Iranian Prisons Running Out of Space
Hassan Zarezade Ardeshir
26 Sep 2006
Political prisoners are facing new pressures and restrictions in the Islamic Republic’s overbooked detention centers. “I sleep at nights with handcuffs and chains to my feet, and have access to no amenities,” says Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeini, head of Advare Tahkim (“Alumni Association of Iran”) and a former Member of Parliament.
Political prisoners are facing new pressures and restrictions in the Islamic Republic’s overbooked detention centers. “I sleep at nights with handcuffs and chains to my feet, and have access to no amenities,” says Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeini, head of Advare Tahkim (“Alumni Association of Iran”) and a former Member of Parliament. In fact, there has been a recent escalation in the intimidation and torture of political prisoners, particularly with the purpose of extracting confessions under duress.
Mousavi Khoeini is being held at the infamous ward 209 of Tehran’s Evin Prison, along with Ahmad Batebi, a student activist, and Reza Malek, a former deputy of the Ministry of Intelligence. Malek was arrested after he leaked sensitive information about the so-called Serial Murders, a string of government assassinations that claimed the lives of dozens of dissidents and political activists in the 1990s. Another dissident, Omid Abbasgholinejad has been transferred to a detention facility in the northern city of Amol. Nasser Zarafshan, who has been representing families of the Serial Murder victims, and Ismail Jamshidi, a member of the Iranian Writers’ Association, have also been returned to prison following a short leave. Officials representing the Ministry of Intelligence also arrested Hassan Ark, a journalist from Tabriz. Two more dissidents, Changiz Bakhtavar and Gholamreza Amani were also detained and interrogated, and workers who participated in protests in the northern city of Babolsar are still spending time in jail.
Tehran: Evin Prison Mousavi Khoeini, who has now spent over 100 days in detention, was escorted to his father’s funeral by security guards. He arrived an hour late, however, and was not permitted to speak to his wife. While standing in front of the mosque where his father’s funeral was being held, Khoeini expressed his protest by shouting: “Announce to everyone that I am under pressure and being interrogated five times a day.”
Khoeini, who had visible bruises on his neck and head, told the participants that he was under severe physical and psychological torture. He said that he was being pressured by his interrogators to write a fake confession letter to the country’s high officials and ask for their forgiveness. Following this incident, the security guards escorting Khoeini forced him into a car and departed the scene. According to Advar News, Khoeini was taken back to Evin at 7:30 p.m., without having an opportunity to meet or speak with his family.
Mr. Khoeini is not the only imprisoned member of the Advare Tahkim Organization. On Tuesday, September 19, plain-clothed security forces arrested Dr. Keyvan Ansari, a member of the organization’s central committee. Officials representing the Ministry of Intelligence also searched the organization’s offices twice and confiscated some of its property.
There are other well-known dissidents who are held at Evin’s 209 ward, including Ahmad Batebi and Reza Malek. Malek has been subjected to extreme forms of physical and psychological torture. In a tactic known as the “engineer’s torture,” Malek was stripped naked and placed in a room with a trained Russian dog so that he would confess out of fear. Malek has also been given mind-altering substances on several occasions.
Karaj: Gohardasth PrisonAlso known as the Rajaishahr Facility, the Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, north of Tehran, houses a number of political prisoners even though it has been officially designated as a criminal detention center. Thousands of political prisoners were murdered in this prison throughout the 1980s, giving it an ominous reputation second only to Tehran’s Evin Prison. Hojat Zamani, a member of the outlawed opposition group, Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), was executed on February 7 at this prison.
Last Wednesday, after months of negotiations, the human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani finally succeeded in meeting three of his clients: Jafar Eghdami, Behrouz Javid-Tehrani, and Alireza Karami Kheirabadi. A fourth prisoner, Valiollah Feiz-Mahdavi died on his ninth day of hunger strike after his repeated requests to meet with a lawyer were denied.
A number of other prisoners such as Amir Heshmatsaran and Mehrdad Lehrasbi are also being held at the Gohardasht Prison.
What is even more disturbing is that officials within the judiciary and the security apparatus have been working to open new detention centers as the current facilities are running out of space.
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