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Former top Iranian official, ‘longest-serving political prisoner,’ dies at 86

Abbas Amir-Entezam (Iranian Photo/Free Use/WikiMedia)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A former Iranian deputy prime minister who human rights groups say was Iran’s longest-incarcerated political prisoner died on July 12 at the age of 86, state media reported.

Abbas Amir-Entezam, regarded as a liberal, had spent decades in prison after being found guilty of espionage and treason shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Amir-Entezam was in poor health following his years in prison and died following a “cardiac arrest,” state news agency IRNA cited his wife as saying.

Although it seems he was not in custody at the time of his death, it was not clear how long he had been out of prison and under what conditions he had been allowed to return home.

He was a deputy prime minister and government spokesman in the provisional government headed by Mehdi Bazargan after the revolution that overthrew Iran’s Shah. But he opposed moves to turn the state into an Islamic republic.

The government sent him to Sweden as an ambassador, but he was later recalled, arrested, and sentenced to life in prison in 1981 for spying for the United States — a charge he always denied.

After serving a 17-year sentence, he was arrested again in 1998 after making critical statements about the former head of the Evin prison near Tehran.

Following a brief period of liberty, he was detained again in the early 2000s and sent back to prison after calling for a referendum on the country’s political system.

In an interview last year, he shed tears as he recalled being prevented from seeing his family for the first “six or seven years” of his detention.

Human rights organizations said Amir-Entezam was Iran’s longest-held political prisoner and expressed support for him over the years.

In 1997, he was awarded the Austrian Bruno Kreisky prize for human rights.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP