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Witness Statement: Ali Afshari

12. On another front, different groups within the ruling elite competed with each other in an effort to outperform their rivals when it came to crushing political dissidents. Individual groups within the parallel intelligence structure arrested dissidents and forced them to confess to serious but false charges in order to prove their effectiveness and elevate their status in the eyes of the Supreme Leader.

13. Following its establishment and consolidation of authority over intelligence gathering operations in 1985, the Ministry of Intelligence began to play a prominent role in the silencing of the regime’s critics. From 1985 to the reform period, there was little dissent within and amongst regime elements, and the intelligence gathering community was able to work together and coordinated their activities accordingly. But Khatami’s victory following the 2nd of Khordad elections led to a bifurcated system. The Ministry of Intelligence went through structural changes and the political dynamics of the intelligence community transformed. These changes worried the Supreme Leader, because Khatami’s victory limited the [political] options available to the conservative establishment for the targeting and silencing of the opposition. Despite this, these events failed to seriously challenge the Office of the Supreme Leader because, as I previously mentioned, the [intelligence gathering] system permitted different [intelligence gathering agencies] to interfere in each others’ affairs. The system’s failure to delineate the responsibilities of the various intelligence agencies (or specifically describe them) effectively institutionalized the parallel structures that eventually resulted. The conservatives used this structural loophole to ultimately reach their [political] objectives and slowly tighten the noose around the reform movement

14. In an effort to weaken Khatami, the conservatives first launched a systematic attack against [several reformist] mayors, including Karbaschi who was accused of embezzlement. The architect of these attacks was the Intelligence Protection Office of Law Enforcement Forces, which was under the leadership of Commander Naqdi at the time. The Intelligence Protection Office of the Law Enforcement Forces interrogated and harshly mistreated the mayors at the Vesal detention center. Vesal is one of many secret detention facilities in Iran. No official documents exist regarding the existence of this facility. Later it became evident that Vesal was not a newly-built detention center used for interrogating and mistreating the mayors, but was a detention facility used by the Intelligence Protection Office of the Law Enforcement Forces during the presidency of Hashemi Rafsanjani. Of course, during Rafsanjani’s presidency there were rumors that the secret prisons were used to blackmail rich merchants and wealthy individuals. These wealthy individuals were forced to sell their equity to the Ministry of Intelligence and security forces in these prisons or safe-houses. It was also [believed] that during the time of Rafsanjani hotels were commonly used to interrogate and threaten intellectuals and dissidents.

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Secret Prisons