Iran: New call for investigation into torture of student demonstrators
In March 2000, in letters from Tehranâ€™s Evin prison sent to the Head of Judiciary â€“ printed by local newspapers â€“ Akbar Mohammadi stated that he had been ill treated while in custody. He claimed to have been â€œviolently beatenâ€, suspended by his arms, and whipped on the soles of his feet with electric cables. Prison guards reportedly beat him until he was on the point of losing consciousness, saying that all he had to do was blink to accept the charges [relating to national security] made against him. Another student, Ahmad Batebi, wrote that soldiers bound his hands to plumbing pipes, beat his head and abdominal area with soldiersâ€™ shoes, and held him under a drain full of excrement for so long that he was unable to breathe.
To Amnesty Internationalâ€™s knowledge, no open, independent investigation has ever been conducted into the allegations of ill-treatment and torture made by Akbar Mohammadi, Ahmad Batebi or any of the students detained in July 1999. Some were later granted asylum in European countries, where they received treatment for a range of tortures, including rape with various objects.
Amnesty International renews its call to Iranâ€™s judiciary to:
- Conduct an open and independent enquiry into allegations of torture carried out on Akbar Mohammadi, Ahmad Batebi and other students during the events of 18 Tir ;
- Bring to justice anyone found responsible for torture and ill-treatment of Akbar Mohammadi, Ahmad Batebi and other detainees;
- Carry out a judicial review of the case of Akbar Mohammadi and others arrested in connection with the demonstrations;
- Immediately release all those found to have been imprisoned solely for the expression of their conscientiously held beliefs.
In early July 1999, a small number of students in Tehran gathered to protest against increasing restrictions on freedom of expression. Following the forced closure of the newspaper Salam (Hello) on 7 July, demonstrations swelled into the hundreds. As the days passed, exchanges with security forces became increasingly angry. On 8 July, peaceful demonstrators were attacked by members of the organisation Ansar-e Hezbollah, a semi-official body that opposes political dissent. Security forces at the scene reportedly failed to intervene to protect the students.
In the following days the size and nature of the demonstrations changed dramatically, leading to an escalation in violence. Despite calls for calm from some student leaders, and an official ban on demonstrations in Tehran, demonstrations continued and spread to other towns and cities. Hundreds of people were arrested throughout the country, most of whom were held without charge or trial. Dozens faced torture and ill treatment in incommunicado detention, followed by manifestly unfair trials and imprisonment.
The unrest was also marked by a raid carried out by plain-clothed members of the Ansar-e Hezbollah and members of the security forces on the student dormitories. This resulted in the killing of Ezzat Ebrahim Nejat. The attack was strongly condemned by both President Khatami and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and two senior police officers were later arrested and removed from their positions following an official investigation. No one associated with the Ansar-e Hezbollah was charged in connection with the raid or the death of Ezzat Ebrahim Nejat.
Iranian NGOs, such as the Association of Human Rights Defenders (AHRD) have repeatedly called for an investigation into the raid on the dormitories and killing of Ezzat Ebrahim Nejat, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. Their calls have gone unheeded.
Amnesty International has been campaigning on behalf of students who have been convicted and imprisoned after trials which failed to meet international fair trial standards. The organisation has also been calling for the investigation of allegations of torture made by the prisoners and for those found responsible for the torture to be brought to justice.
Amnesty International members are writing appeals to the Iranian authorities, on behalf of imprisoned student Akbar Mohammadi. Akbar is in Evin prison serving a fifteen-year prison sentence. He is reported to be suffering from serious health problems, for which medical treatment has been delayed and in some instances denied.