A famed Iranian Instagram celebrity, known for her transformation into a macabre "Angelina Jolie" lookalike, is reportedly on a ventilator after contracting the novel coronavirus while in custody, according to a US Human Rights group.
Fatemeh Khishvand, 22, known on Instagram as "Sahar Tabar", was arrested in October as part of a nationwide crackdown on social media influencers, facing a string of charges of including blasphemy, incitement to violence and "encouraging youth to engage in lunacy".
Local Judge Mohammmad Moghisheh reportedly denied Khishvand her release on bail multiple times, most recently during the country's Covid-19 outbreak.
"We find it unacceptable that this young woman has now caught the coronavirus in these circumstances while her detention order has been extended during all this time in jail," her lawyer Payam Derafshan told the US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran on Wednesday.
Even as 85,000 inmates have so far have been freed as part of measures to combat the spread of deadly virus in Iran’s heavily-crowded jails, authorities at Shahr-e-Rey prison, where the online star is held, deny she has contracted coronavirus, Sputnik report.
Derafshan charged that it had become a "habit" for authorities to obfuscate everything, including his client's severe illness.
"It makes no sense to deny this. The prison director should acknowledge the infection and admit she has been hospitalized," he said.
Female inmates in Shahr-e Ray have described a "terrible situation inside the prison and the fear that exists [due to the coronavirus]", he added.
Khishvand shot to notoriety in 2017, for her bizarre and unnerving selfies, showcasing the result of over 50 plastic surgery operations to achieve the zombie-like look.
Later however, she revealed that her gaunt face and inflated lips had been doctored through the work of skillful photo-editing.
Iran is regarded as a global capital for cosmetic surgery, with tens of thousands of operations taking place yearly.
In some photos posted to her Instagram, one of the only social media sites accessible in the country, Khishhvand can be seen wearing a loosely fitting hijab over her hair and a white bandage on her nose.
According to the most recent data, official accounts of Iran's Covid-19 death toll stand at 4800, with around 78,000 confirmed cases.
Amid widespread speculation that the real figure is far higher, a group of nonpartisan expert in Iran published a report on Tuesday suggesting that in a worst-case scenario, the pandemic is likely to have claimed the lives of 8,500, with some 760,000 total cases.
Iranian officials have yet to comment on the report, which constitutes the highest-level charge from within the Islamic Republic's government of its figures being questionable.
The report said that the health ministry's death toll figures counted only those who died in hospitals after getting positive test results for the virus. That disregarded all coronavirus victims who died in their homes.
The report also said that aggressive testing, something experts have seized upon as necessary in the pandemic, has not been done in Iran meaning other cases are likely to have been missed.
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