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Iran: Detained Political Leaders at Risk of Torture, Possibly to Force “Confessions”
LONDON - Amnesty International is gravely concerned that several opposition
leaders detained in the wake of the 12 June elections may be facing
torture, possibly to force them to make televised “confessions” as a
prelude to unfair trials in which they could face the death penalty.
“If our fears are born out, this would be an appalling tactic on the
part of the security services to silence high profile political leaders
once and for all, and to send a clear message to others with dissenting
views that they should expect dreadful consequences if they speak out,”
said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and
North Africa Programme.
Senior political leaders Mohsen Aminzadeh, Abdollah Ramazanadeh and
Mostafa Tajzadeh were taken away from their homes in the early hours of
16 June, coinciding with the arrests of many other opposition leaders
and supporters. According to reports received by Amnesty International,
all three are believed to be held in Section 209 in Evin Prison in
Tehran which falls under the control of the Ministry of Intelligence,
and where reports of torture of detainees are frequent. It is not clear
whether they have been allowed to contact their families. In ‘security’
related cases, detainees are routinely denied access to a lawyer during
the interrogation period which can be prolonged indefinitely.
On Friday 26 June, cleric Ahmad Khatami, who is a member of the
Assembly of Experts, in a sermon at Friday prayers at Tehran
University, called on the judiciary to punish, “severely and without
mercy”, those involved in the demonstrations. He said that “agitations,
destructive acts, setting fire to mosques and buses, destroying
people's property, creating insecurity and terror, and harassing
people” could be considered to be instances of moharebeh or enmity
against God, a charge which can carry the death penalty.
This echoes a warning made by Esfahan province’s Prosecutor General,
Mohammad Reza Habibi, on 17 June when he reportedly stated that the few
elements behind the post-election unrest could face the death penalty.
On 16 June, following the arrest of Mohsen Aminzadeh, Abdollah
Ramazanadeh and Mostafa Tajzadeh and other leading opposition figures,
Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie reportedly told the
Fars news agency that 26 "masterminds" suspected to be involved in
post-election unrest had been arrested. It is not known whether Mohsen
Aminzadeh, Abdollah Ramazanadeh and Mostafa Tajzadeh are among the 26
“Such statements, including by those in influential clerical
positions, add to the already worrying signs that the authorities in
Iran are preparing to eradicate any form of peaceful political
opposition, including by trying these political leaders on trumped-up
and vaguely worded charges,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. “We call on
the Supreme Leader to give clear instructions to all government and
judicial officials not to torture people within their custody, and urge
him and the security services to guarantee the safety of every
detainee, including by clarifying their whereabouts, allowing immediate
access to families and lawyers and any medical care that may be
Amnesty International considers the three leaders to be prisoners of
conscience who should be immediately and unconditionally released. At
the very least, those arrested must be promptly informed of any charges
and brought before a judge to assess the legality and necessity of
According to the Iranian authorities, eight members of the Basij
militia, a volunteer paramilitary force under the control of the
Revolutionary Guards which has been used to crack down on protesters,
have died in the demonstrations. While the authorities have not
revealed any information about these deaths or named any suspect,
Amnesty International is worried that if these deaths are ultimately
attributed to detained opposition leaders, it would pave the way to
them being sentenced to death and would make more likely their eventual
Televised “confessions” have repeatedly been used by the authorities
to incriminate political activists in their custody. Many have later
retracted these “confessions”, stating that they were coerced to make
them, sometimes after torture or other ill-treatment.
Several people arrested at the demonstrations that followed the 12
June election have made statements on state television saying they were
“influenced” by foreign radio broadcasts. A woman shown on Press TV on
25 June, who admitted to carrying grenades in her bag, had her face
digitally concealed. Such televised statements may indicate that other
“confessions” regarding the recent demonstrations will be forthcoming.
Mohsen Aminzadeh, Abdollah Ramazanadeh and Mostafa Tajzadeh were all
officials in former President Mohammad Khatami’s government and are
supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Up to 21 people are reported by the Iranian authorities to have been
killed in the recent protests. The true number of deaths is likely to
be higher, as the Iranian authorities have a history of under-reporting
deaths at the hands of security forces during demonstrations.
The charge of moharebeh, dealt with under Articles 183 to 195 of the
Penal Code, attracts one of four penalties – execution,
cross-amputation, crucifixion or banishment, although the death penalty
is the most common punishment applied.
The Assembly of Experts is an elected state body of 86 clerics
charged with electing, supervising and if necessary dismissing the
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