UK-based family of teenage Iranian protester appeals for help to save his life

The UK-based family of an Iranian teenager sentenced to death has appealed to ministers to help save his life.

MPs heard Mehdi Mohammadi Fard has been tortured, beaten and kept in solitary confinement in a “rat-infested cell” after taking part in protests against the Iranian regime.

He was tried in court without legal representation and sentenced to death for “corruption on earth and war against God”, the House of Commons was told.

Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South, said she represents a family member of the detained 19-year-old who wants to meet the UK Government and see what help can be offered.

Protests erupted in Iran in mid-September following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died after being arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands arrested during demonstrations over the circumstances of her death.

At least four people are known to have been executed since the demonstrations began.

Ms Greenwood told the Commons: “The cousin of one of my constituents is amongst those facing the death penalty in Iran, and I’d like to use this opportunity to say a little about him and to ask the minister to do all he can to support my constituent and her family.

“Mehdi Mohammadi Fard is just 19 years old. It was his birthday last Thursday.

“He normally works in a salon as a hairstylist and a tattoo artist, his passion since he was a young teenager.

“Mehdi has suffered poor mental health in recent months for which he’s been receiving treatment prior to what’s happened, but three months ago Mehdi was amongst a group of young people involved in the protests.

“Ten days later he was arrested and imprisoned.

“Mehdi has been tortured, beaten, kept in solitary confinement in a rat-infested cell with nothing to lie on and nothing to eat for several days.”

Ms Greenwood said the teenager has required hospital treatment for his injuries, which include a broken nose.

She added: “Three weeks ago Mehdi was tried in court without legal representation. I’ve been told notes from his psychiatrist regarding his mental state were completely disregarded and he’s been sentenced to death for ‘corruption on earth and war against God’.

“Whilst he does now have a lawyer and an appeal has been lodged, his family – both in Iran and here in the UK – are of course terrified for Mehdi and need our help.

“I ask the minister to do everything he can to support my constituent and to try to save the life of this young man, and I hope he will agree to meet with me and my constituent to discuss the case further and what the Government can and will do to help him.”

Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty thanked Ms Greenwood for “movingly” raising the case.

Mr Docherty said he expected his ministerial colleague, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, will meet her and her constituent to “see what action can be made”.

Elsewhere in the debate, Mr Docherty confirmed the UK had appealed to Iran’s most senior British-based diplomat for clemency for a British-Iranian dual national facing execution.

Alireza Akbari is an Iranian former deputy defence minister who was arrested in 2019 and accused of espionage for MI6 related to past nuclear talks between Iran and western nations, according to reports.

He has denied the charge and said he was tortured and forced to confess on camera to crimes he did not commit, BBC Persian reported.

Mr Docherty told MPs: “Following the scheduling of his forthcoming execution from the Iranian regime, the Foreign Secretary did release a statement and Lord Ahmad called in the Iranian charge d’affaires to issue a very strong call for clemency and for the release of Mr Akbari.

“We continue to offer support to the family, we have no news today and it’d be wrong for me to speculate as to any future activities, but it’s right to say also through our ambassador in Tehran we continue to make extremely strong calls for his release.”

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the UK should consider withdrawing its ambassador from Iran if Mr Akbari is executed.

Shadow Foreign Office minister Bambos Charalambous condemned the Iranian regime for executing protesters and read out a list of names of people at risk of execution.