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Mockery of Justice: The Framing of Siamak Pourzand

The “parallel institutions” gave conservative clerics a base from which to push back against the reform movement. Lacking the sweeping jurisdiction enjoyed by the Ministry of Intelligence, the “parallel institutions” were forced to carefully coordinate their activities, and a secret committee of the heads of the “parallel institutions” was established to this end. This committee reported directly to the Supreme Leader. In addition to the various intelligence units still under conservative control, the Committee also included representatives of the two most important state-controlled media institutions, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and the Kayhan newspaper. The state-controlled media would play a key role in the campaign waged against the reformists, blackening reputations and broadcasting public confessions.[16]

The conservative establishment also continued to exert substantial influence over the judiciary. The Supreme Leader controlled the judiciary by appointing and dismissing the head of the Judiciary.[17] The head of the judiciary in turn had the authority to appoint the head of the Supreme Court and the Chief Public Prosecutor, who had the managerial authority to appoint and dismiss their subordinates. The judiciary was structured in such a way as to ensure that it was subordinated to political considerations and could thus be easily controlled by the clerical establishment.[18]

The conservatives sought to undermine the legitimacy of the reformist movement by linking it to western governments plotting to undermine the Islamic revolution with the tone set by Ayatollah Khamenei’s statement that “today, the enemy is striking Islam from home.”[19] To this end, the conservatives used the parallel security institutions to collect and, in some cases, manufacture material incriminating individuals linked to the reform movement. The “parallel institutions” operated illegal detention facilities outside the control of the State Prisons Organization[20] where political prisoners were abused and intimidated with impunity. The judiciary not only ignored violations of law by the parallel security forces but also sanctioned their illegal activities by accepting confessions obtained under duress in illegal facilities.[21] 

The conservatives exploited the powers granted to the judicial authorities to give a patina of legality to their activities.[22] The conservatives thus used sympathetic judges and law enforcement officials to advance their agenda.[23] Article 26 of Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedure authorizes the head of each legal division to assign a case to relevant branches.[24] Although the law provides strict guidelines on how cases can be referred to a court, it gives prosecutors discretion to decide which type of court shall have the jurisdiction to rule over a case.[25] One court in particular, the Special Court of Mehrabad (Branch 1610), was especially sympathetic to the conservative agenda.[26] Presiding over the Special Court of Mehrabad was Judge Sabiri Zafarqandi.[27] The first victim of this elaborate conspiracy was a liberal journalist named Siamak Pourzand.

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