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Covert Terror: Iran’s Parallel Intelligence Apparatus

Political detainees at Amaken were often held in cells with ordinary criminals. Few detainees agreed to discuss their experiences at Amaken with IHRDC, but those who did described an environment designed to shock them into confessing to crimes they had not committed. Among those held at Amaken was prominent attorney and journalist Mohammad Ali Safari, who died from a heart attack suffered immediately after his release.

Khatam-ul-Anbiya, or Khatam, was another prison run by NAJA. Reportedly located inside a residential complex belonging to the police department on Seoul Street in northern Tehran, Khatam held political prisoners alongside those charged with moral crimes, smuggling and various other offenses. Detainees were kept in solitary cells, and were denied fresh air, access to health services, legal counsel and visits by family members. Even their use of the facility’s restrooms was subject to strict control by the interrogators.

In northwestern Tehran, Sections 209 and 325 of the notorious Evin complex are essentially run as separate prisons, operating outside of the control of both Evin’s authorities and the State Prisons Organization. Section 209 is administered by agents linked to the Ministry of Intelligence, while Section 325 is connected to the Revolutionary Guard. Access to both facilities is strictly restricted to employees and senior officers of the Ministry of Intelligence and Revolutionary Guard.

Detainees held in Sections 209 and 325 were blindfolded when they left their solitary cells, and unlike the solitary cells in Evin’s main section, the cells in Sections 209 and 325 did not have their own restrooms. Both sections had their own health services, despite the fact that Section 209 was located directly behind Evin’s health clinic.

Prison Jay, located on a military base near the terminal at Mehrabad Airport in western Tehran, is an example of the close and collaborative efforts between PIA units and the Islamic Republic’s military. According to former detainees interviewed by IHRDC, Prison Jay is administered by the Intelligence Office of the Ministry of Defense, and as in other facilities, detainees at Prison Jay were kept blindfolded and denied both the right to see family and access to legal counsel.

Many of the most notorious facilities were located in or close to Tehran, but PIA units also operated illegal detention facilities in other areas of the country. It is worth noting that the issue of secret prisons outside of Tehran was not extensively addressed by either reformists or the media during Khatami’s presidency. Ensafali Hedayat, a prominent journalist and writer who was detained and mistreated in an illegal prison in East Azerbaijan province, attributed the omission to the fact that victims held in those facilities were mostly non-reformists.

Regardless of location, detainees in all secret detention facilities were denied access to their families, guaranteeing that the PIA’s activities would be shielded from public and legal scrutiny. Cut off from the outside world, detainees were unable to reveal their location, post bail or secure legal representation. Detainees were also denied access to needed medical care, which PIA agents knew would reveal that detainees had been abused. On the rare occasions that detainees were allowed to be examined by physicians, the doctors were blindfolded.

Detainees at PIA-run facilities were regularly denied access to other basic accommodations, including food, adequate lighting, clothing and toiletries. The unhygienic environment contributed to the hopelessness, psychological distress and emotional breakdowns experienced by many detainees. For women the mistreatment was further exacerbated by the absence of female PIA personnel, as well as limited access to feminine hygiene products, separate showers and private restrooms.

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