Lawyer “Worried” About Detained Iranian Protesters After Officials Claim Two Committed Suicide
A lawyer representing the families of two detainees who died in custody in Iran after being arrested during protests that erupted across the country in December 2017 is concerned about the fate of current detainees.
“How could there be so many suicides in the detention centers without any of the authorities being transparent about it?” attorney Hossein Ahmadiniaz told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on January 20, 2018.
“The judicial system has been very slow in dealing with the large volume of cases involving recent detentions,” he added. “We hope this will not cause their rights to be violated.”
Continued Ahmadiniaz: “One of my clients is in prison in Sanandaj [Kurdistan Province]. Before being taken away for medical and psychological tests, I felt it was necessary to declare that he is completely healthy.”
“His life is in the hands of the State Prisons Organization and he has no intention of committing suicide,” added Ahmadiniaz. “You never know, he could have an ‘accident.’ This applies to my other clients as well.”
Ahmadiniaz told CHRI he has been denied access to the detention centers where his clients are being held.
“There is a discussion going on right now about organizing an inspection of Evin Prison by members of Parliament from Tehran who are looking into these detentions,” he said. “They want to meet and talk to the detainees.
“The truth is that we are worried about a repeat of the incidents that took place in the Kahrizak detention center [in 2009],” added Ahmadiniaz. “We are worried that every city could witness another Kahrizak.”
In July 2009, dozens of people who were peacefully protesting the disputed result of that year’s presidential election were rounded up and taken to the Kahrizak Detention Center in southern Tehran. According to eyewitnesses, many were tortured.
“There have only been small drops of information so far, which has worried a lot of people,” said Ahmadiniaz. “We hope these inspections don’t stop and that lawmakers from other cities also feel responsible for inspecting prisons in their constituencies.”
The lawyer continued: “If the authorities follow the Criminal Procedure Regulations and the Constitution, many of the existing concerns will go away. What is important is that the rights of the detainees are observed and that they have access to legal counsel and are allowed to have contact with their families, but unfortunately that has not happened so far.”
The families of Sina Ghanbari and Vahid Heydari, who died in detention in early January 2018, have both hired Ahmadiniaz as their lawyer.
Ghanbari, 23, was arrested on December 31, 2017, during protests in Tehran and taken to Evin Prison. A week later, judicial officials claimed he committed suicide in the bathroom of the prison’s quarantine unit on January 6, 2018. His body was delivered to his family on January 9.
Heydari, 22, died in detention at the 12th Police Station in the city of Arak, Central Province, sometime between the end of December 2017 and the beginning of January 2018.
Heydari’s lawyer, Mohammad Najafi, told CHRI that the authorities are trying to cover up the real reason for Heydari’s death by claiming he committed suicide.
“This young man was a protester,” said Najafi. “They arrested him and then they beat and killed him. Now they want to destroy his reputation.”
Ahmadiniaz told CHRI that his clients believe they were wrongfully arrested because the right to peaceful freedom of assembly is guaranteed in Iran’s Constitution.
“I am representing a number of individuals recently detained in Tehran, Kermanshah and Kurdistan, including students,” he said. “Some of them remain in detention.”
“My clients believe that even if they did participate in the protests, they were acting within their rights under the law, which allows peaceful protest,” he added. “Yet they have been accused of acting against national security and participating in illegal gatherings.”
According to Article 27 of the Iranian Constitution, “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”