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Mockery of Justice: The Framing of Siamak Pourzand

2. Executive Summary

Siamak Pourzand was an independent cultural commentator on the fringes of the reform movement. He is also the husband of the prominent Iranian human rights campaigner, Mrs. Mehrangiz Kar. Seventy-years-old at the time of his initial disappearance in 2001, the case manufactured against him was used by the conservative clerical establishment to undermine popular support for the reform movement and to intimidate prominent reformers.

  • Conservative hard-liners used a relatively obscure branch of the Iranian Law Enforcement Agency (NAJA), known variously as the Bureau of Premises (Amaken) or the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prohibition of Vice, to advance their agenda. They then manipulated the judicial process to ensure that Siamak Pourzand’s case was heard by a judge, Ja’far Sabiri Zafarqandi, who was sympathetic to their plans.
  • The case against Siamak Pourzand was fabricated by coercing a secretary at his office, Ms. Venus Farimehr, into confessing that they were having an illicit relationship. Ms. Farimehr, who ended up in hospital after her ordeal, did her best to warn Mr. Pourzand and his family that he was at risk.
  • Siamak Pourzand was abducted from outside his sister’s home on November 24, 2001, and it was two weeks before his family received any news of what had happened to him. Mr. Pourzand was not presented with an arrest warrant nor was he advised of the charges against him. He was held in a succession of undeclared detention facilities operating outside Iran’s official State Prisons Organization. His family was never told where, or by whom, or why he was being held.
  • The manner in which Siamak Pourzand was treated violated the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedure, and international standards of due process. As a secret prisoner thrown into a maze of undeclared detention facilities, he was quite literally at the mercy of the parallel state maintained by the conservative clerical establishment during Iran’s reform era. His subsequent confession to the charges ultimately brought against him reflects the duress to which he was subjected in this period.
  • Siamak Pourzand was denied access to the legal counsel of his choice, future Nobel laureate Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, who was warned off the case in threatening terms by Judge Zafarqandi. The performance of Mr. Pourzand’s court-appointed defense attorney, Mr. Dabir Daryabigi, was such to suggest a degree of complicity between the lawyer and those holding his client.
  • Siamak Pourzand was ultimately convicted of a range of offenses, mostly relating to national security rather than the alleged moral offenses for which he was originally detained. He was falsely accused and convicted of spreading anti-regime propaganda, collaborating with anti-regime elements, and distributing foreign funds to reformist newspapers. Having been sentenced to eleven years in prison and seventy-four lashes, Mr. Pourzand was brought out of detention to participate in a tightly controlled televised press conference in which he was compelled to publicly confess his guilt. His confession was used to justify the arrests of prominent members of the reform movement.
  • In the judgment of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which reviewed Siamak Pourzand’s case in 2003, his detention by the Iranian Government was indeed arbitrary. The Working Group concluded that he had been detained because of his beliefs and his free expression of those beliefs, and, as such, his detention was a breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a State Party to both instruments.
  • While in prison, Siamak Pourzand’s health deteriorated dramatically to the point that he suffered a severe heart attack in April 2004. At the time of this writing, Mr. Pourzand has been conditionally released from prison as he recuperates from successive rounds of surgery, but he still remains under house arrest in Tehran.

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