An Australian-Iranian grandfather held in a notorious Tehran prison for more than two years has died after falling critically ill over the weekend. Shokrollah Jebeli, 83, had been held in Evin prison – the same jail in which Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert was first detained – since January 2020, after he was jailed over what appears to be a small financial dispute.
Jebeli’s family confirmed the 83-year-old’s death on a Twitter account dedicated to securing his release from detention on Sunday evening AEDT. “I was just told my father died today. I couldn’t save him,” Jebeli’s son, Peyman Jebeli, wrote on the social media platform.
He said his father had fallen critically ill and could barely speak on Friday evening AEDT. He had been taken to the prison infirmary after his condition deteriorated the following day, but had died on Sunday AEDT. “We are still in shock,” his son said. Jebeli had previously suffered a stroke inside the prison and was taken to an Iranian hospital for treatment, but was discharged that same day against medical advice, according to several sources.
Amnesty International expressed “grave concerns” about the grandfather’s wellbeing and the lack of specialized medical care to treat his health conditions in a letter to Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne last June. “Despite his age and critical health condition, the Iranian authorities have denied him access to the urgent specialized healthcare he needs and has rejected requests for his release on medical grounds,” the letter read.
Jebeli migrated to Australia on a business visa in 1976 and raised his family in Sydney. His family said he helped the Australian government restore economic ties with Iran in the 1980s through a number of key business deals in the wheat and meat industries. He later returned in 2007 to live in Iran, where he was detained and sent to Evin prison on January 31, 2020.
Last year, Jebeli’s family said Iranian authorities had not produced any evidence against him and the financial dispute was over a sum of between $5000 and $20,000. They had been trying to raise money to fund a legal case to bring him home but the Australian government’s involvement in the case had been limited as Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
A spokesman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Iran had refused to recognize Jebeli’s Australian citizenship and right to consular assistance. “The Australian government consistently advocated for Mr. Jebeli’s interests and repeatedly sought his release on compassionate and humanitarian grounds given his age, underlying infirmities, and his illness,” he said.
Jebeli’s family said the Australian government had offered to help repatriate the 83-year-old’s body to Australia, where he wished to be buried, but would not cover the $7500 cost. The spokesman confirmed the department had been in contact with the family to help recover Jebeli’s personal effects, arrange his repatriation, and liaise with Iranian authorities. “In the interests of the family’s privacy we will not make further comment on the specific details of this case,” he said.