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Mockery of Justice: The Framing of Siamak Pourzand

5. The Secret Prisons  

In early 2001, members of the Majlis learned that the conservative establishment was using a series of secret prisons to hold political detainees. The Article 90 Commission investigated these reports. At a press conference in October 2002, Commission member Ali Akbar Musavi-Khu’ini announced: “As you know, various intelligence, security, military and law enforcement agencies had special and sometimes secret detention facilities in the past. They were not monitored and sometimes they created trouble. [For instance,] for long periods of time families of the detainees had no information about them and there was not one individual authority responsible and accountable for these locations. In fact, the law gives the State Prison Organization (SPO) the responsibility to monitor and administer these prisons and requires each prison to be registered with the SPO.”[106] He named several of the detention centers concerned including Prison 59, Amaken, Towhid, Hishmatiyih, Natib and Vuzara. He added that both the IRGC and the Ministry of Intelligence had given a commitment that they would close these facilities and transfer their prisoners to Evin Prison.[107] While the IHRDC has not been able to establish a complete chronological record of Siamak Pourzand’s detention, we have reason to believe that he was held in at least three of these so-called “secret prisons” before his eventual transfer to Evin.

5.1. Amaken

The parallel intelligence services used Amaken’s offices as secret facilities to carry out interrogations and to detain intellectuals and dissidents. In 2002, many journalists and government critics were detained and interrogated in one of Amaken’s main offices located on Motahari Street in Tehran.

It was in the Motahari Street office that Siamak Pourzand met with his sister, Mahin Pourzand. The first lawyer engaged by the family to represent Mr. Pourzand, future Nobel laureate Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, twice visited the Amaken office in an attempt to gain access to her client. On both occasions Mrs. Ebadi was told by the guards that while Mr. Pourzand had been held in the building for a few days, he had now been transferred elsewhere.[108] She was not told where Mr. Pourzand was taken or who took him.

Detainees who were held at this location describe it as a basement on two floors run by plainclothesmen. Typically, the detainees are held in the same cells as ordinary criminals arrested by the Amaken in the course of its statutory duties. Several political detainees have spoken about the fear they experienced being held together with criminal offenders. One detainee commented:

I was very scared by the people I was held with. They were criminals and killing for them was a very easy thing. Some of them had stabbed each other inside the prison and the authorities were lashing them there.[109]

Ali Akbar Musavi-Khu’ini was able to gain access to Amaken’s Ostad Motahari Street detention facility during the course of the Article 90 Commission’s investigation:

At the time of our visit, we announced that it was an improper place for a detention center. [Our recommendation] was supposed to be followed up. Unfortunately, the problem still exists. There is serious confusion concerning the management of this facility. It has been announced that this complex is managed by the Intelligence Protection Organization of the Judiciary. The media has reported that many people have been summoned to this facility for interrogation.[110]

5.2. Prison 59

On January 3, 2002, the conservative newspaper Iran reported that Siamak Pourzand was being held in Prison 59 of Ishratabad.[111] Human Rights Watch has described Prison 59 as “one of the more notorious illegal prisons” in Iran and has reported that it is used for extracting confessions from the detainees that do not confess in Evin Prison.[112]  Detainees are subjected to solitary confinement in order to cut them off from information and break them psychologically:

Prison 59 is controlled by the intelligence service of the IRGC and is located in their compound in Vali Asr, Tehran. Prison 59 is composed of a series of small cells and interrogation rooms. There are also two large holding areas equipped with video cameras. Prisoners held in Prison 59 report being kept in absolute solitary confinement and facing the harshest interrogation methods that they have experienced.[113]   

The IHRDC has received information suggesting that Siamak Pourzand was held in Prison 59 for the period in January and February 2002, most likely coinciding with Mahin Pourzand’s third meeting with him on February 22, 2002.  

5.3. Khatam-ul Anbiya

Siamak Pourzand was subsequently transferred to a third undeclared detention facility known as Khatam-ul Anbiya. The existence of this facility was not addressed by the Article 90 Commission. The prison is located in a residential complex that belongs to the NAJA on Seoul Street in north Tehran. A section of this residential complex is used by the military, and Khatam-ul Anbiya prison is located in this section of the complex. It has been suggested that the parallel intelligence agencies established Khatam-ul Anbiya prison after senior members of the IRGC promised the Majlis that they would shut down Prison 59.[114] 

Former detainee Hassan Zarezadeh Ardeshir told the IHRDC that Siamak Pourzand had been held in Khatam-ul Anbiya shortly before his own arrival at the facility on May 11, 2002.[115] Mr. Zarehzadeh told IHRDC that a criminal detainee who was in Khatam-ul Anbiya at the same time as Mr. Pourzand described how the elderly journalist had been treated by his captors:

Pourzand was severely mistreated in Khatam [-ul Anbiya]. The interrogators were insulting him, abusing him, and making him stand with arms raised facing the wall for hours and hours. He was weak and could not bear this pressure. His waist was aching and he was asking for mercy, but the interrogators were pressuring him further and made him stand even longer. He was interrogated for hours and hours, and during interrogation, the authorities were insulting him. He was told that if he did not cooperate, they would blackmail him by threatening to charge him with sex offenses. He was made to sweep the prison. He was under huge pressure. He wanted to take his life and attempted to commit suicide.[116]

Mr. Zarehzadeh, a political prisoner like Siamak Pourzand, described his own treatment at Khatam-ul Anbiya prison, which he believed was used to extract confessions from particularly stubborn prisoners: 

I had been arrested five times before and each time I was held in secret prisons like Prison 59… and mistreated in those locations for months. But none of those locations were as horrible as this one. I was held in Khatam [-ul Anbiya] for one month and in one month my hair turned gray. Khatam [-ul Anbiya] was the worst of all the secret prisons I had been in ... the interrogators crush you until you believe you are not a human being anymore and not worth a penny.[117] 

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Tagged as:

Secret Prisons, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination