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Iranian union activist released from prison after more than two months on hunger strike

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NCRI – Iranian workers’ rights activist Jafar Azimzadeh, who carried out a hunger strike for more than 63 days while jailed as a political prisoner, finally overcame the pressures and plots against him by the mullahs’ regime which was forced to release him on Friday under intense social and international pressure.

Mr. Azimzadeh’s health had considerably deteriorated after more than two months of a continuous hunger strike. His supporters had been holding daily acts of protest to force the regime to release him.

On Wednesday, June 29, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in a statement reported that hundreds of workers, teachers and youths rallied outside the office of the Iranian regime’s president Hassan Rouhani in Tehran earlier in the day in support of Mr. Azimzadeh, demanding urgent action to save his life.

Gathering from different cities across Iran, protesters were seen chanting, “Workers don’t belong in prison. Workers’ wages is not lashing,” “Jailed workers must be freed,” “Political prisoners must be freed,” “62 days have passed and Jafar remains in jail,” and “Plunderers are free, workers are in jail.” The repressive intelligence agents and police prevented anyone from taking any video footage or still images of the rally.

A day prior to this gathering Rasoul Boddaghi, Ismail Abdi and Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, jailed teachers who were recently released, were joined by 180 other teachers and workers issuing a statement announcing a hunger strike from Thursday, June 30, to Saturday, July 2 in support of Mr. Azimzadeh.

Moreover, Mr. Ali Moezi, a supporter of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK) and a number of other political prisoners in the prisons of Evin and Gohardasht underscored the repressive regime and its so-called judiciary are responsible for Mr. Azimzadeh’s health and well-being, adding they, too, will be on hunger strike starting Tuesday, June 28.

Mr. Azimzadeh had gone unconscious many times in the past few days. Despite his conditions, Hajilou, the regime’s representative in the public prosecutor’s office, has said they will do nothing in the case of Mr. Azidzadeh losing his life.

Azimzadeh was on hunger strike protesting the “violation of the fundamental rights of teachers and workers,” “their detention and prosecution for bogus reasons” and raising charges such as “acting against security” against labor activists and teachers.

Mr. Azimzadeh, who was arrested on November 8, 2015, has been serving a six-year prison sentence in Ward 8 of Evin Prison for engaging in peaceful and legitimate trade union activities.

On May 27, Mr. Azimzadeh sent an open letter to the International Labor Organization (ILO) from prison in which he lambasted the Iranian regime’s mistreatment of workers.

A key demand of Mr. Azimzadeh and other workers’ union activists is for the authorities to drop the charge of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and other national security charges in cases of union activities.

Mr. Azimzadeh sent a statement out of Evin Prison following the release on bail of fellow political prisoner Ismail Abdi, Secretary General of Iran’s Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA), vowing to continue his hunger strike until the “demands of millions of teachers and workers” are met.

Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action appeal in his support on June 29, saying: “Iranian trade unionist Jafar Azimzadeh, the Chair of the Free Union of Workers of Iran, lost consciousness on 27 June following a two-month-long hunger strike. He has been hospitalized since 18 June due to his deteriorating health, but is at risk of being returned to Tehran’s Evin Prison, where his life may be at risk. He is a prisoner of conscience.”

“His health deteriorated after he started an indefinite hunger strike on 29 April, in advance of International Workers’ Day on 1 May. He began the hunger strike in protest at the arrest and conviction of himself and other trade unionists and teachers on trumped-up national security-related charges; the repression of trade unionists’ peaceful assemblies and strikes; the ban on independently organized events for International Workers’ Day and World Teachers’ Day; and the continuing existence of wages that fall below the poverty line,” the statement added.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in a May 24 statement once again called on all defenders of human rights, particularly the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel and inhumane punishments, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to take urgent and effective action to secure the release of political prisoners on hunger strike in Iran, including Mr. Azimzadeh.