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Witness Statement: Ali Afshari

78. My trial was closed and I did not defend myself. Judge Zargar, who was in charge of my case in the appeals court, affirmed the lower court’s ruling in Branch 36 of the Revolutionary Court.

79. There is room to argue why a judge like Haddad who is one of them didn’t consider all the charges valid. Part of the reason for this is the lack of coordination between the judge and the interrogator. Judge Haddad gives orders from behind the scene and instructs them to be harsh, but he doesn’t approve the methods used. This results in the occasional disagreement between these two officials regarding the nature of the interrogations, even though they are essentially allies. On the other hand, the purpose of this harsh treatment against government critics is to defeat and terrify them. The interrogator and the judge are both in agreement that the deprivation of human rights and the rule of law in these cases serve a higher political purpose. Once this objective is reached, there is no reason to continue imprisoning the accused. Also, I cannot ignore the discretionary role of the interrogator. For example, my interrogator (Mr. Seraj) used to tell me that they are the ones who instructed the judges regarding decision-making and what needed to be done, not the other way around. Having said that, we should not overlook the difference in opinion that often exists between high-ranking authorities regarding the treatment of a particular case. There have been many times when there was a difference of opinion between Shahroudi, head of the Judiciary, and Mortazavi, the Prosecutor General, on the proper method of treatment of an individual in custody. Also, the extensive criticism regarding my case, which in turn influenced [the judge’s] decision to reject the charge of attempted overthrow of the government. In general, though, let’s not forget that six years of imprisonment was a very harsh sentence for a student activist and a representative of Iran’s student community.

80. Even though Islamic Shari’a law forbids torture, it allows punishment in cases where the crime has been witnessed and the accused refuses to confess. During the early years of the revolution [the government] relied on this justification against guerrilla groups such as the Fedayin-i Khalq, Mujahidin-i Khalq and other leftists groups. Later they abandoned this method and adopted “softer” torture tactics. These methods included psychological torture, sleep deprivation and lengthy and structured interrogation sessions. Nowadays they rely on brainwashing the accused, which is yet another kind of psychological torture used against individuals.

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