Iran’s State TV Aired Forced Confession of Ahmadreza Djalali Because He Refused to Spy for Iran
A screenshot of a clip of Ahmadreza Djalali’s so-called “confession” on Iran’s state-run IRIB state TV.
Iranian state TV aired a forced confession by Ahmadreza Djalali because he wrote in a letter that he was imprisoned in Iran for refusing to spy for the Intelligence Ministry, according to his wife.
The footage was recorded while he was held under extreme duress in solitary confinement and after he was threatened that his kids would be killed if he didn’t comply with his interrogators’ demands, Vida Mehran-nia told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on December 18, 2017.
“I don’t understand why they insist on accusing him of spying for Israel,” she said. “I think they aired this after Ahmadreza’s letter was published stating that he was arrested because he did not agree to cooperate with Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.”
“When I spoke to Ahmadreza on the phone he was feeling really bad. He said they did not air the whole interview,” said Mehran-nia. “After being held in solitary confinement for the first three months of his detention, they threatened to kill his kids in Sweden and let him die in prison without telling anyone if he didn’t cooperate,” she said.
“Then one day they told him he was free to go home,” she added. “But first we want to interview you on camera to complete our information, they said.”
The state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has a long history of broadcasting such forced confessions. Typically well-staged productions, they are used to defame dissidents, intellectuals, and other individuals whom the authorities wish to discredit, legitimize their prosecution, and amass public support for their sentences.
Djalali, an emergency medicine specialist and physician, has been imprisoned in Iran since April 2016. He had travelled to Iran from Sweden, where he lives with his wife and two children, on invitation of the University of Tehran to speak on disaster relief. He has been accused of providing information to Israel that was allegedly used in the assassination of several Iranian scientists.
Djalali, held in solitary confinement for three months and denied access to a lawyer for seven months, was sentenced to death for the charge of “collaborating with a hostile government” by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran in October 2017.
On December 5, 2017, the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.
In an undated letter from Evin Prison, Djalali wrote that he was imprisoned for refusing to spy for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry. His wife has stated that her husband was forced to rehearse and read the confession that was broadcast, and that his interrogators threatened that his family and children would be killed if he did not make the taped statement. The young physicist Omid Kokabee was imprisoned in Iran for over five years for similarly refusing to conduct military research for Iran.
The edited footage of Djalali shown on Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) service on December 17 did not show viewers which questions Djalali was asked or who asked them.
IRIB accuses Djalali of spying for Israel, however, nowhere in Djalali’s so-called “confession” does he mention Israel or its secret service by name.
“The clip showed Ahmadreza’s work in Italy and then they said he was a Mossad spy,” said Mehran-nia. “I don’t know what to say after watching it. Ahmadreza did not mention Mossad or Israel anywhere in these clips.”
She continued: “It’s obvious from the video that Ahmadreza is not acting normal. At the time, he was under so much psychological pressure that he was given pills. That’s why he slurred his words in some places and was told to repeat his sentences. This interview was recorded under pressure and was not aired in full. As far as the law is concerned, it’s worthless.”
Mehran-nia also told CHRI that her husband has lost nearly 20 pounds since he was sentenced to death and requires specialist attention from outside the prison.
“He has stomach pains. He’s a doctor. He knows he needs to see a specialist but his requests have been rejected by Judge [Abolqassem] Salavati, who is opposed to him leaving the prison,” she said.
In the IRIB segment on Djalali called “Axed from the Roots,” Djalali said he had worked in Iran’s ministries of health and defense before moving to Europe to specialize in his field. Then the unidentified IRIB presenter states the researcher was “netted by the Mossad intelligence organization during one of his educational trips.”
The presenter continues: “Mossad officers gradually prepare the ground for cooperation and guide Djalali towards espionage and gathering intelligence in necessary areas… One of the Mossad officers’ main demands was to gather information about Iran’s nuclear scientists, including Dr. [Masoud] Ali-Mohammadi and Dr. [Majid] Shahriari,” who were assassinated in 2010.
Djalali never mentions “Israel,” “Mossad,” or “espionage,” but IRIB uses his statement that he met Ali-Mohammadi and Shahriari while working on defense projects in Iran as proof that he exposed them to Mossad agents.
In 2012, the Intelligence Ministry claimed it had arrested several people in connection with the assassinations. However, only one person was prosecuted, Majid Jamali Fashi, who was executed in May 2012 for allegedly killing Ali-Mohammadi in January 2010.
Djalali’s wife told CHRI she has been in contact with one of his lawyers, Zeinab Taheri, who is seeking to file a motion to overturn his death sentence.
CHRI has called on the international community to condemn Djalali’s sentence.
“These confessions have no value without access to due process. Iran’s continued use of these forced statements is a travesty of justice that should be forcefully condemned by the international community,” said CHRI’s executive director Hadi Ghaemi on December 18.