Political Activist Detained Without Charge Subjected to “Illegal” Interrogations in Evin Prison
Ailing political activist Hengameh Shahidi, who has been on hunger strike in Evin Prison since March 16, 2017 to protest her detention without charge, is being subjected to new “illegal” interrogations by security agents, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
“She was first in Ward 209 where she was interrogated by Intelligence Ministry agents,” said a source close Shahidi’s family on June 4, 2017. “During the week of April 3, she was interrogated for up to 13 hours straight on some days. Then she was moved to Ward 241 that belongs to the judiciary’s intelligence branch. She has been in prison for more than 87 days now and is still on hunger strike.”
“We don’t know why they started interrogating Hengameh this week again or what they want from her,” the source told CHRI. “She’s in a critical condition and yet they are putting her through hours of interrogation. She is being questioned from 10 at night until 2 a.m. in the morning.”
“Mr. [Mostafa] Tork Hamadani, who has still not been confirmed as Hengameh’s lawyer by the judiciary, says these interrogations are completely illegal,” added the source. “He told the assistant prosecutor that it’s torture and they cannot conduct questioning during (non-working hours). Hengameh says they want to extract lies from her in retaliation for her going on hunger strike to demand an investigation into her arrest.”
Shahidi, a former adviser to detained presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, was arrested on March 9, 2017 on unknown charges by security agents in Mashhad, northeastern Iran, and taken to Evin Prison in Tehran. She began her hunger strike a week later.
Her lawyer has written a letter to Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi warning of the consequences of inaction in the face of Shahidi’s rapidly deteriorating health.
“A situation similar to what happened to the late Sattar Beheshti should be avoided,” wrote Hamadani in the letter, referring to a blogger who died under police interrogation on November 3, 2012.
Shahidi was taken to the Tehran Clink Hospital on May 31, 2017 to monitor her heartbeat and was returned to prison a few hours later “even though she is attached to a serum dispenser and her condition is very critical,” the informed source told CHRI.
Pressured to Confess
In his letter to the intelligence minister, Hamadani asserts that during blindfolded interrogation sessions, Shahidi was put under intense pressure to “confess” to her alleged collaboration with Amad News, a reformist news channel on the Telegram messaging application.
Shahidi, 41, was a journalist working for the Norooz newspaper, published by the reformist Etemad Melli (National Trust) Party, until 2009 when she became an advisor to Mehdi Karroubi who, along with fellow opposition leaders Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, has been under extrajudicial house arrest since 2011 for disputing the result of the 2009 presidential election.
“The initial interrogation phase has dragged on longer than usual, which appears to indicate that there was not enough evidence to attach any charges to the suspect before she was arrested,” wrote Hamadani. “Otherwise only a couple of hours would have been sufficient to investigate a case such as this.”
“If this situation is true, any extracted statements or confessions would be considered invalid and all the actions of the apprehending authority would be unlawful,” he added.
Shahidi has chosen Hamadani as her lawyer, but her arrest by a security agency means his appointment requires the approval of the judiciary.
According to Article 48 of Iran’s Criminal Code of Procedure: “In the preliminary investigation stage of cases involving crimes against internal and external security, as well as organized crimes… both sides of the dispute can chose a lawyer or lawyers from a list approved by the judiciary chief.”