26 prisoners call for special investigation into abuses
In a letter to a committee charged with protecting citizen rights and freedoms, 26 political prisoners from different prisons in the country have described some of the horrors faced by inmates, calling for an investigation into the prevailing human rights violations perpetrated by the Revolutionary Guard and Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
According to opposition website Kaleme, the list of signatories to the letter include some of Iran’s most prominent dissident figures such as former senior diplomat Mohsen Aminzadeh, reformist party leader Mohsen Mirdamadi, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, Behzad Nabavi, Feizollah Arabsorkhi and journalist Keyvan samimi.
In a letter to the chairman of the “Central Board for the Sound Implementation of the Law regarding the Respect for Contingent Freedoms and Protecting Citizen Rights,” political inmates held in the notorious and Rajaei Shahr prisons as well as detention centres in Khuzestan province highlighted some of the worst human rights abuses perpetrated against them by the Revolutionary Guards and Iran’s Intelligence.
“As signatories to this letter of complaint, we have been tortured. One of the most common tortures has been our solitary confinement in very small cells. A measure that’s considered by the country’s most senior officials as torture, and [even] prison guards concur that weeks of solitary confinement cause accused severe physical and mental disorders for the accused [inmates].”
The letters goes on to add: “We signatories of this complain would like to express our strong protestation and grievance against officials appointed by the Revolutionary Guards, the Intelligence Ministry and the Police Forces to pursue and interrogate us, as well as Tehran’s former Chief Prosecutor and other relevant officials under whose supervision and orders these actions have taken place in accordance with the code of criminal procedure. We expect ِyour Excellency to take appropriate action based on the numerous reports that have been published with regards to the repeated anti-religious and illegal actions of the individuals mentioned here.”
The inmates stress the human rights violations mentioned in their letter represent a “portion” of the illegal conduct of Iranian authorities. “What’s been cited here does not reveal the depth of the tragic actions carried out against those accused and tried following the 2009 presidential election,” they added.
One of the complaints mentioned in the letter is related to the great wave of arrest of reformist figures which began in the days—and sometimes even hours—after and the announcement of the results of the 2009 presidential race which led to massive protests across the country. “Contrary to Article 1 of the citizen rights law … the arrests that followed the 2009 presidential election were carried out without clear and transparent judicial orders, and mass arrests took place with a single warrant and as part of one whole directive, lacking the signature [of an official] or the name of the accused, or at times [the arrest warrants] containing the names of tens of individuals.”
The imprisoned activists also say that “in some cases,” their arrest warrants were issued before the election and the subsequent protests that erupted and were based on the opinions and political leanings of certain members of the IRGC and the intelligence apparatus, which reflected their desire to settle political scores with rivals in the reformist camp, more than anything else. “Unfortunately, most of the arrests were accompanied with violence, insults, and humiliation, while some of the accused were severely beaten up while being detained,” the letter added.
The reformists in captivity also criticised their conviction, which were based on suspicion, rather than any solid evidence or in accordance with any legal procedure. “In many cases, the indictment contained non-legal and ambiguous terms and the principle that the accused is innocent [unless proven guilty] was violated.”
The prisoners argued “the sentences handed down were at the same level as that of political articles by segments of the press against political rivals,” while describing the “court, judge and the indictment as tools at the hands of military, intelligence and security agents for imprisoning political activists and maintaining the status quo.”
During the various stages of their legal cases including interrogations, incarceration, indictment, “almost all of the signatories of the letter” maintain they were deprived of legal representation and access to law books, pen and paper, despite the fact that several laws explicitly state the right of detainees to acquire the attorneys of their choosing. “The defendants’ access to a lawyers was typically just minutes before the court hearing, and usually in the presence of the judge or a third person chosen by the interrogators and sometimes the trials took place without the presence of an attorney in the courtroom. In some instances, interrogators forced the defendants to deprive themselves of the right to choose a solicitor. In certain cases, the defendants were told by the office of the court administration that having a lawyer would cause nothing but trouble and would increase their sentences and that it would be better for them to avoid having a lawyer.”
One of the ways judicial authorities would prevent legal assistance to defendants, say the prisoners, was to keep lawyers in the dark with regards to the contents of the indictment.
“Without exception, all of the signatories to this letter have been met with the immoral and un-Islamic treatment by prison guards,” write the inmates. “Psychological and physical torture, disgraceful verbal insults towards us, our families and our loved ones, as well as falsely and repeatedly accusing us, during most interrogations, of having illegitimate relations.”
The political prisoners believe that the prison authorities’ resort to such inhumane practices is a systematic way of exerting psychological pressure and forcing the defendant into cooperation.
As stated in their letter, another violation of prisoner rights has been their continued “temporary detention” without taking into account the age, the severity of the charges, as well as the defendant’s health and reputation, which is violation of the procedures specified by the law. Many of the families of those arrested in the past two years, have been kept in the dark about the details of their loved-ones’ detention.
Another complaints put forth by the inmates is the use of blindfolds in the arrest, displacement and interrogation of prisoners detained during the election aftermath. The activists state they had to remain blindfolded, even when they were allowed to enjoy fresh for brief periods of time. “For months, some of us, as well as many other post-election prisoners were deprived of setting eyes on any environment other than our own solitary cell for months.”
“Apparently, using blindfolds served different purposes such as concealing the identity of interrogators, the agents, as well as humiliating and infuriating the defendants. What’s surprising is that this illegal procedure is common even in the periphery of the courtroom!”
The letter added, “Concomitant with almost all the arrests and interrogations were the insults and demeaning ways … the interrogators used verbal insults against us, our families, dear ones and those we respect, including the leaders of the opposition movement Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, while using the most profane and hideous terms on a regular basis to belittle and weaken the morale and feelings of the defendants.”
The Green Movement activists maintain, “The concealment of the interrogator’s identity provides him with the possibility to use any physical and verbal ferocity on the defendant with the assurance that his identity will remain anonymous.”
The destruction and confiscation of personal possessions of prisoners at work or at home constitutes another violation of Iranian law, say the prisoners. “Inspecting personal documents, photos, family videos, as well as confiscating family photos and albums, personal items and documents belonging to other members of the defendant’s family, documents related to a person who’s not linked with the case,” are other instances where the rights of political inmates have been infringed upon.
In addition, most of the interrogators charged with handling the defendants’ cases, have been “young, inexperienced and radical,” the prisoners write, while describing their “immoral, inhumane and un-Islamic” treatment as “systematic” and “common practice” within prison walls.
The letter, which has also been forwarded to the head of the Iranian parliament’s Article 90 Commission, accuses the interrogators of delving into private lives of prisoners and gathering information on the most intimate details of their daily lives in an attempt to intimidate inmates and to use the information as a bargaining chip in forcing them to make false confessions.
Interrogators are also accused of “distorting” the writings of defendants and at times forcing them to sign blank sheets, later to be filled in by interrogators in the presence of judiciary and security officials who would later orchestrate the highly politicized post-election show-trials.
The “unlimited” power and authority of the Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC over the Iranian judiciary, is also among the points raised by the political prisoners who have signed the letter of complaint. The defendants accuse the two bodies of having an important role in organising the actual indictment text.
In the end, the prisoners call for a fact-finding mission to be set up in order to investigate the widespread violations of the rights of those arrested following the 2009 presidential election and to make the outcome of such an investigation available for the Iranian public.
The signatories to the letter are:
Mohsen Aminzadeh, Mohsen Mirdamadi, Bahman Ahmadi-Amooei, Abdollah Momeni, Milad Asadi, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, Emad Bahavar, Mostafa Tajzadeh, Mojtaba Tehrani, Ali Jamali, Mohammad Hossein Khourbak, Mohammad Davari, Amir Khosro Dalir-Sani, Keyvan Samimi, Esmail Sahabeh, Mohammad Farid Taheri Qazvini, Feizollah Arabsorkhi, Behzad Nabavi, Abolfazl Ghadyani, Majid Dori, Zia Nabavi, Mahdi Karimian Eghbal, Mohammad Reza Moghiseh, Ali Malihi, Mohammad Javad Mozaffar, Hasan Asadi Zeidabadi.