The family of a dissident who is serving a prison term for demanding the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's resignation said on Sunday he has been infected with coronavirus in prison.
In a tweet on Sunday the brother of Mohammad-Hossein Sepehri said he has caught the virus and is held in solitary confinement with little access to medical care. In a recorded phone call which is attached to the tweet, Sepehri recounts his situation in prison.
Sepehri and thirteen other political and civil rights activists wrote an open letter in June 2019, calling on Khamenei to step down and allow for fundamental changes in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic in view of his ever-expanding absolute power and authority.
"Herald a new national movement," they encouraged the Iranian people in their letter, "by demanding Khamenei's resignation".
Several members of the group which included Mohammad Maleki, the former chancellor of Tehran University, Mohammad Nourizad, a documentary film director, Hashem Khastar, an outspoken defender of teachers' rights and Ms. Gohar Eshqi (Eshghi) whose young son was killed under torture behind bars, were consequently arrested and put on trial for insulting the Supreme Leader and acting against national security.
In February a court in Mashhad sentenced eight of the signatories of the letter to Khamenei, including Sepehri, to a total of 72 years in prison.
Despite a deadly coronavirus epidemic, Iranian Judiciary and security forces have continued the persecution of political dissidents, activists and critics with great zeal. Since the outbreak in February a number of individuals with no political affiliations including a whistle-blower nurse have also been detained by security forces on charges of "spreading rumors" about the coronavirus situation in several cities.
Fearing uncontrollable outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons Iran's judiciary has allowed tens of thousands of prisoners to go on furlough. However, the permission to go on furlough has obstinately been denied to many political prisoners and prisoners of conscience even despite their poor health.