Evin Political Prisoners: “Judges Act As Representatives of Security Organizations”
On April 19, 2010, a group of political prisoners at Evin Prison wrote an open letter addressed to religious leaders, describing their difficult conditions including physical, sexual, and psychological torture, asking the clerics to state their positions vis a vis violations of fair trial procedures in Iranian courts and the inhumane and illegal treatment by interrogators and judges. The letter was first published on JARAS web site.
In their letter, addressed to Shiite leaders, maraj’e, such as Sanei, Bayat, Dastgheib, Sobhani, Ardebili, Makarem Shirazi, Safi Golpaygani, and Shobeiri Zanjani, a detailed description of prisoners inside different wards of Evin Prison is provided. Some of the illegal and inhumane treatments of the Iranian judicial and security organizations listed in the letter are the Judiciary’s lack of independence, lack of moral treatment, beatings and unusual interrogations, show trials, forcing the suspects to confess against themselves, and long investigation processes.
Lack of independence of the Judiciary is one of the cases the political prisoners have described in detail. They have stated that in many cases interrogators and Ministry of Intelligence and IRGC agents have told prisoners who were blindfolded and handcuffed and sometimes had their feet tied: “The judgment in your case will not come from the judge, as the judges are insignificant.” Many of the suspects were even informed about their sentences through their interrogators before they heard them in court.
Another section of the letter emphasizes that the initial courts’ lack of independence and its openness to the influence of security organizations is to the point where the judges routinely issue maximum sentences, promising the suspects that their sentences would be reduced at appeals stage. According to the letter, in most cases the judges “act as representatives of security organizations,” treating the suspects with threats and insults in court. Also, in the cases of a large number of prisoners who have received orders for bail, or reduced bail or guardianship (in lieu of bail), upon influence of security organizations the Judiciary refuses to accept bail or their guardians for their release.
Lack of access to their lawyers or ability to have a lawyer of their own choosing during the trial proceedings which is in violation of the suspects’ right to a fair trial, is another point raised in the letter. They state cases where the suspects were threatened by the judges that if they introduced a defense lawyer, their sentences would be heavier, especially in Branch 28 of Revolutionary Courts with Judge Moghisseh presiding. Some suspects have had to release their lawyers through pressure from security organizations and agree to court-appointed lawyers for their defense.
The letter expresses that interrogations are made by various organizations such as Ministry of Intelligence, IRGC, Basij, and different units of the police. Prisoners have emphasized that after initial interrogations by police and Basij, prisoners were handed off to IRGC or Ministry of Intelligence interrogators who conducted “aimless interrogations” during very long and non-stop sessions, at unusual times, and accompanied with insults, beatings, and mental and sexual abuse. Referring to the interrogations in Wards 2-A, 240, 209, and 350, they have said: “In many cases the interrogators would put pressure on prisoners by asking private and personal questions during the interrogations.” In the prisoners’ letter to religious leaders, they have objected to methods for extracting confessions such as “accusing the suspect of immoral acts, and forcing the suspects to confess by reading the dictated text provided by the interrogators in their public trial
Holding the “so-called public trials” and having rehearsal sessions for the prisoners to practice reading “confessions against themselves” in court, some of which have been held in the presence of Judge Salavati and Prosecutor Jafari and plainclothes agents, is another point raised in the letter. Some of these prisoners who are currently detained at Ward 350 have said that they had frequently participated in “rehearsal sessions” for the show trials and if they refused to appear in the rehearsals or the court, their interrogators would threaten them with execution or arrests of their family members.
The letter from the political prisoners of Evin is published at a time when during recent months there have been numerous reports about the sub-standard conditions of Iranian prisons, heavy sentences of political prisoners, and the deteriorating health conditions of many prisoners. Many of the prisoners who were arrested during the post-elections months and released later have reported of torture and physical and psychological abuse during their arrests, detention, and interrogation. In some cases interrogators abused the prisoners sexually and psychologically in order to extract fake confessions from them.