Jailed Iranian writer dies of COVID-19 after treatment delay

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Jailed Iranian writer Baktash Abtin has died of complications from Covid-19 after being denied timely treatment by officials at Tehran’s infamous Evin prison.

Abtin succumbed to the virus on Saturday after days of medically induced coma as his health deteriorated. His friends and colleagues accused the prison authorities of delaying his dispatch to hospital for ten days.

Iranian Writers Association have said in their previous statements that Abtin’s condition was a direct result of the authorities’ “deliberate delay” in starting his treatment.

The poet and writer was sentenced to six years in prison in May 2019 for publishing documents on the history of the Writers Association and some comments against censorship.

With the writers Reza Khandan Mahabadi and Kayvan Bajan, Abtin was charged with “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion against national security”. These are vague charges used against political prisoners for criticizing the government.

Iranian courts and prosecutors are controlled by the outright judiciary which is accountable to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Judges and prosecutors work in tandem with the orders they receive from the judiciary.

In October 2021, PEN America awarded his PEN / Barbey Freedom to Write Award 2021 to the three imprisoned writers. Just before Abtin’s death, PEN requested his release.

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