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IRAN: Ahmadinejad aide proposes Evin Prison diet plan

August 23, 2009 |  4:21 am


What better way to spend a few weeks inside the solitary confinement ward of an Iranian prison than to shed some excess pounds?


A close aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested that Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a reformist critic of the president, appeared so gaunt during his televised confession this month because he himself had decided to take off some weight.

"It's natural that when someone has become fat, in prison he understands that his fatness harmed his body and spirit," said Ali Akbar Javanfekr (left)."So maybe Mr. Abtahi took advantage of this opportunity to lose weight."

The president's advisor on media affairs spoke to the Iranian Labor News Agency

Observers were stunned when Abtahi (above), who served as a vice president for former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, publicly confessed to conspiring against Ahmadinejad.

It wasn't just that his words appeared to be copied verbatim from Iran's hardline press. But the 51-year-old looked terrible.

He had just spent weeks under interrogation and in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer. The mid-ranking cleric appeared gaunt, withdrawn and without his turban.  

By most accounts, Evin Prison is an unlikely self-help venue. 

The wife of jailed dissident journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi told a reformist website Saturday that her husband had told her during a recent jailhouse visit that he had contracted "dementia" while in solitary confinement in the massive prison complex. 

He had been locked up in a tomb-like box for refusing to confess to being part of a Western-backed conspiracy to overthrow the Islamic Republic in the wake of Ahmadinejad's disputed June 12 reelection. 

"Mr. Zeidabadi says he was being held in a grave," she told "He had attempted suicide, but he had found nothing to do it with. He had then started screaming, and the prison guards had found he was going insane and they moved him to solitary confinement cell."

She also said her husband had lost weight.

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photos: Above, Abtahi in June 2009 (left) and this month. (Credit: Iranian news agencies). Below, Abbas Javanfekr (Credit: AFP/Getty Images).