Former Political Prisoner Tells the UN of the Iranian Judiciary’s Lack of Independence
Ghassemi is an Iranian-Canadian who had been accused of having ties with the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization (MEK) and was condemned to death for moharebeh, enmity with God. He was eventually released last year due to lack of evidence and pressure from human rights groups and the Canadian government.
Referring to Iranian officials who denounce the UN Special Rapporteur’s human rights’ report as biased and one-sided, Ghassemi said: “Why don’t they allow Ahmad Shaheed to enter Iran and meet with political prisoners? All of Shaheed’s reports are based on statements from released prisoners and their families.”
Ghassemi noted that when he spoke to Shaheed via Skype, the Special Rapporteur had accurate information about his case, as well as about cases relating to student activists, religious-nationalist politicians, Baha’is, converts, and dervishes.
The former political prisoner supported the assertion in Shaheed’s report that interrogators played a key role in determining prison sentences and took away the judges’ independence.
“Most sentences handed against security prisoners have been pre-determined by interrogators. In my four-and-a-half years in Ward 350 of Evin Prison I saw perhaps a thousand political prisoners come and go. Not one of them had received an independent sentence by a judge. Most of the prisoners I spoke with told me that they had received the exact same sentence mentioned by their interrogator,” he said.
Ghassemi added that the Revolutionary Court had many branches but only three of them dealt with security cases: Branch 15 headed by Judge Salavati, Branch 28 headed by Judge Moghisseh, and Branch 26, which was recently closed, headed by Judge Pirabbasi.
“My question is, why have only these three taken on security cases? Is it because these three judges are smarter than the rest? No. It’s because these three are under the influence of the Intelligence Ministry,” Ghassemi said.
He added that when an interrogator completes his report he includes precise instructions to the judge on how to convict the accused, namely the length of the prison term. “For instance, they issued a sentence against the gifted student Omid Kokabi just to destroy his life,” Ghassemi said. “The government had asked Omid to work on military projects but he had refused. There are many in prison who have a similar case like Omid. I mention him because we were cellmates for a year and a half.”
Pointing to the dramatic increase in the number of executions since the presidential election, the former political prisoner said Rouhani’s enemies were playing politics with innocent lives.
“With these numbers of executions they want to discredit Rouhani, but in fact what they are doing is playing with people’s lives. Imagine how many more executions we would have if the UN Special Rapporteur was not reporting on Iran.”
Hamid Ghassemi left his home in Canada to visit his family in Iran on May 8, 2008. Five days later his older brother Alborz Ghassemi was arrested for unknown reasons after serving 29 years in the Iranian Navy. Hamid was also arrested on May 25 at the armed forces intelligence office when he was inquiring about his brother.
On May 3, 2009, the two brothers were condemned by the Revolutionary Court for allegedly giving information to the MEK. A few days later, on May 19, 2009, Alborz died in prison from illness.
Hamid Ghassemi remained in prison for four-and-a-half years, until he was freed on September 23, 2013, as a result of pressure from the international community. He told the Campaign he is attending the 25th meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to be the voice of innocent victims of the Iranian Judiciary.