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Mockery of Justice: The Framing of Siamak Pourzand

4.1. A Growing Threat

At the beginning of November 2001, agents from Amaken (literally the Bureau of Premises), a branch of the NAJA responsible for investigating vice crimes committed on both public and private property,[36] raided the home of Siamak Pourzand’s sister, Mahin.[37] The agents claimed that they had received reports that her apartment was being used for illegal gambling. During this raid, the agents seized some boxes that were full of clippings and articles that Siamak Pourzand had kept since the 1950s.[38] The boxes also contained a number of photographs taken by Mr. Pourzand during his journalistic career, as well as many private family photos. He later told his family that articles from the seized collection were used against him in interrogations after his arrest.[39]

A few days later, Ms. Venus Farimehr, who worked at the Tehran Cultural Center as the secretary of the Executive Director Mr. Jami’i, was abducted on a street in Tehran.[40] She was missing for twenty-four hours. After her release, she was admitted to hospital in a state of severe physical and emotional shock. She sent a message to Mahin Pourzand urgently seeking a meeting. When Mahin Pourzand visited Ms. Farimehr in hospital, Ms. Farimehr told her that she had been beaten and forced to confess to having a sexual relationship with Mr. Pourzand.[41] Ms. Farimehr said that her abductors had threatened her with being stoned to death – the penalty for committing adultery – if she refused to cooperate.[42]

In mid-November 2001, Siamak Pourzand told his family that he was being followed around Tehran by two men on motorcycles.[43] He also reported that on one occasion a car had pulled up next to him on the street and the passenger, who was wearing a helmet to hide his face, showed him a gun though the half-opened tinted window and threatened to kill him. Siamak Pourzand was too frightened to record the license plate of the car, and he saw little point in reporting the incident to the police.[44]

4.2. Abduction

At 9:00 pm on November 24, 2001, Siamak Pourzand was accosted outside his sister’s apartment in central Tehran by two men in civilian clothing as he was seeing off a guest.[45] Mahin Pourzand watched this encounter from a window.[46] Mr. Pourzand then buzzed her on the apartment’s intercom and asked her to bring down his house keys, car keys, shoes, and medicine. She took these down to him, along with his address book, which she thought he might need, and Mr. Pourzand then left with the men outside.[47]

Law enforcement agencies in Iran are required by law to present the suspect with an arrest warrant that describes the cause of the arrest to the suspect and to conduct any search and arrest in daylight [see Section 10.1 below]. However, those detaining Siamak Pourzand did not produce an arrest warrant, did not identify themselves, and waited to seize him on the street after dark.[48]

Mr. Pourzand was taken to his apartment, which his captors then searched. They seized the hard drive of a computer belonging to Mrs. Kar and 400 Swedish Kronor.[49]

4.3. Where is Siamak Pourzand?

There was no news of Siamak Pourzand for two weeks following his disappearance. No governmental agency assumed responsibility for arresting him.[50] His family did not know whether he was alive or dead but, hoping for the best, began a campaign to inform the international human rights community of his plight.

International interest in Mr. Pourzand’s case prompted Mr. Mohammad Hassan Zia’i-Far, the Legal Director of the Islamic Human Rights Commission of Iran (IHRCI),[51] to write to the General Director of the Ministry of Justice in Tehran on December 6, 2001, seeking answers about Siamak Pourzand’s whereabouts.[52] The IHRCI received oral confirmation from the General Director’s staff that his office was aware of Siamak Pourzand’s case but had no information about who had arrested him or where he was being held.[53] However, the General Director’s Office did inform IHRCI that Siamak Pourzand’s charges were “apolitical” and he had been arrested because of allegations of “moral offenses.”[54]

On December 7, 2001, Mrs. Mahin Pourzand received an anonymous telephone call instructing her to bring a change of clothes for Siamak Pourzand to the Amaken office on Ostad Motahari Street in Tehran. Mrs. Pourzand did as she was instructed. The officials who accepted the clothes refused to allow her access to see Siamak Pourzand. When she asked them where her brother was being held and what he had been charged with, she was told that it was none of her business.[55]

On December 30, 2001, Siamak Pourzand’s youngest daughter, Azadeh, wrote directly to President Khatami seeking his help.[56] She explained in the letter that her father had been detained by unknown agents and requested that the President make an official inquiry to establish his physical and psychological health.[57] The Pourzand family continued their efforts by sending letters to various other officials, including Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Kamal Kharrazi,[58] Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Mr. Nejad Hosseinian,[59] and the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamene’i.[60] None of the recipients replied.

On January 3, 2002, the government-controlled newspaper Iran reported that Siamak Pourzand was being held in “Prison 59” under the supervision of the State Prison Organization.[61] The newspaper seemed intent on rebutting claims in the reformist press that Siamak Pourzand was being held illegally in one of Amaken’s offices. [62] Mr. Pourzand’s family was unable to obtain official confirmation of the Iran report.[63]

On January 4, 2002, the reformist head of the National Security Commission of the Majlis, Mr. Mohsen Mirdamadi, voiced his concern about Siamak Pourzand’s reported situation, attacking conservative control of the judicial system and accusing the judiciary of lacking accountability.[64] Mr. Mirdamadi said:

Now things are happening in the country and the media is reporting events that no governmental institution will take responsibility for. During my recent trip to Ireland, I learned that a person named Siamak Pourzand had disappeared or had been kidnapped in Iran. While no governmental bodies in Iran have taken the responsibility for his arrest or detention, and while his family does not know about his whereabouts, some newspapers allude to a confession. Will the judiciary not take the responsibility for this act? Why does it not inform the family what has happened to this man![65]

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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