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Mockery of Justice: The Framing of Siamak Pourzand

6. Siamak Pourzand on Trial

6.1. The Nature of the Trial

On March 6, 2002, the judiciary began court proceedings against Siamak Pourzand.[118] Mr. Pourzand did not have access to defense lawyers during the four months he had been held in secret prisons, nor was he represented in court by a lawyer of his own choosing. The authorities did not bring any formal charges against him. A trial held in such circumstances was a flagrant breach of both widely recognized international legal standards and of domestic Iranian law [see Section 10 below].[119]

On March 9, 2002, the conservative newspaper Iran announced that Siamak Pourzand’s trial on charges of committing “crimes against national security” [120] had begun two days previously. The paper reported that the trial was held at the Special Court of Mehrabad, Branch 1610, under the auspices of Judge Ja’far Sabiri Zafarqandi. The newspaper further reported that Mr. Pourzand was represented by a lawyer and had confessed to the charges filed against him in the first session of the trial.[121] 

None of the charges against Mr. Pourzand were made public before the trial. Moreover, prior to the trial, the authorities had made contradictory public statements concerning the case against him. Ali Younesi, Minister of Intelligence, had told the Majlis that the charges against Mr. Pourzand were “apolitical.”[122] The office of the General Director of the Ministry of Justice in Tehran made a similar assertion when contacted by the IHRCI.[123] The authorities never explained why the Pourzand investigation had been spearheaded by Amaken with its limited mandate to monitor moral crimes when the charges ultimately brought against him proved to be mostly of a political nature.

The Pourzand family has rejected the authorities’ claim that Siamak Pourzand had received the legal representation to which he was entitled. Mrs. Kar said that the judge presiding over Mr. Pourzand’s case had excluded the lawyer the family had engaged on his behalf.[124] On December 3, 2001, Mrs. Kar had asked Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, already a well-known human rights lawyer in Iran, to defend her husband.[125] Judge Sabir Zafarqandi barred Mrs. Ebadi from representing Mr. Pourzand:

I asked Shirin Ebadi to represent my husband and she accepted the case … When she submitted her legal representation forms to the court, Judge Zafarqandi denied her the right to represent Siamak. She told me that Judge Zafarqandi received her very rudely and alleged her that she was an abettor and a suspect in the case. She told me that she had never been scared in her whole life as much as she was scared by the threatening words of Judge Zafarqandi.[126]

The Pourzand family then tried to introduce another defense lawyer, Qulam Ali Riyahi, but Mr. Pourzand refused to permit Mr. Riyahi to defend him, stating publicly that he was happy with his court-appointed lawyer, Mr. Dabir Daryabigi. Mr. Pourzand was reported as saying: “Since I have confessed to my crimes, it doesn’t matter whether I have my own lawyer or one assigned by the court.”[127] Mahin Pourzand learned from a former inmate held with Mr. Pourzand that Judge Zafarqandi had personally pressured him to reject Mr. Riyahi.[128]

On March 12, 2002, Iran reported that Siamak Pourzand had made a second appearance in court.[129]  According to the newspaper, Mr. Pourzand was asked if he wanted to offer a defense to the nine charges brought against him, and he had simply repeated his confession in the court, asserting that he had no defense and he was guilty of all the crimes he was charged with.[130] According to the report, Mr. Pourzand admitted that he had acted against Iran’s national security by providing news and information to anti-regime elements, that he had provided information about the country to his brother in France, that he had spied and collaborated with SAVAK (the former Shah’s intelligence service), that he had contacts with senior anti-regime figures outside the country and had relayed information to them, and that he had direct contact with Reza Pahlavi, the eldest son of the former Shah. The only allegation, according to the paper, that Mr. Pourzand rejected was the charge of receiving money from Reza Pahlavi.[131] The newspaper only listed five of the nine charges he was facing.

Reza Pahlavi officially denied the allegation that Siamak Pourzand had been in contact or received money from him. In an interview with an Iranian journal in Toronto, he said:

I firmly deny this allegation. I have never had any direct contact or any financial relationship with this innocent and unfortunate person.[132]

The leading conservative newspaper, Kayhan, whose editorial line is set by the Office of the Supreme Leader, published an editorial on March 13, 2002, commenting on Mr. Pourzand’s appearance in court under the headline: “There You Go, Here Is an Example.”[133] Kayhan challenged the reformists to explain their position regarding Mr. Pourzand, whom the newspaper noted had confessed to acting against national security, having a relationship with “anti-revolutionary elements,” spying, and collaborating with SAVAK.  Kayhan speculated that the reformists were supporting Mr. Pourzand because they shared his agenda.[134]

On March 19, 2002, Iran reported that Mr. Pourzand had made a third and final appearance in Court.[135] The newspaper, however, still did not detail all nine charges brought against him, and four of these charges remain a mystery to this day.[136] According to the paper, Mr. Pourzand asked for clemency and forgiveness.[137] In his closing remarks, Judge Zafarqandi stated that NAJA would continue to summon those mentioned in Mr. Pourzand’s confession to account for their actions and that any outstanding cases would be dealt with after the Iranian New Year (Nawruz).[138]

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