“Police Should End Coverup And Release Recording,” Says Brother of Deceased Activist
The brother of Haleh Sahabi, who lost her life on 1 June 2011 following interference by security forces during her father’s funeral, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that he continues to pursue his complaint with Iranian authorities to identify those involved in the incident.
While eyewitnesses had reported assault and battery during the funeral service, official authorities and pro-government media outlets spoke of the cause of death as emotional agitation over her father’s death. A day after this incident an eyewitness who was present at the funeral told the Campaign, “The security forces were taking pictures with cameras and filming the funeral service.”
“If the court has the intention of shedding light on this case it must ask the security forces, or whatever organization, who were filming the funeral procession that day, to hand over the recordings to the court,” he said. “The court must essentially demand the recordings from the security forces. We witnessed ourselves that a few cameras were filming the funeral procession on that day. Therefore, we are certain that there are recordings of the funeral ceremony from different angles, which can be used as evidence in the court.”
According to eyewitnesses, Haleh Sahabi, 54, a religious scholar on prison furlough for a few days to attend her father’s funeral services, suffered a cardiac arrest caused by assault and battery by security forces and died in Lavasan Clinic outside Tehran. Haleh Sahabi was denied furlough while her father, prominent political activist Ezzatollah Sahabi, was still conscious in the hospital. Only after her father slipped into a coma was she allowed to be present at his bedside.
Haleh Sahabi was a women’s rights activist and a member of the Iranian Mothers for Peace group. Plainclothes forces arrested Sahabi on 5 August 2009 in a gathering in Beharestan Square. In that same year, Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced her to two years in prison and $300 cash fine in lieu of lashes, on the charge of “propaganda against the regime” through “repeated participation in illegal gatherings and disrupting public order.”
“Our request is for clarification of the incident and an answer to the cause of tension during the burial service. Why did a funeral that could have been conducted very peacefully, especially since it was in a town far from Tehran and far from commotion, end in frenzy under such circumstances that led to Mrs. Sahabi’s death? A funeral service is a very normal occurrence and it’s every family’s right to have a service for their deceased member. We want this matter to be investigated,” Hamed Sahabi said about his family’s request from the judiciary authorities.
While the family requested an investigation into Haleh Sahabi’s death, they did not request an autopsy. “The issue of autopsy would not clarify anything in our opinion,” Hamed Sahabi explained. “Anyhow the incident happened in front of many witnesses. We preferred that an autopsy would not to be carried out, but that doesn’t mean that we did not have a request for an investigation.”
“An attorney representing us has requested an investigation into the incident of Haleh’s death,” he continued. “We requested an investigation so that the culprit who planned what happened at our father’s funeral, leading to Haleh’s death, be identified. We declared that Haleh’s death was not natural and that it was caused by the events of that day, and the court asked us for witnesses. So we introduced the witnesses to the court after coordinating with them.” Ahmad Montazeri, a prominent politician and son of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, is one of the witnesses in the case who has expressed in several interviews that he would testify in court.
“It was impossible for others to film the events that day. Anyone who was even recording with his cell phone was arrested immediately, or the mobile phone was taken away. Other than the police themselves who were openly filming, no one else had that possibility,” said Hamed Sahabi.
On Tuesday, 13 December, on the occasion of Student Day celebrations in the Technical College of Tehran University, Ali Motahari, a Member of the Parliament, referenced the recent explanations provided by the Minister of Intelligence about Haleh Sahabi’s death. “They did not want her to die and what happened was due to an officer’s negligence,” Motahari said. He also said that Parliament members have asked the Intelligence Minister to appear before the Commission and explain about Haleh Sahabi’s death.
“It was agreed that they give us the CD [containing the video recording of what happened at Ezzatollah Sahabi’s funeral], so that we could watch it, and if we are not satisfied, for the Minister to come to a public session and provide explanations,” Motahari said.
Reacting to Ali Motahari’s 13 December talk, Hamed Sahabi said that if an officer has been negligent, the situation should be explained to people and an apology extended. “He is right. If anyone has really done anything wrong, the country’s police force must introduce him, instead of covering up for him. Introducing the culprits won’t destroy anything and won’t harm anyone either,” Sahabi said.
A day after Motahari’s speech, a news piece indicated that security forces had failed to provide the recorded video as evidence to court. “At this time the situation with the case has not moved further,” Hamed Sahabi told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. He added that nothing can deter his family’s pursuit of the case.