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Witness Statement: Arash Sigarchi

25. Although I had certain journalistic standards, I could not resist the pressure the government was putting on me. Given the choice of having them censor my writing or not writing at all, I chose the latter. Prior to this point, I would have an op-ed published in almost every newspaper. But after those two days of detention I generally didn’t write, and if I wrote a piece I would not put my name on it. Whereas before I would write ten pieces a month, I only wrote five during the next three months. And I would severely restrict the subject matter which I wrote about.

26. I know I was being monitored before I was arrested in August 2004 and that my office and home phones were being tapped. The truth is, not only did they tap my phone, but they had people spying on me in my work place. Going back and forth from the Intelligence office, I realized that Sitad-i Khabari had a wide network for receiving intelligence. Namely, they would use kiosk owners, taxi drivers, traveling salesmen, and even prostitutes to receive daily information. There were a few incidents that assured me that I was being spied on by people close to me. I had a colleague whom I won’t name that I believe spied on the newspaper to the Intelligence Ministry. Once I went to Tehran to visit Amir-Entezam, upon my return I saw this colleague and told him that Amir-Entezam insisted that I marry his 21 year old daughter. In fact Amir-Entezam didn’t have a daughter that age. The following Thursday when I went to the Sitad-i Khabari for a Q and A session, Mr. Samadi commented on my getting married. I joked back that my girlfriend still refused to marry me. He clarified that he was referring to my impending marriage to Amir- Entezam’s daughter. I denied it and then casually noted that I was going to fire this colleague of mine that I suspected was spying on the newspaper. Mr. Samadi showed concern and asked why. I told him that he was the one who informed Samadi about Amir-Entezam’s daughter, which I had not shared with anyone else. He told me, “You are mistaken for wanting to fire him. We have many different Intelligence sources.” Then I informed him that I had made the whole thing up to test this fellow. Ultimately I never fired the guy, but he replaced me as Editor-in-Chief once I left the newspaper. Another time, I was drunk at a party with several close friends and in jest I used a broom as a guitar and pretended to play and sing. The following week during my weekly interrogations, the interrogator told me that it was not dignified for the Editor-in-Chief of a newspaper to hold a broom and dance. Two of my colleagues form the office were present at the family party. It is interesting that, to be cautious, I never allowed anyone to video tape our family parties and yet information got out. It was obvious that they had very detailed information about me.

27. I was summoned again in December 9, 2004 to Sitad-i Khabari. Two days earlier they had called and suggested that since it was a long weekend I should find some time to go to the Sitad-i Khabari. So on Thursday, December 9, 2004 at 10 a.m. I went there. Samadi and another man were there waiting. They only asked me about the Mujahidin. Samadi asked about my relationship with the Mujahidin-e Khalq, and suggested that I had given away information about Iran’s nuclear projects. He also insisted that I had received money from the Mujahidin. I think their strategy was to get confessions from me the same way they did from other bloggers. Prior to this, webloggers were placed under pressure and tortured, and were made to eventually confess that they had received money from foreign countries. Their confessions were even televised. My interrogators had aimed to receive a similar type of confession from me; that I had received money from foreign countries. Mr. Samadi, who had attempted to gain my friendship and who said he wanted to “help me,” refused to help this time. He told me that unlike the promise of assistance he’d offered before, there is nothing he could do for me now because I had chosen not to cooperate with him. But I had reasons for not cooperating.

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Tagged as:

Cyber Journalism, Secret Prisons, Imprisonment, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Travel Restrictions