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Coerced Confessions in the Islamic Republic of Iran

          Coerced Confessions in the Islamic Rep...
          Coerced Confessions in the Islamic Republic of Iran
          August 15, 2007
          Washington DC, August 15, 2007
          Iran is witnessing a wave of publicly announced executions,
          unprecedented in more than a decade, and a serious
          crackdown on the government's critics and proponents of
          legal reforms within civil society. With this new surge of state
          violence, the Islamic Republic's decades-long practice of
          using coerced confessions to establish detainees' guilt is a
          great cause for concern and should be subject to serious
          international scrutiny. Since January 2007, at least 247
          individuals have been executed and scores more have been
          sentenced to death. In the absence of an independent
          national mechanism to defend the detainees' rights, Iranians
          can only rely upon the international community's outcry
          regarding the judicial process leading to these executions.
          On July 18 th and 1 gth, 2007, the international community's
          attention was drawn to the “confessions” of two Ira nian-
          American academics, Haleh Esfandiari and Klan Tajbakhsh,
          broadcast on Iran's state-run television network. Excerpts
          from the “confession” of Ramin Jahanbegloo, another Iranian
          scholar who was detained in 2006, were also added to the
          footage. All three had for years been carrying out activities
          that were legal and known to the government. All three were
          detained for months prior to their televised “interviews,”
          interrogated repeatedly under harsh conditions, and denied
          visitation by family members or access to an attorney.
          On July 19th, in a Washington Post article, Haleh Esfandiari's
          daughter compared her mother's television appearance to a
          “KGB-style television ‘confession”. She also stated that her
          67-year-old mother “has been subjected to hundreds of
          hours of harsh and intimidating interrogations, often while
          blindfolded, totally cut off from the outside world
          On July 20th, the website created to advocate on behalf of
          Kian Tajbakhsh (freekian.org) pointed to the “deceptive”
          nature of the interviews and expressed outrage. It noted that
          Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh's “statements to an unseen
          interviewer or interrogator are spliced together with other
          unrelated footage, while two commentators make false
          connections between their work and a supposed plot to
          undermine the government.”
          Most recently, the Deputy Prosecutor of Tehran stated in an
          interview to the Islamic Republic News Agency (August 12)
          that Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh “will have some
          writings to do upon completion of which further decisions will
          be made about them.” The Abdorrahman Boroumand
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          iran rights.org/engl ish/newsletter-1.php
          5/31/2011 Coerced Confessions in the Islamic Rep...
          Foundation for the Promotion of Human Rights and of Human Rights Abuses in Iran
          Democracy in Iran (ABF) strongly condemns the detention
          and treatment of these scholars by the government of Iran. Iran's Pro-democracy Voices
          During their detention, Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh have been >> And more.. .
          denied the most basic rights granted to detainees under
          international law. Further, based on the Deputy Prosecutor's
          statement, they may be under pressure by the Iranian
          authorities to provide them with written confessions. Self-
          incriminating confessions obtained under such circumstances
          cannot be considered as evidence against them. Rather, they
          underline the Islamic Republic's routine violation of basic due
          process, including abuse of solitary confinement practices
          and prolonged interrogations that facilitate torture and ill-
          treatment in detention.
          ABF has collected testimonies, documents, interviews, and
          human rights reports attesting to the fact that the security
          and judicial authorities practice widespread and consistent
          use of torture to extract videotaped or signed confessions. In
          the case of high profile detainees, these confessions have
          been broadcast on television. Confessions extracted to
          validate charges of espionage for foreign countries or
          vaguely-worded charges accusing detainees of activities
          against the Islamic Republic are often pretexts to silence
          critics of the government. (See Ali Afshari 2005, Rova Toloui
          2006, Ayatollah Seved Hossein Kazemeini Boroulerdi 2007.
          See also Tortured Confessions ) The Iranian authorities not
          only use coerced confessions for political purposes, but they
          also do so in politically motivated as well as criminal cases
          simply to make up for missing evidence.
          From the inception of the Islamic Republic, judges have
          convicted and sentenced to death detainees charged with
          political, religious, sexual or other offenses, solely based on
          such forced confessions. Scores of prisoners have been
          executed for refusing to confess or recant their beliefs in a
          televised confession. Over the years, former prisoners,
          victims' relatives, and human rights organizations have
          repeatedly reported the torture of detainees in Iran and the
          use of coerced confessions against defendants by Iranian
          judicial authorities. (See Amnesty International, 1985,
          Newsletter ; Human Rights Watch, 2004, Like the Dead in
          their Coffins.)
          Razieh Fuladi (1980), one of the many victims of the
          government's morality campaign, was executed after being
          flogged and forced to confess to adultery. Mohseni Kabiri
          (1981), incarcerated along with thousands of other leftist
          political prisoners, confessed to being an apostate before
          being executed. Abbas Ra'isi (1988), another Marxist political
          prisoner, was executed for not agreeing to recant his beliefs
          in a televised confession. Fevzollah Mekhoubad (1994), an
          active member of the Iranian Jewish community, was
          executed in spite of his reported attempt to retract the
          iran rights.org/engl ish/newsletter-1.php 2/3
          5/31/2011 Coerced Confessions in the Islamic Rep...
          confession he had made under torture. Helmut Szimkus , a
          German citizen who was held for more than 5 years (1989-
          1994) in the [ yin prison on charges of spying, reported
          having been gravely tortured and having witnessed many
          other cases of torture aimed at extracting confessions during
          his detention. In response to the UN inquiries regarding Mr.
          Szimkus's allegations, the Iranian government referred to the
          latter's confession as proof of his guilt ( UN 1995 ReDort on
          the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of
          These stories — a handful among thousands — as well as the
          reports on the treatment of Haleh Esfandiari and Kian
          Tajbakhsh bring to light the systematic denial of detainees'
          right to due process of law. This denial is facilitated by laws
          and procedures that govern detention and interrogation in the
          Islamic Republic and calls into question the judiciary's
          process of establishing detainees' guilt. As long as the Iranian
          government does not introduce necessary legal and practical
          measures to prohibit torture and grant detainees their basic
          human rights, the practice of coercing confessions will recur,
          sadly, in Ira n-related news and flaw the Islamic Republic's
          judicial process.
          Copyright © 2011, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation t Back to toD
          iran rights.org/engl ish/newsletter-1.php 3/3

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Freedom of Conscience, Executions