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Mockery of Justice: The Framing of Siamak Pourzand

6.6. “The Suite”  

After the July 2002 press conference, Siamak Pourzand was transferred to another unidentified detention facility, which he has referred to in conversations with his family only as “the suite.”[190] Prisoners held in “the suite” describe it as a huge, dark cell, 12 meters in length and 4 meters in width, that is monitored by a video camera.[191]

Siamak Pourzand’s mistreatment did not stop after his appearance on television. In one of the interviews they gave to the media, his family complained that he was being badly fed and physically beaten. They specifically mentioned that he was not being given any fresh fruit. The guards responded to this criticism by forcing Mr. Pourzand to eat a huge amount of cucumber every day, a diet that soon made him ill. His daughter, Lily Pourzand, explains:

My father was suffering from diarrhea from being forced to eat cucumber every day. We said in an interview that money taken from him by the authorities was not being used to cover his expenses.  The authorities then created more trouble for my father. We specifically mentioned in our interview that my father was not given fruit, then the authorities, instead of giving him fruit, forced him to eat only cucumbers. As far as I know, they were placing cucumber inside his small refrigerator inside his room. They were making fun of him and were telling him by saying “[E]at and eat. Your family had complained you were not given fruit.” They were not allowing him to throw the cucumbers away. They were even checking his toilet to see if he had not thrown the cucumber away. So he was chewing the cucumber and then was spitting the remnants secretly in the toilet.[192]

In a phone call from the prison made in the presence of his court-appointed lawyer, Mr. Daryabeigi, Siamak Pourzand told Mrs. Kar that she had exacerbated his situation:

What a problem you have caused for me! You have complained I was not given fruit, now I’m forced to eat huge piles of cucumber every day.[193]

According to his daughter Lily, Siamak Pourzand eventually attempted to commit suicide while being held in “the suite” by using his trousers as a noose, but the guards were sufficiently vigilant to prevent his attempt from being successful. He was reportedly physically beaten by the guards after his failed suicide attempt.[194]  

7. Political Reaction

Siamak Pourzand’s confession was exploited as a political lever by Iran’s conservative clerical establishment. The conservatives used the confession to call into question the patriotism and religious bona fides of the reform movement by labeling them as the defenders of a man proven by the courts to be “morally corrupt and on the payroll of the West.” This campaign was waged at the very highest level. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was quoted by the BBC’s Persian Service as stating in July 2002:

This [Pourzand’s] confession confirmed the warnings we have been receiving for many years about the cultural invasion and the efforts of the enemy’s agents to promote cultural transformation inside our country.[195]

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, Secretary of the Guardians’ Council, also condemned the reformists for taking up Mr. Pourzand’s case. At a sermon delivered during Friday prayers in Tehran on July 27, 2002, he said:

When [Siamak] Pourzand was arrested, the reformist newspapers reported the incident as if a freedom fighter had been arrested. After his confession, it has become clear to what centers these newspapers are connected and what plans they hope to execute with American dollars.[196]

Jannati also asked Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) to show the press conference featuring Siamak Pourzand’s confession as many times as possible.[197] Ali Larijani, then head of IRIB and one of the most influential figures among the conservative movement,[198] suggested that it might even be necessary to bring Mr. Pourzand back in front of the cameras to answer a second round of questions:

With respect to the ongoing political discussion these days, it might be better if Siamak Pourzand is allowed to publicly talk again and clarify the situation more.[199]

The leading conservative newspaper Kayhan published a prominent editorial following Mr. Pourzand’s press conference criticizing the judiciary and intelligence services for waiting so long to act and ignoring the newspaper’s repeated warnings that the “USA’s fifth column” was very active in Iran’s media. The paper then recommended that since Mr. Pourzand was not the only member of this “fifth column,” the judiciary and intelligence services should actively pursue and arrest the rest of the group.[200] In the words of the Chief Editor of Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari:

Not only do we not deny that Pourzand’s confession was based on a scenario we have been writing about, but Kayhan takes pride that, for a while now, we have been speaking of this western plot and exposing it by providing undeniable evidence and documents showing the role played by western espionage networks in Iran’s political and cultural arenas.[201]

The conservatives did not stop at simply dwelling at length on the nature of Siamak Pourzand’s confession but also published a series of articles in the conservative press further defaming his character. In early December 2002, Kayhan published a series of articles purporting to expose unsavory details about Mr. Pourzand’s private life.[202]

A number of prominent members of the reformist movement did initially continue to defend Mr. Pourzand after his televised appearance, even though he was not himself a political figure. Reformists questioned the legitimacy and admissibility of Mr. Pourzand’s public confession, which they dismissed as an invention of the conservative “propaganda machine.”[203] Ahmad Zaydabadi, a member of the Board of Directors of the Journalists Union, told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) on July 27, 2002:

Pourzand’s confessions revealed a plan prepared a long time ago … Propaganda was repeated by Pourzand to the satisfaction of those who prepared it …  The executive parts of the plan started a while ago with summoning certain journalists, artists and writers to the Amaken office and interrogating them … Pourzand’s confession did not finalize this plan; it just exposed it.[204]

 Similarly, Reza Yusufiyan, a reformist member of the Majlis, noted:

Extracting confessions is an old and untrustworthy method … These confessions are more likely to be part of a political project and scenario than a national security issue.[205] 

Ansari Rad, head of the Article 90 Commission, issued a statement arguing that since Siamak Pourzand’s detention was unknown and his trial was not public, “the condition under which the confession was taken is not clear and so the confession does not have any legal standing.”[206] Mohammad Ali Abtahi, President Khatami’s Legal Advisor, commented, “the way Siamak Pourzand’s confession was taken is unacceptable to the majority of the population.”[207] Another of President Khatami’s advisors, Ata’ullah Muhajirani, also rejected Siamak Pourzand’s confession, telling the newspaper I’timad:

I personally do not trust the confessions taken in prison. I believe a confession is only valid when the person confessing or interviewed is in an open and free environment, far from the dominance of a security and disciplinary force.[208]

However, the conservatives gradually gained the upper hand, and reformist politicians began to disassociate themselves from Siamak Pourzand. The spokesman for President Khatami’s government, Abdullah Ramizanzadih, told reporters on July 31, 2002:

Pourzand’s confession is admissible with respect to his own crimes, and the judicial authorities should treat him accordingly. As far as what he has said about others, until competent judicial courts form an opinion regarding this, we should avoid making judgments.[209]

The following day a representative of the Article 90 Commission, Dr. Davud Hassanzadigan, told the reformist newspaper Resalat:

In my opinion, Pourzand’s confessions have more of a historical relevance; his connection to anti-revolutionary elements is undeniable. However, there is not any document supporting his claim that he had the ability to influence the reformist publications. Pourzand is a wayward and corrupt individual; unfortunately, our intelligence agencies did not stop him even though they knew of his situation.[210]

Siamak Pourzand had been abandoned by the reformists. Mrs. Kar later noted bitterly that her husband was a political outsider and so this “was an outcome that was expected.”[211]

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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