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Violent Aftermath: The 2009 Election and Suppression of Dissent in Iran

4.2       Former Officials are Arrested

Security forces also arrested politically influential and well-connected members of the political elite and icons of the 1979 revolution. Sometimes these arrests lasted for short periods, as in the case of Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of the former president of the Islamic Republic. He was reportedly arrested Sunday, June 14, and released by the next day, although authorities tried to deny that he was even arrested.[485] Others remain in prison.

Mohsen Mirdamadi, Secretary General of the largest pro-reform party in Iran, the Islamic Iran Participation Front (Participation Front) was arrested on June 13.[486] Mirdamadi was one of three student leaders who stormed the United States Embassy in 1979 and is considered a hero of the revolution by the Islamic regime.[487] Formerly a member of Majlis, the Guardian Council banned him from running for reelection in February 2008.[488] He was released 24 hours after his arrest; however, unlike Khatami, he was rearrested on June 20.[489] Following his second arrest, he was imprisoned in Evin and forbidden contact with his family for over a month. [490]

Mirdamadi was able to choose his own lawyer, Hossein Abadi, but the prosecutor did not issue him an individual indictment. Instead, the judiciary tried him—along with one hundred others—in a mass trial on August 1.[491] Six weeks later, on September 17, security forces also detained his son Mehdi Mirdamadi, and released him on October 4.[492] The fifty-four-year-old Mirdamadi was hospitalized for heart spasms on October 10 and remains in custody.[493]

Saeed Hajjarian, a former presidential adviser debilitated from an assassination attempt in 2000, was arrested on June 15. Hajjarian had served as a high-ranking member of the Intelligence Ministry, founded the Center for Strategic Studies within the office of the president and served on Tehran’s city council.[494] The 2000 assassination attempt—during which assailants shot him in the face—left him with severe brain and spinal cord injuries.[495] Even after nine years, Hajjarian still requires assistance walking and has difficulty speaking. He requires constant medical supervision, nursing assistance, and multiple medications.[496]   

Hajjarian was imprisoned in Evin. He was allowed to see his wife, a physician, for about a minute on the day of his arrest.[497] Within a month, he had to be taken to a hospital because of his deteriorating health, but he was returned to prison. There, his wife was allowed to later visit him again. She described his condition to Human Rights Watch:

After the injury caused by the unsuccessful assassination attempt, his blood pressure was always below normal … Currently due to the stressful prison conditions, his blood pressure is up to a critical level. In addition, his situation has been exasperated by the poor diet in prison and this may cause him to have a heart attack … He was constantly crying when we saw him.[498]

In late July, she noted signs of jaundice and an irregular heart beat. She complained that the authorities failed to give him necessary medication and that she suspected he had been given hallucinogens for interrogation purposes. His daughter reported that these interrogation sessions sometimes took place under direct sunlight. The interrogators waited until Hajjarian’s temperature increased and then splashed him with ice water in order to cause shock and heart palpitations.[499]

By August, the authorities were attempting to present his situation as less dire than reported by family members. Kazem Jalali,[500] spokesperson for the Majlis Committee, announced that Hajjarian had been moved to a judiciary housing complex that Prosecutor Mortazavi claimed had the medical equipment necessary to care for him.[501] He appeared in court on August 8, and the following day, a special committee of the Judiciary recommended that Hajjarian be placed under house surveillance.[502]

The prosecution disregarded this recommendation until September 30 when it released Hajjarian after 109 days in prison.[503] Before his release, Hajjarian was forced to write a letter that was published by several semi-official news sources describing the first twenty days of his arrest:

I was imprisoned in solitary at Evin but my cell was big enough to walk in with a walker … prison food was adequate and I was even given fruit … I was transferred to a location that was close to a hydrotherapy pool and had a lively ambiance … every other day the pool was vacated for my sessions and I would undergo hydrotherapy along with a sympathetic instructor … prison doctor visited me every other day and took my blood pressure and temperature and checked my ears, nose, throat and lungs … the new location was such that I could walk long distances with the walker.[504]

His family responded by noting that during that time, Hajjarian was not seen by his family, lawyer or even representatives of the Majlis Committee.[505] Mortazavi has, in the past, used the threats of further detention and against family members to induce prisoners to write false accounts of the pleasant conditions in custody.[506]

Public and international outrage may have helped secure the release of Ebrahim Yazdi, the leader of the Freedom Movement of Iran. He was arrested on June 17. The seventy-eight-year-old veteran opposition leader had previously been imprisoned by both the Shah and the Islamic Republic. This time, he was arrested at Pars Hospital where he was being treated for stomach issues.[507] He was released two days later. 

Mohammad Atrianfar, a famous journalist and editor of such news outlets as Shargh and Shahrvand Emrooz, was arrested June 16. He met with the Majlis Committee on August 12 and was in reportedly good health. Speaking to committee members, he insisted that he was well treated and that his interrogators were not violent or rude.[508]

On the same day, similar comments were made by Mohammad-Ali Abtahi. Abtahi, the former head of Iranian Radio and later vice president of the Islamic Republic, was a close adviser to presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi. He was arrested at 6 a.m. on June 16, by three plainclothes officials who very politely requested that Abtahi accompany them. They presented no identification, arrest warrant, reason for his arrest, or explanation as to where he was being taken. They claimed that his family would be contacted soon.[509] 

His wife and three daughters were allowed to visit him for the first time on July 30, forty-three days after his arrest. At the time, he still had not met with a lawyer, and the judicial authorities suggested that he might be released before August 7. [510] On August 12, like Atrianfar, he spoke with the Majlis Committee in Evin and assured them that he was in good health and had not been mistreated. He was also allowed to post messages on his popular weblog from prison, where he reiterated that he was guilty and comfortable in prison.[511]

However, by then an interview, his confession and his testimony during trial had been broadcast on national television. Observers were shocked to see the usually plump and confident cleric appear defrocked, and like other prisoners, dressed in gray pajamas looking gaunt and haunted.[512] Previously at ease in front of cameras and with the press, he exhibited a tangible nervousness and disorientation that led many to accuse the authorities of having drugged him. His wife reportedly claimed that when she managed to see him “after 43 days, he had lost 18 kilos. She reported that he told her, ‘In the last few days, they have been giving me a pill that separates me from the noise and tumult of this world.’”[513]

After the response to these broadcasts by his family, the opposition, the Iranian public and the international community, Abtahi was not shown on television again, and his weblog was shut down.

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Sexual Violence, Death Penalty, Political Killings, Executions, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Personal Liberty, Arbitrary Detention, Travel Restrictions, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Illegal Search and Seizure, Free Speech, Right to Protest, Protests, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination, Reports