Hassan Lahooti’s Release: Eavesdropping on Critics’ Phone Conversations Revealed
Following the arrest of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s grandson and Faezeh Hashemi’s son, Hassan Lahooti, Iranian Judiciary authorities have asked him questions, which explicitly demonstrate that Iranian intelligence organizations are eavesdropping on phone calls made by Iranian citizens. This indicates that Iranian judicial authorities are taking people’s private conversations as admissible evidence for criminal conduct.
“Insulting regime leaders during telephone conversations” is a question/accusation Hassan Lahooti faced when he was arrested on Sunday night after his plane from London landed in Tehran. Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s grandson was arrested by Imam Khomeini International Airport officers, acting on orders from the Judiciary. A source close to Hashemi Rafsanjani told BBC Persian that Mr. Lahooti was interrogated about two issues: One, regarding “insulting regime leaders during telephone conversations,” and the other, “participating in June 15, 2009 protests in Tehran.”
Several articles of the Iranian Constitution prohibit investigation of people’s beliefs. Tapping telephones and using telephone conversations is clearly included in this prohibition. Article 23 of the Iranian Constitution holds that “the investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.” Article 25 is even more explicit about this: “The inspection of letters and the failure to deliver them, the recording and disclosure of telephone conversations, the disclosure of telegraphic and telex communications, censorship, or the willful failure to transmit them, eavesdropping, and all forms of covert investigation are forbidden, except as provided by law.”
Many Iranian political and media activists have previously talked about taps on their home and cell phones by security authorities, but this is a rare occasion where telephone conversations are used as the basis for a charge made by the Iranian judicial authorities.
Over the past few years and especially following the arrests made after the Iranian presidential elections of last June, several released prisoners told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that they were presented with printed transcripts of their telephone conversations and that things they had said on the phone were used as means to pressure them. One of these released prisoners told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: “First they showed me a list of telephone numbers I had called and asked me to identify the people I had called. Then they showed me transcripts of several telephone calls I had made during which I had expressed my personal opinions about certain individuals and certain events. They told me that with the things I had said they could keep me in prison for two to three years. I told them this was illegal, but my interrogator believed that Iran Telecommunications is a government organization and using government services, even if one pays for them, is regarded as “public space.”
Tehran General and Revolutionary Courts Prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, told Fars News Agency’s legal section reporter about Lahooti’s arrest: “Lahooti was arrested at Imam Khomeini International Airport on Sunday morning based on a judicial order, with certain security charges. This afternoon, following some investigations by the interrogator, Lahooti expressed remorse for his actions and upon posting of his bail of $73,000, he was released from prison on orders of his interrogator and confirmation by Tehran Prosecutor.”