'hellhole' | 

Family fears for Irish man held in Iranian prison as ‘three prisoners in his block executed’

The family of Tipperary tour operator, Bernard Phelan (64), have pleaded for the Tehran authorities to release him

Ralph RiegelIndependent.ie

The sister of an Irish man held in a “hellhole” Iranian prison has expressed fears for his health, saying three prisoners in his block have already been executed.

The family of Tipperary tour operator, Bernard Phelan (64), have pleaded for the Tehran authorities to release him as they revealed he has had to use cardboard to block icy gusts from the open bar windows and only has a candle for light at night.

Mr Phelan is now on hunger strike to highlight his worsening plight.

His sister, Caroline Massé Phelan, said her brother urgently needs help after almost four months in custody in Iran and he is being kept alongside death row prisoners.

She said the Vakilabad prison he is detained at is notorious in Iran – and is considered one of the toughest in the entire Middle East.

His family now fear for his health.

“He is in one of the worst prisons in Iran,” Ms Massé Phelan said.

“He is on death row. Three out of 50 prisoners on his cell block have been executed since his detention."

“There is no glass on the windows. It is just bars. So he has to put cardboard on the windows at night just to try and keep warm.”

She said temperatures routinely sink below -5C in winter in Iran.

Tehran has implemented a brutal crackdown on dissent and has executed a number of its nationals over the past few weeks in the wake of massive street demonstrations.

Women protest the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran. Photo: AP© AP

Iran has been gripped by street protests since a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in custody after being detained by the religious police for allegedly wearing her headscarf in an inappropriate manner.

A number of western nationals have been detained in Iran in the wake of the protests.

Mr Phelan has vehemently denied a charge levelled against him by the Iranian authorities of helping to incite propaganda against the Tehran government.

He was detained in the city of Mashhad on October 3.

While born in Clonmel in Co Tipperary, Mr Phelan has been based in France for many years and is understood to have been travelling on a French passport when he was detained.

It is feared that UK, US and French nationals have been singled out by the regime

Mr Phelan does have an Irish passport – and his family believe he was detained simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The French authorities have been trying to provide consular support for Mr Phelan's family. Irish officials have also been providing consular assistance.

However, it is feared that UK, US and French nationals have been singled out by the regime as part of its fight back against western criticism of its repressive policies.

Ms Massé Phelan said her brother has not been allowed any modern conveniences in prison and the prisoners depend on a candle for light each evening.

Mr Phelan's family said their fears for his health and physical well-being have mounted the longer he has been kept in custody.

Mr Phelan has denied the accusations against him.


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