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A Year Later: Suppression Continues in Iran

 

Investigations were launched by both the Majlis and the military. In addition, it was announced that 10 staff members had been interrogated and eight had been arrested, including the head of Kahrizak. Three judicial officers were also reportedly suspended due to their involvement with Kahrizak. Still, even after other members of the government acknowledged the terrible conditions and violent interrogation of the detainees at Kahrizak, General Radan, the deputy police chief, continued to portray the episode as a minor mistake.

As the investigations began to implicate Saeed Mortazavi, then-prosecutorgeneral of Tehran, he defended the compound. He claimed that there was no detainee abuse or lack of proper sanitation at Kahrizak. Mortazavi did not deny the deaths of Mohsen Ruholamini, Amir Javadifar and Mohammad Kamrani, but claimed that the deaths were the result of a flood of prisoners. On August 29, 2009, Mortazavi removed as Prosecutor-General of Tehran and appointed Iran’s Deputy Prosecutor-General.

Two days later, on August 31, 2009, a medical report was issued that rejected meningitis as the cause of Ruholamini’s death. Instead it cited physical stress, substandard detention conditions, and repeated blows to the head and body with a blunt object. His doctor, Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani, told an investigating committee:

 

[Ruholamini] was brought to me after being physically and severely tortured. He was in a grave physical condition and I had limited medical supplies, but I did my best to save him. It was then that I was threatened by the authorities of Kahrizak that if I disclose the cause of death and injuries of the detainees, I will cease to live.

 

Dr. Pourandarjani died on November 10 under mysterious circumstances following his testimony. Only 26 years old, he had been fulfilling his military service as a doctor at the detention facility. His death was initially reported as a heart attack by officials who claimed he died in his sleep. A week later, Police Chief Ahmadi-Moqaddam announced that Dr. Pourandarjani had committed suicide after he had been summoned to court and threatened with a five-year prison term.

Finally, Mortazavi’s successor as Tehran’s prosecutor general, Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, announced that Dr. Pourandarjani had died by ingesting a variety of heart and blood-pressure medications in his salad. The prosecutor-general left open the question as to whether the death was a suicide or murder. However, Pourandarjani’s father and others reported that he was communicative and in good spirits the night before his death.

In addition to arresting demonstrators, the Iranian authorities arrested, and continue to arrest, non-demonstrators in their homes, offices and on the street. The scope of the arrests goes far beyond individuals associated with the reformist movement. It appears that the regime is targeting anyone who might be a potential leader in opposing government policies. The list includes leaders and members of political opposition and student groups, women’s rights activists, professors, lawyers, and journalists. It also includes former high-ranking officials of the Islamic Republic, icons of the 1979 revolution, and their family members. Several dual-nationals and foreign citizens were arrested. Many remain in prison.

In addition to the scale and scope of these arrests, the immediacy with which security forces began targeting groups and individuals suggests that the arrests were premeditated and not merely a response to the post-election demonstrations. Prominent detainees later made public confessions, undoubtedly coerced, that echoed concerns regarding a “velvet revolution” that have been expressed by officers of the security apparatus over the last several years.

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Reports, Right to Protest, Imprisonment