Prisoner of Conscience Brutally Flogged for Insulting Ahmadinejad
Just a few minutes before his release from prison on Sunday, 9 October, student activist Payman Aref received 74 lashes on the charge of insulting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Aref’s is the second case, after young activist Somayeh Tohidloo’s September flogging, of recent floggings of political prisoners. Various sources also reported yesterday that Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr has been sentenced to one year in prison and 96 lashes for her role in a film. In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Payman Aref said that the lashes he received were delivered a lot more harshly than stipulated, and that several judicial authorities were present in the room laughing when he was flogged. After his flogging sentence was carried out, he filed a complaint against the judicial officer from the “Sentence Implementation Unit” for his failure to carry out the sentence correctly.
Student activist and member of Iran Freedom Movement Payman Aref was arrested on 18 July 2009. He was released after 90 days in solitary confinement where he was interrogated, and according to Aref himself, “was tortured and one of [his] teeth were broken by the interrogator.” Branch 26 of Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Aref to one year in prison, a lifetime ban on press activities and membership in political parties, and 76 lashes on the charge of “insulting the President through publishing an open letter addressed to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dated 23 May 2009, entitled ‘Do you know what you have done to the university?'”
Aref, 29, who is under bed rest at his home in Tehran, described his flogging for the Campaign. “Having completed my one-year prison sentence, on Sunday morning they transferred me from Ward 350 of Evin Prison to Evin Prison Court. Once there, they told me that they wanted to carry out the flogging sentence before they freed me. None of the political prisoners had received their flogging sentences before. I thought they were joking and thought that maybe like they flogged Ms. Tohidluo in ‘a symbolic manner’ a few weeks ago, they would do the same thing to me. I said: ‘O.K. Are you going to carry it out in a symbolic way like Ms. Tohidloo’s?’ They said: ‘No, we will make up for Ms. Tohidloo with you!'” said Aref.
“They took me to a windowless room in the court. They told me to take off my clothes. I objected, saying that my flogging sentence called for the ta’aziri [milder/correctional] flogging, and that they had to flog me over my clothes, not my bare body. But they removed my clothes forcefully. My flogging was carried out as a hadd [preventive flogging reserved for those who have committed sins], and without any of the ta’aziri flogging elements. According to Shia jurists, when ta’aziri flogging is carried out, the flogger must have the Koran under his arm, which would prevent him from raising his arm too high. The lashes also have to be placed on different parts of the back, so as all the lashes do not land on the same spot. But the flogger did not follow any of these requirements. He flogged me with all his might and by fully raising his arms, bringing the whip down on my back like hadd flogging, reserved for crimes such as drinking alcohol and sodomy,” continued Aref.
Aref told the Campaign that several judicial officials were present in the room during the flogging and that he could hear them laughing. “Seven people who were behind me were observing my flogging with malice and sadism and laughing. From the corner of my eye, I saw that Mr. Namaki, Office Manager for Mr. Ahmadi, Deputy Tehran Prosecutor and Head of Evin Prison Court, was also present.”
“From the 50th lash onward, I was semi-conscious. But after the 74th lash, when they put my clothes on me, even in that condition, I asked for paper and with a hand that could hardly write, I registered my complaint against the judicial officer from the Sentence Implementation Unit. Naturally, I will follow through with this complaint,” Aref added.
“I thank my physician and my wife for their care of me for the past 24 hours,” he concluded.