Security forces stormed the home of Ashkan Zahabian, a former Mashhad University student and member of the Daftar Tahkim Vahdat Student Organization General Council, arrested him, and transferred him to Babol’s Mati Kola Prison on May 27, a source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. According to the source, the security forces introduced themselves as employees of the Electricity Company and asked to enter the home. Once inside, brandishing guns and threatening Zahabian with physical abuse, they pulled him out of his bed, refused to allow him to get dressed, and took him away.
“The confrontation was so brutal, it seemed strange for just taking him in to start serving his prison sentence. Instead of judicial officers from the [Judiciary’s] Sentence Enforcement Unit, Intelligence forces engaged in the sudden arrest of the student activist. After the family appeared in court, the Sentence Enforcement Unit officials told them that they had sent three summonses. The family, however, stated that no summonses had been served to them and that this claim was untrue and the arrest had taken place in the absence of due process and serving of requisite summonses,” said the source.
The arrest of the student activist was intended to enforce his eight-month prison sentence from his 2011 case, according to Babol Court authorities, on charges of “acting against national security through propaganda against the regime.” Judge Bagherian had issued the ruling in July 2011. “It should be noted that in Ashkan Zahabian’s case, the alleged manifestation of the propaganda against the regime charges was ‘meeting with Grand Ayatollahs in Qom,’ and according to the attorney, there was no evidence to prove this charge in the case,” the source close to Askhan Zahabian told the Campaign.
Ashkan Zahabian was a chemistry student at Ferdowsi University in Mashhad and a member of the university’s Islamic Association. In 2008, he was suspended for one academic term because of his student activism. Four days after the disputed election of 2009, he was arrested by the Intelligence Ministry. Plainclothes forces known as Ansar-e Hezbollah severely beat him during his arrest. During Student Day protests on November 4, 2009, he was arrested for the second time. A Revolutionary Court in Babol sentenced him to six months in prison in his absence. In February 2009, while still suspended from the university, he was banned from continuing his education based on an Intelligence Ministry decision, and was expelled just one term shy of graduating. Zahabian was arrested for the third time on May 2, 2011, and after spending 43 days in solitary cells at Sari’s Shahid Kachooei Prison under interrogation, he was transferred to Babol’s Mati Kola Prison.
“His charges for the third arrest in 2011 were stated as ‘acting against national security through propaganda against the regime.’ However, according to Zahabian’s lawyer, there is no evidence or documents in his case file to prove such charges. After spending more than half of his six-month prison sentence at Babol’s Mati Kola Prison, Zahabian embarked on a hunger strike to protest his illegal continued detention inside a ward where dangerous criminals were kept. His health conditions deteriorated, but he was transferred to solitary confinement where he received no attention from prison physicians and officials, leading to a loss of consciousness. Ashkan Zahabian developed speech, stomach, and liver problems as a result of the pressure he experienced in prison during his interrogations and hunger strike, and remained under the care of physicians for some time after his release,” the source told the Campaign.