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Deceased Political Prisoner Is Now Accused Of Terrorism

Iranian prisoner of conscience, Vahid Sayadi Nasiri, who died after a hunger strike in Qom prison on December 12, 2018.

A political prisoner who recently died in custody is now being accused of belonging to a militant exiled group, according to state-run ISNA, citing an "informed authority".

The news agency says that Vahid Sayadi Nasiri was a member of the Tondar group and arrested for "planning malign operations [against the establishment] in Iran."

Tondar, or the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, also known as Soldiers of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, is reportedly a militant Iranian exile royalist group seeking to overthrow the ruling government and restore the Iranian monarchy. The group is banned in Iran. Tondar, a name that means 'thunder' in Persian, is not on the U.S. terrorist watch list.

Although it has been described as "a little-known exile group" by the Guardian's Robert Tait in 2009, Tondar has made several headlines in recent years. The group was founded by a London-based former movie dubber, Fathollah Manoucheri aka Forood Fouladvand, who has reportedly been missing since January 2007 while visiting Turkey.

Speaking to Radio Farda's Farhang Ghavimi, Fouladvand's son, Keyanoush, said in June 2008 that his father was kidnapped in an Iranian border area by Iranian intelligence agents on January 17, 2007.

Vahid Sayadi Nasiri, 37, was initially arrested in September 2015 and sentenced to eight years on charges of insulting religious sanctities, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and propaganda against the state on his Facebook account and sentenced to an eight year prison term.

Benefiting from an Iranian New Year pardon, he was released last March after spending two and a half years behind bars.

However, his release was short-lived, and intelligence department agents in the city of Qom, 127 kilometers (79 miles) south of Tehran, arrested him again in August.

Nasiri went on a hunger strike in late October to protest being locked up with "ordinary criminals," which he said violates Iran's regulations on the principle of separation of inmates.

Although Nasiri's relatives insist he died after 60 days of hunger strike, Qom Prosecutor Mehdi Kaheh has claimed the activist suffered from liver malfunction and died of related causes nine days after being taken to a hospital.

Citing its unnamed source, ISNA reported, "After being released, Vahid Sayadi Nasiri started cooperating with the Tondar terrorist group under assumed names, Arash Sayadi and Shapour Zolaktaf, and was later arrested for planning bomb attacks in the city of Qom."

ISNA's source also claimed Tondar was responsible for the 2008 Shiraz explosion at the Hosseynieh Seyed al-Shohada in which 14 people, including children, were killed and more than 200 injured.

Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, accused by the government of being members of the assembly, were arrested and tried for the bombing. In January 2010, they were executed for moharebeh, or "waging war against God", and attempting to overthrow the Islamic regime.

Nonetheless, the group's members have repeatedly denied they are a terrorist organization involved in attacks in Iran.

Iran is routinely criticized by all major international human rights groups for gross violations of civil rights and individual rights of dissidents.

The United States has condemned Tehran for the “unconscionable” death of Nasiri, who had been jailed for messages he wrote on social media.

In a statement on December 13, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said Nasiri, who died on December 12, had been “arbitrarily detained” by Iranian authorities after his arrest four months ago.

The State Department statement said he was “just one of many more unjustly detained prisoners held at the mercy of the Iranian regime’s whims.”