Afshin Sheikholeslami’s Detention Extended without Judicial Charges

35 days after Kurdish environmental rights activists Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani‘s arrest, he has not been officially charged by the Iranian judiciary. The second branch of the Sanandaj’s prosecutor office has extended Mr. Sheikholeslami’s detention.

Mr. Sheikholeslami’s mother, Negar Nasri Moghaddam, told Kurdish Human Rights Network: I am very concerned about my son’s health. Afshin was arrested 35 days ago and we don’t know the reason for his arrest. Plain clothes security agents arrested him without any explanation and they do not tell us what crime he has been charged with. When he was allowed to call home, they did not allow him to speak about his interrogations.

Many high profile political prisoners have recently contracted COVID-19 in Iranian prisons after they were suddenly transferred to another prison without any explanation.

An informed source in the city of Sanandaj told KHRN: Intelligence Ministry interrogators are accusing him of criminal activity for having gathered with others to read books at his home. They say this is the criminal act of spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic.

Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani was arrested at his family home on June 27, 2020 by Iranian Intelligence ministry agents. This environmentalist activist was previously arrested in February 2019, alongside other environmentalist activists and members of the Kurdish branch of the National Unity Party which is a legally registered party in Iran. He was subsequently released after one month of imprisonment on a five billion Rial bail. On March 18, 2020 he was sentenced to three months and one day of imprisonment. His sentence alongside four other environmental activists was commuted to the time served due to the spread of COVID-19 in Iranian prisons.
Afshin Sheikholeslami who is a legal U.S. resident has not been able to return home since the second branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj banned his travels outside the country.
In the past Afshin Sheikholeslami Vatani has been detained and interrogated by Iranian regime multiple times. In one occasion he was detained alongside other activists who were present in Habibollah Latifi’s house following an attempt to stop Latifi’s execution. Latifi’s sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment as a result of such human rights defenders activism. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International condemned arrest of Mr. Sheikholeslami and other civil rights activist at that time.