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A Year Later: Suppression Continues in Iran

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. Hajjarian was imprisoned at Evin. Within a month, he had to be taken to a hospital because of his deteriorating health, but he was returned to prison. He was released after 109 days in prison.


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 78-year-old veteran opposition leader had previously been imprisoned by both the Shah and the Islamic Republic. Yazdi was arrested at Pars Hospital, where he was being treated for stomach issues. He was released two days later. However, on December 28, the day after the Ashura protests, he was arrested at 3 a.m. He was released on February 24, 2010 and taken directly to the hospital where he had open heart surgery.

Mohammad Atrianfar, a journalist and editor of such news outlets as Shargh and Shahrvand Emrooz, was arrested on June 16. On that same day, at 6 a.m., Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, a former head of Iranian Radio, former vice president of the Islamic Republic and a close adviser to presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, was arrested by three plainclothes officials. They presented no identification, arrest warrant, reason for his arrest or explanation as to where he was being taken.

The authorities also arrested citizens of Greece, Canada, France and the United States, and targeted Iranians working for the British Embassy in Tehran. Those arrested were generally charged with fomenting a “velvet revolution” sponsored by foreign governments.

Two days after foreign journalists were told their visas would not be extended on June 16, Iason Athanasiadis (also known as Fowden), a Greek-American freelance journalist, was arrested at Tehran airport while attempting to leave the country. Fowden was transferred to Evin, where for more than two weeks an unseen interrogator accused him of espionage in a soundproof room. Fowden was eventually released, but only after pressure from the Greek ambassador to Iran.

The authorities arrested Maziar Bahari, a Canadian-Iranian journalist, on June 21. A journalist for Newsweek magazine and a documentary filmmaker, Bahari was picked up at his family home in Tehran. During his more than 118 days of imprisonment, he was repeatedly beaten, interrogated and, in the end, forced to confess to crimes he did not commit.

On June 27 security forces arrested Hossein Rassam, a senior political analyst at the British Embassy in Tehran, along with eight of his coworkers. They were detained and accused of playing an important role in the disturbances after the election. In late October, he was convicted by a Revolutionary Court and sentenced to four years in prison.

Rassam was prosecuted alongside a French Embassy employee and a visiting French literature teacher, Clotilde Reiss. An assistant professor at Isfahan University, 23-year old Reiss was arrested on July 1 at Imam Khomeini Airport as she was leaving Iran. She was charged with collecting information and aiding the protests, because she had taken pictures of the demonstrations on her cell phone and emailed them to a friend. Under terms negotiated by France, Reiss was confined to the French Embassy until her departure to France in May 2010.

On August 1, a series of mass show trials began in Tehran. The first two were broadcast on Iranian television and showed hundreds of disheveled detainees dressed in pajama-like prison garb, looking dazed and confused. Although a list of defendants has never been made public, many were recognizable by the public, including former vice president Mohammad-Ali Abtahi and the secretary general of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Dr. Mohsen Mirdamadi.

The mass show trials bore little resemblance to criminal trials under Iranian or international law. At each, the prosecution read a political document accusing the detainees and others outside of Iran, including foreign governments, of fomenting a “velvet revolution.” The readings were followed by confessions by select defendants.

On October 5, the government began announcing sentences. The first four were death sentences handed down to men who had been arrested before the elections. Hundreds more have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, flogging, or banishment. At leave 10 people have been executed for political reasons. The identities of many of those detained and tried remain unknown.

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Reports, Right to Protest, Imprisonment