Members of the Iranian Parliament visited the notorious Evin prison in Tehran this week and declared it fit for purpose.
Evin has for nearly 30 years been a notorious centre for the punishment, torture and execution of the Iranian regime's opponents. Human rights organisations, both inside and outside Iran, have cited examples of savage torture and the maltreatment of prisoners on many occasions over the years and urged the Iranian government to end its mistreatment of political prisoners in particular.
It is remarkable then that a member of the parliament's national security and foreign affairs committee delegation could comment after a six-hour visit to Evin that "this isn't a prison. It is Hotel Evin."
It is not the first time that Evin has been given some innocuous label to disguise the atrocities behind its walls.
In the 1980s the notorious prison governor Asadollah Lajavardi described it as "Evin university," in which all inmates would learn new ways. But learning was through torture, not books, and every graduate was broken.
It was only recently revealed - by political prisoners - that torture in Ward 350 of Evin prison was the cause of blogger Satar Beheshti's death. This has led the Iranian government to increase its repressive measures in Iranian prisons.
One such repressive action is to banish political prisoners to prisons where common criminals are being kept or to prisons located in distant cities, making family access almost impossible.
A recent letter to Chief Justice Amoli Larijani from 39 political prisoners from Ward 350 highlights the case of Abolfazel Gadiani.
On January 14 Gadiani was removed from the ward to Gezel-Hesar prison. Prior to the revolution, in the era of the Shah, Gadiani was a political prisoner in that very prison.
However, this is now a prison which mainly houses drug-traffickers and dangerous criminals, increasing the threat to his safety.
Given the high number of intellectuals in Ward 350, prisoners had organised over 60 hours of educational lectures in approximately 35 different academic disciplines. During the last two months, in an attempt to disrupt the inmates' educational activities, the ward's interim head Javad Moemeni ordered the removal of any educational material prepared by the prisoners themselves.
But unified resistance from the inmates has had some success and following the prison warden's intervention the previous conditions in the ward have been restored.
Solidarity activists have recently highlighted another case - that of Reza Shahabi, the Tehran Bus Workers treasurer who went on hunger strike for three weeks over his mistreatment in Evin and the lack of medical resources available to address major surgery which had been undertaken on his neck and spine.
Shahabi was finally allowed five days' bail to address health issues which had been exacerbated by beatings in prison.
In November last year activists also highlighted the case of female political prisoners who were subject to abusive and degrading treatment in Evin, with regular body searches and the arbitrary removal of personal items among the issues raised. Nine of the women went on hunger strike.
The protest followed closely upon that initiated by human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who went on hunger strike on October 17 over visiting rights for her family.
Her case had previously been highlighted as an example of the poor treatment of female prisoners by the Iranian authorities. She has recently received the Sakharov Prize for her work in the field of human rights.
These are only some of the more recent examples of the realities of life in prison for political prisoners in Iran. Over the past 30 years many more examples could be held up to show that, far from boasting hotel conditions, Evin prison is only fit for closure, leaving its notorious reputation confined to the history books.
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