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A doctor in Iran is sentenced to death for participating in an antigovernment protest


Iran has started executing prisoners accused of taking part in anti-government protests. This morning, we hear the story of one man sentenced to death. Hamid Ghareh Hassanlou is a 53-year-old doctor. He and his wife Farzaneh attended a demonstration and were arrested. She was sentenced to 25 years of solitary confinement. MORNING EDITION host Steve Inskeep spoke with Hamid's brother, Hassan Hassanlou, who lives in the Netherlands.

HASSAN HASSANLOU: To give a good picture, I need to go back maybe 30 years. When my father passed away, I was 9 years old. I was the last kid. And my brother was the first kid in the family of five siblings. That means for him that he need to stood up to support the family. He was studying to be a general doctor, and he was planning to take - continue his study. But he decided not to do it, to support the family. And the first thing that I can say about my brother, that he's supportive, supportive of close family and supportive of the society as well. I'm not calling it he's rich in terms of the monetary value, but he's rich in terms of what he has to offer to the people, like building up a few schools in underprivileged areas in Iran, of course with the help of other colleagues, visiting the people that cannot afford going to the doctor for free and supporting a few underprivileged family.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: How did he come to the attention of the authorities?

HASSANLOU: He was, as I said, caring about the society. He participated in a demonstration. You know, in Iran, for some cultural reasons, we go to the place of family when somebody die after about 40 days.

INSKEEP: Forty days later, you mourn someone. You gather to mourn them.

HASSANLOU: Yes. Yes. And there was a girl called Hadis Najafi, killed because of, again, this demonstration that is going on. And for her 40th day, there was supposed to be a nonviolent demonstration, again, to mourn that and to respect their family. And he and his wife participated in that, but because of some Basij forces, it's become violent in a way.

INSKEEP: I think we should explain for Americans, when you said Basij, we're talking about militia forces that are throughout Iran that support the government. And your understanding is there was some conflict between them and the protesters.

HASSANLOU: Yes, that's true. So at the end, the Basij members actually died. And because of that, they took about 15 different people to the prison so far, and 5 out of those 15 people was sentenced to death. During the investigation, he was tortured. Four ribs was broken, and one of the ribs caused the left lung to have bleeding. And he was admitted to the hospital after about two weeks after that incident. And so far, he had three operation to suck out the blood in his lung because his left lung was actually not functioning. And we are not sure if it's treated now, but it was as a result of those torturing during the investigation.

INSKEEP: Given his condition, was he able to attend his own trial?

HASSANLOU: From the doctor point of view, no, he was not able, and he was not conscious enough to attend it. But they forced him.

INSKEEP: As best you could learn, what was that trial like?

HASSANLOU: So he didn't have a lawyer that we can suggest. It was a lawyer that the government chose for him. And even the lawyer was against him during the trial and was asking him to confess on something he didn't do, to confess that he was one of the causes of that Basij deaths.

INSKEEP: Does he have any opportunity to appeal the death sentence?

HASSANLOU: It is something that is ongoing at the moment. It's not finalized. But we hope that we can change the decision.

INSKEEP: When your family is able to communicate by phone or otherwise with him, what do they hear from him about his condition or his state of mind?

HASSANLOU: It's hard for me to talk about it. I would say his state of mind is not in a good situation. Just imagine you had three hard operations, and you sentenced to death for nothing. But I'm sure he's strong, as much as strong that he didn't confess any false confession. And I'm pretty sure that he would stay strong, and he would come back to the family.

INSKEEP: What kind of a conversation is going on from country to country, in your family, as you watch this happen and try to think about what to do?

HASSANLOU: It's completely unfortunate. But it, in a way, made us united in different countries to just broadcast whatever that is going on over there to everyone to understand this injustice that is going on in Iran, not just for my brother but anyone.

INSKEEP: Hassan Hassanlou, thank you very much for the time.

HASSANLOU: You're welcome.


FADEL: That was our colleague Steve Inskeep speaking with Hassan Hassanlou. His brother has been sentenced to death in Iran. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.