WASHINGTON -- The United States has condemned Tehran for the “unconscionable” death of a hunger-striking Iranian political activist who had been jailed for messages he wrote on social media.
In a statement on December 13, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said Vahid Sayadi Nasiri, who died on December 12, had been “arbitrarily detained” by Iranian authorities after his arrest four months ago.
Nasiri had “no access to legal counsel, was held in inhumane conditions, and was charged with spurious national security offences such as ‘insulting the Supreme Leader,’” the statement said.
Nasiri’s sister, Elaheh, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the authorities had informed the family that the activist had died in a hospital in the city of Qom.
She said her brother went on hunger strike to protest against the conditions of his imprisonment and to demand his transfer from a high-security unit of a prison in Qom to Tehran’s Evin prison.
Nasiri was initially arrested in September 2015 and sentenced to eight years in prison for “insulting” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and "propaganda against the state," according to the U.S.-based advocacy group Iran Human Rights Monitor.
The charges stemmed from posts he had made on his Facebook page.
Nasiri was released early in March after serving 2 1/2 years in prison, but was arrested again in August, reportedly on similar charges.
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.”
“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the Iranian regime for its unceasingly flagrant human rights violations,” it said.
“We demand that the regime stops subjecting Iranians who are peacefully voicing their opinions to brutal conditions and slow deaths and that it release all those unjustly imprisoned,” it added.
The statement referred to two other detainees, Farhad Meysami -- who it said was also on hunger strike -- and Nasrin Sotoudeh.
Meysami, a medical doctor, was detained in July for supporting women protesting against the hijab law that forces them to cover their hair and body in public.
He has been reportedly on a hunger strike since August to protest the charges he faces and also the lack of access to a lawyer of his choosing. He reportedly is being held in a medical clinic at Evin prison, where he is being force-fed intravenously.
Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer, was arrested in June after she represented several of the women detained for removing their head scarves in public to protest against the country’s Islamic dress code.
The European Parliament on December 13 overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for the Iranian government to “immediately and unconditionally” release Sotoudeh.
Sotoudeh -- the co-winner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought -- has denied all charges against her.