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Mockery of Justice: The Framing of Siamak Pourzand

6.4. Further Arrests

Siamak Pourzand’s appearance at the Court of Appeal was followed by a second round of interviews and arrests led by Amaken agents. The film producer, Abbas Kiarustami; the filmmaker, Payam Fazlinejad; the former political editor of the pre-revolutionary incarnation of Kayhan, Alireza Farahmand; the chief editor of Asia Economic Journal, Iraj Jamshidi; the editor of Gardun, Isma’il Jamshidi; and the human rights lawyer, Shirin Ebadi[174] were all among those summoned to the offices of Amaken. The allegations laid against all of these figures were similar – membership in a network aspiring to culturally overthrow the Islamic Republic, revealed by Mr. Pourzand’s confession.[175]

In response to criticism in the reformist press regarding Amaken’s actions, Mr. Hassan Zakeri, the NAJA’s Deputy for Public Relations, said that Amaken was implementing an order given to it by the judiciary. He added that all those who had received a summons to be interviewed had been identified from Siamak Pourzand’s confession.[176] The head of the public relations office of Amaken issued a similar statement in an interview with the Emrooz website claiming that the “summonses were ordered by Judge Sabiri Zafarqandi, head of the Mehrabad Special Court.”[177]

 Although those summoned by Amaken were initially interviewed about alleged public morality offenses, most soon found the focus of their interviews shifting to crimes of a more political nature outside Amaken’s jurisdiction, such as espionage and cooperating with anti-revolutionary elements. For instance, Payam Fazlinejad in an interview with Shahrvand newspaper said that he was first summoned to Amaken regarding an allegation that he had produced morally corrupt movies. At the end of his interrogation, he was instructed to return the following week. On his return to Amaken a week later, he was charged with spying and aiding and abetting acts of espionage. The charge related to his work as Siamak Pourzand’s assistant at the Tehran Arts and Cultural Center.[178]

In another interview with the Toronto-based expatriate weekly, Shahrvand, Mr. Fazlinejad described how the Amaken agents had tried to bribe him to implicate other individuals who had been named in Siamak Pourzand’s confession. When he refused to cooperate with Amaken, the agents threatened to charge him with various political crimes before finally releasing him.[179] He said of his experience:

In the Amaken Office they never tell you what you are suspected of and one never knows who one’s talking to, what his position is or what title should be used to address him … [After I was released], because I had not been given any food the whole time, I was placed on an IV and could not work for the next three days.[180]

6.5. Televised Confession

On July 24, 2002, Iranian state television broadcasted a press conference with Siamak Pourzand.[181] The press conference was staged at the Mehrabad Special Court, and Judge Zafarqandi and several other government officials were present.[182] The ISNA reported that questions had been distributed in advance to the journalists present by the judicial authorities and that the reporters had been strictly enjoined to only ask questions from the prepared list. Mr. Pourzand’s court-appointed lawyer, Dabir Daryabeigi, told the media that the press conference had been organized at Mr. Pourzand’s request to refute false reports that had appeared in the media concerning his situation.[183] The press conference was one of the main news items that evening and was featured in news bulletins throughout the day.[184] 

During the press conference, Siamak Pourzand denounced his past activities but also tentatively challenged aspects of his conviction. He admitted contact with Reza Shah with the aim of promoting a non-conformist agenda in the Iranian media but denied receiving money from him. He admitted promoting western culture but again denied receiving any funding from abroad to do so. When a journalist asked Mr. Pourzand if he had been tortured, he replied: “I was not tortured. There was no need for it. I had confessed to my crimes.”[185] He concluded the press conference by expressing remorse for his past acts and asking for forgiveness.[186] 

Mr. Pourzand seemed very upset during the press conference, at one point sobbing uncontrollably.[187] He seemed frightened, frequently glancing off camera as if concerned that he had made a mistake. When a reporter posed a question that Mr. Pourzand had apparently not been expecting, he turned to his lawyer and said: “This was not one of the questions – what should I say?” He became particularly agitated when journalists put similar questions to him for a second time. He seemed concerned that he was not adequately performing the role expected of him, pleading with journalists: “Please, ask again if you want me to elaborate on something or if there is something ambiguous.”[188] 

Watching footage of the press conference, Mrs. Kar commented:

He was afraid that he would be tortured if he did not give the expected answers to the questions. Perhaps that is why he kept asking the journalists to ask a follow-up question – he wanted to make sure he had answered the questions put to him to the authorities’ satisfaction. I was also stunned to see his attorney participating in such a farce. It is a defense lawyer’s duty to protect his client’s rights – not to sit next to him on a TV show.[189]

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Tagged as:

Secret Prisons, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination