Authorities’ denials contradicted by multiple eyewitness reports
A week after a violent raid by prison officials at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison led to the beating, injury, and solitary confinement of many political prisoners, Iranian Judiciary officials continue to deny any use of violence while vivid testimonies from the families of the prisoners indicate otherwise.
Independent investigations by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran confirm that dozens of security and intelligence agents used excessive force at Evin Prison’s Ward 350 on April 17, 2014, allegedly to search the cells and confiscate illegal items and devices that prisoners might have kept against regulations.
“The security forces used extreme violence against the prisoners,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s executive director. “The courageous testimonies of family members of the prisoners leave no room for doubt. Iranian officials must stop their denials and immediately establish an independent investigation to hold those involved responsible,” he added.
Although searching prison cells is a routine procedure, normally conducted by prison staff in the presence of prisoners in their cells, on April 17 security and intelligence agents who were armed with batons conducted the search and forced prisoners to leave their cells and gather in an open space. Some of the prisoners resisted, as they were concerned that their belongings might be stolen or feared that agents might place illegal items in their cells that did not belong to them, according to the prisoners’ family members.
However, in response to the prisoners’ requests to be allowed to stay in their cells during the search, the security agents forced them out, violently beating them as they exited the ward and causing serious injuries to several of them.
Despite the consistent reports and testimonies provided by the families of the prisoners to the media about the raid, Iranian officials have denied the excessive use of force against the prisoners, insisting that the security forces only “carried out a routine inspection of the prisoner belongings.”
In a statement to reporters on April 21, Minister of Justice Mostafa Pourmohammadi confirmed the “confrontation” at Evin Prison but said that it had not been a serious one.
According to the family members who were allowed to visit with their kin inside Evin during the Sunday visitation hours, many of the prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement after the beatings, without access to proper medical treatment following the attack.
In an interview with the Campaign, Massoumeh Dehghan, wife of imprisoned human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, confirmed news of the raid after visiting her husband at Evin for 20 minutes.
Soltani told his wife that after the April 17 raid, security agents shaved his beard and head before transferring him to solitary confinement for the night. Dehghan described her husband’s conditions as “better compared to other prisoners.”
“The atmosphere in the prison was terrible today [during family visitations]. Akbar Amini’s [one of the beaten prisoners] mother screamed and cried so much, she lost consciousness. She saw her son brought to the visitation room while two men held him under his arms. Her son’s head was bandaged, there was something wrong with his ear, he couldn’t see clearly, and vertebrae in his neck had shifted. Everyone was wailing today. If the officials don’t believe it, they should pay a visit to the prison themselves. During the short hour I was there I saw Omid Behrouzi [another political prisoner] myself with a bandaged hand. I saw someone whose leg had been injured,” Massoumeh Dehghan told the Campaign.
Parinaz Baghbani, wife of imprisoned journalist Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand, talked with the Campaign about her husband after a minutes-long visit with him at Evin on Sunday. “They brought Mohammad from the infirmary. His left arm, from elbow up, his knees and his back were purple with bruises and he had two broken toes in his left foot. His head was shaved. I saw these with my own eyes, despite the fact that five days after the incident the authorities continue to deny it,” she told the Campaign.
Rouhani’s Minister of Justice, Pourmohammadi, told reporters during his April 21 briefing, “According to normal procedures, there was an inspection in order to find banned items such as cell phones and SIM cards….In two Evin Prison rooms there was some prisoner resistance which caused problems for those individuals and one or two of these prisoners sustained small injuries during this inspection.”
The Campaign calls on President Hassan Rouhani to put an end to the denials, address one of the most appalling acts of violence against political prisoners in Iran since he took office in 2013, and stand by his stated commitment to defend citizen rights. “Mr. Rouhani’s silence is unacceptable. What happened was against the laws that he is expected to enforce, but he has chosen to let such actions happen before his eyes,” said Ghaemi.