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Iran: Detained political leaders at risk of torture

Call on the Iranian authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with the protestors

Amnesty International is gravely concerned that several opposition leaders detained in the wake of the 12 June elections may be facing torture, possibly to force them to make televised ‘confessions’ as a prelude to unfair trials in which they could face the death penalty.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme, said:

“If our fears are born out, this is an attempt by the security services to silence high profile political leaders once and for all, and to discourage others with dissenting views from speaking out.”

Senior political leaders Mohsen Aminzadeh, Abdollah Ramazanadeh and Mostafa Tajzadeh were taken away from their homes in the early hours of 16 June, coinciding with the arrests of many other political leaders. According to reports received by Amnesty International, all three are believed to be held in section 209 in Evin Prison in Tehran which falls under the control of the Ministry of Intelligence, and where reports of torture of detainees are frequent. It is not clear whether they have been allowed to contact their families.

On Friday 26 June, cleric Ahmad Khatami, who is a member of the Assembly of Experts, in a sermon at Friday prayers at Tehran University, called on the judiciary to punish, severely and without mercy, those involved in the demonstrations. He said that “agitations, destructive acts, setting fire to mosques and buses, destroying people's property, creating insecurity and terror, and harassing people” could be considered to be instances of moharebeh or enmity against God, a charge which can carry the death penalty.

This echoes a warning made by Esfahan province’s Prosecutor General, Mohammad Reza Habibi, on 17 June when he reportedly stated that the few elements behind post-election unrest could face the death penalty.

On 16 June, following the arrest of Mohsen Aminzadeh, Abdollah Ramazanadeh and Mostafa Tajzadeh and other leading political figures, Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie reportedly told the Fars news agency that 26 "masterminds" suspected of being involved in post-election unrest had been arrested. It is not known whether Mohsen Aminzadeh, Abdollah Ramazanadeh and Mostafa Tajzadeh formed part of the group of 26 referred to.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“Such statements, including by those in influential clerical positions, add to the already worrying signs that the authorities in Iran are preparing to try these political leaders on trumped-up charges.

“We call on the Supreme Leader to give clear instructions to all government and judicial officials not to torture people within their custody. We also urge him and his envoys in the security services to publicly remind all forces involved in security to guarantee the safety of every detainee, including by clarifying their whereabouts, allowing immediate access to families and lawyers and any medical care that may be needed.”

According to the Iranian authorities, eight members of the Basij militia, a state-run force which has been used to crack down on protesters, have died in the demonstrations. While the authorities have not revealed any information about these deaths or named any suspects, Amnesty International is worried that these deaths may be ultimately attributed to detained opposition leaders. Any charge of moharebeh in a case in which state officials have been killed could make it less likely that any death sentence imposed would later be commuted to a prison term.

Televised “confessions” have repeatedly been used by the authorities to incriminate political activists in their custody. Many have later retracted these “confessions”, stating that they were coerced to make them, sometimes after torture or other ill-treatment.

People arrested at the demonstrations that followed the 12 June election have made statements on state television saying they were “influenced” by foreign radio broadcasts. The identity of some of these, such as that of a woman shown on Press TV on 25 June, who admitted to carrying grenades in her bag, was digitally concealed, but such televised statements may indicate that other “confessions” regarding the recent demonstrations will be forthcoming.


Mohsen Aminzadeh, Abdollah Ramazanadeh and Mostafa Tajzadeh were all officials in former President Mohammad Khatami’s government and are supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Up to 21 people are reported by the Iranian authorities to have been killed in the recent protests. The true number of deaths is likely to be higher, as the Iranian authorities have a history of under-reporting deaths at the hands of security forces during demonstrations.

The charge of moharebeh, dealt with under Articles 183 to 195 of the Penal Code, attracts one of four penalties – execution, cross-amputation, crucifixion or banishment, although the death penalty is the most common punishment applied.

The Assembly of Experts is an elected state body of 86 clerics charged with electing, supervising and if necessary dismissing the Supreme Leader.

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