Jailed Iranian bodybuilder sews lips to protest prison abuse
Khaled Pirzadeh, once a competitive bodybuilder holding local and regional titles, has been on hunger strike since February 22, according to Iranian activists and human rights groups.
Few details have emerged about Pirzadeh's protest, which friends say is the second time the dissident has taken such action.
An open letter published in Human Right in Iran News Agency is attributed to him, though its veracity cannot be verified.
In addition to opposition for his request for parole, Pirzadeh cites authorities' refusal to give him access to medical care as the reason for him sewing his lips shut.
This includes a lack of access to surgery and physiotherapy for leg and spinal injuries resulting from alleged violent treatment by authorities, as well as a recent occasion in when he was denied hospitalisation for a heart complication.
In September VOA Persian reported that a lawyer representing Pirzadeh said a prison guard deliberately struck him on the knee - the site of a medical procedure a month before - for disagreeing with plans to move him to another part of the Greater Tehran Penitentiary, where he is held.
The former bodybuilder was beaten by the Islamic republic's brutal authorities when detained in 2019 for alleged national security offences and "insulting" the supreme leader, according to activists.
The first incident is thought to have caused him to long-term injuries to his legs and spine.
A trial in the 28th Branch of Tehran's Revolutionary Court sentenced him to five years in prison in May 2019. Last July Pirzadeh was again beaten when he refused to be transferred from Evin prison to Greater Tehran Penitentary.
Pirzadeh now requires a wheelchair to use the bathroom, according to one relative.
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Iran has faced growing criticism over its human rights record in recent months, at a time when there is intense diplomacy to revive the nuclear deal ditched by former US president Donald Trump.
It has executed several high-profile prisoners, including wrestler Navid Afkari and the formerly France-based dissident Ruhollah Zam.