Signs of Torture on Body of Deceased Blogger, Family Under Pressure to Keep Silent
“Don’t Let Sattar’s Death Be in Vain,” Tell Family Under Threat of Arrest
A source close to the family of Sattar Behesthi, a blogger whose family was told on November 6 that he had died in a detention center, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the blogger’s family was threatened with arrest if they spoke with the media. The source told the Campaign that the blogger’s family is under a state of unofficial house arrest.
Beheshti, a 35 year old blogger, was arrested on October 30 at his home in Robat Karim near Tehran. On November 6 authorities contacted his family, informing them of his death in custody without further explanation. The source who requested anonymity told the Campaign that Sattar Behesthi’s immediate family told the source “not to let Sattar’s death be in vain.”
Asked whether those who took delivery of the body had observed signs of physical abuse on the body, he relayed what one of the people who saw the body told him. “He told me that there was a large dent on his head and that they had put plaster over his head. His face was swollen. As soon as they untied his shroud, blood splattered on the shroud from the side of his right knee. As soon as they untied his shroud it became completely bloody, and there were signs of an autopsy on his body, as well,” the source told the Campaign.
“Security forces took the entire family’s cell phones. Where they didn’t get the telephone sets, they noted the numbers for surveillance. Right now, nobody is at Sattar’s mother’s home and all family members are staying at his sister’s home, where there are four cars on their street, each with three or four forces in it, monitoring the comings and goings of individuals to the home. They also prevent the neighbors from entering and only a group of about 20 people who are close to the family and were also present at the burial can come and go to Sattar Beheshti’s sister’s home,” the source told the Campaign, adding that all individuals present at the burial of Sattar Beheshti were photographed and videotaped.
“On Wednesday, the day of the funeral, they had agreed to deliver the body. [But] when Sattar’s sister arrived at the Mohammad Taghi Shrine in Robat Karim, the forces came toward her and threatened her with detention because of the interviews she had conducted with the media; and [only] after the family members intervened did the forces allow her to attend the funeral. But they emphasized to her in her husband’s presence that ‘if you give interviews to foreign media, we will take him somewhere where you will never see him again.’ They also told her husband that ‘if you have no mercy on yourself, you must have mercy on your 20-month-old baby,’” the source added.
“They have completely cut off their access to the outside world, and even neighbors are not allowed to enter or leave. They have a ceremony scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Friday at the Shrine of Mohammad Taghi in Robat Karim and they instructed that the family can only distribute food. They told them, ‘You cannot hold Third and Seventh Day ceremonies in the mosque.’ The family posted signs in the neighborhood announcing [details about] the memorial ceremony, and the forces would immediately remove the signs from walls,” the source close to Sattar Beheshti’s family told the Campaign about the family’s present conditions. The source said that during the time the forces were at Beheshti’s sister’s home, her phone rang and one of the forces picked up the phone to tell the caller who was from a media outlet in search of an interview with the family members, that Sattar Beheshti was in hospital due to his hunger strike and hung up.
“What most people didn’t know was that about 20 days or less before his last arrest, twice security forces went to their home for interrogations without a warrant. After he was released he told me that the first time they came to his home his laptop computer wasn’t at home. The forces took some of the newspaper clippings he kept at home in a notebook. After a few days they came back again and this time one of the neighbors informed him that forces were in front of the entrance door (Sattar explained all this to me himself). Sattar haned his laptop to his friend and when the forces came inside, they couldn’t find a computer,” the source told the Campaign about the conditions that led to Sattar Beheshti’s arrest on October 30.
“They summoned him on the phone a few days later, telling him to go to the Seyed-al-Shohada Base in Robat Karim. I can’t remember whether he turned himself in or they arrested him. He said, ‘they took me, but not to the address they had said,’” said the source.
The source, who spoke to Sattar Beheshti after his first arrest, told the Campaign about the conversation with Beheshti, “The interrogator at the location beat him and asked him to sign a piece of paper. He told him, ‘I won’t sign what I don’t know about.’ After a whole day, they lifted up his blindfolds and put two X’s at the beginning and end of an area and he signed it. After two days of interrogations, he was released from the unidentified security organization. He said, ‘As I was leaving, one of those individuals said that we will see you back again soon.’…In the last update he wrote on his Facebook page, he wrote that he had been threatened and that ‘they said we will take you and kill you and put your mother in mourning for you.’ He said that the individuals who threatened him said that ‘you are talking too much.’ In his post Sattar wrote, ‘Now I am telling you to stop talking too much. Do not oppress so I will stop writing.’”
“When I spoke with him after his release, he said, ‘I came out after I made a promise.’ But he was told that ‘We will arrest you soon.’ When I told him to stop, he told me, ‘I can’t. I will get sick. I will go crazy if I don’t write,” the source added.
“When I was talking to Sattar, I told him to close his Facebook account and his blogs. For a while Sattar was telling me that ‘I am being threatened a lot and I think it might be better for me to leave the country.’ I knew his financial situation fully well. I told him that the situation in Turkey is unsettled now and that it is hard to accept these hard conditions and you never know what could happen, you must work. What would you do with your mother? And a thousand and one other things,” the source added.
The source told the Campaign that Sattar Beheshti sent news about political prisoners or videos from protests to sites known as “Green websites” abroad. “He said ‘I have to do something. Things don’t get better with silence. The kids’ lives are lost in vain this way…Sattar was arrested previously in 2000 and spent some time in detention,” the source told the Campaign.
“This family is not political at all. They are an extremely simple and healthy family. I spoke with Sattar and his family many times, offering to pay for their internet costs, but he always said, ‘I must pay the cost of my freedom,’ he was so proud,” said the source close to Sattar Beheshti’s family.