the Iranian Writers Association, which has criticized successive Iranian governments, according to Dublin-based NGO Front Line Defenders.

Dangerous prisons, muzzled writers Along with other writers, Keyvan Bajan and Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Abtin received the PEN / Barbey Freedom to Write award in September 2021 from the writers’ rights group PEN America.

PEN America issued an open letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei on Friday demanding “the best possible medical care” for Abatin as he fought for his life. “Further, we urge that he and all those unjustly detained for their writings or expressions be released immediately and unconditionally; that the authorities refrain from summoning political prisoners to serve their sentences as long as conditions inside Evin and other Iranian prisons remain dangerous, ”the letter said.

In recent months, activists have become increasingly concerned about the deaths of prisoners in custody in Iran, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which activists say is raging in Iranian prisons.

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), called for accountability over Abtin’s death. “Baktash Abtin died because the Iranian government wanted to muzzle him in prison,” he said. “It is an avoidable tragedy. The Iranian justice chief (Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie) must be held responsible,” he added.

Amnesty International published a study in September accusing Iran of failing to report at least 72 deaths in custody since January 2010, “despite credible reports that they were the result of torture or other ill-treatment.”



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