Pastor Saeed Abedini has been denied medication and blankets his father tried to give him in Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, with prison officials saying the U.S. citizen is not allowed to have any personal belongings. The update follows reports that the prison is severely overcrowded, leading to "deadly and inhuman" conditions.
"Saeed's health had been improving with his medication in Evin prison, but with horrendous conditions in Rajai Shahr and the lack of proper medication, Saeed's health will likely deteriorate quickly," wrote Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), in an update on Monday on the pastor's condition.
The ACLJ, which represents the pastor's wife and two children in the U.S., reported that Abedini had been moved from Evin prison to Rajai Shahr last week, though an explanation for this sudden change has not been provided. An international campaign backed by a number of U.S. political leaders, including President Barack Obama, has called for the pastor's release, but so far Iranian authorities have refused to release him or reduce his eight-year sentence.
The law group has shared information about the harsh realities inside Rajai Shahr prison, where Abedini is sharing a single cell with five violent offenders on death row.
Dutch diplomat Loes Bijen in 2005 said that in the prison, "one stops being a human being."
"One is put out of sight, even of human rights activists and the press. In Rajaï Shahr, political prisoners have to share cells with dangerous criminals like murderers, rapists and drug addicts who don't hesitate to attack their cell mates. They have nothing to lose: many of them are condemned to death anyway. Murders or unexplained deaths are a regular occurrence."
ACLJ added in the update that Rajai Shahr prison was built to house only 5,000 inmates, but currently there are 22,000 inmates locked up inside. Human right groups have also reported that prisoners lack access to air, proper nutrition, and that louse and communicable diseases are widespread.
Sekulow posted a link to an online petition started by the ACLJ following Abedini's transfer to Rajai Shahr calling on Obama to take immediate diplomatic action on his behalf.
"He has been transferred to a deadly prison where prisoners are sent to disappear and even be murdered. Be heard and urge President Obama to take immediate and decisive diplomatic action for his freedom. Time is of the essence," states the petition, which has been signed by over 211,000 people.