IRAN: Jailed activist, in a letter smuggled out of prison, says he's being tortured
Torture, forced confessions, and a kangaroo court. That's what jailed Iranian student activist Abdollah Momeni claims he experienced since his detainment and jailing last year in an extraordinary letter he wrote to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei from his jail cell in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.
"Beatings, verbal abuse and degradation, and illegal treatments started at the very moment of my arrest, Momeni wrote in the letter published on the website of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, or ICHRI.
"From the start of the interrogations, I was forced to write against my friends and those close to me. I appeared in court despite the fact that I was not allowed to have a lawyer of my own choosing representing me....my testimony was dictated to me by my interrogators beforehand," he continued.
Aaron Rhodes, ICHRI's policy advisor based in Hamburg, Germany could not provide Babylon & Beyond with details on how the group received Momeni's letter. But he insisted its contents were "authentic."
Momeni says he felt compelled to pen the letter after he learned about the supreme leader's remarks in a recent sermon in which he spoke of the "importance of opposing injustice and the need to observe fairness."
That same day, said the jailed activist, "I decided to write a letter addressed to you, thinking that perhaps the news about detention centers does not reach you."
His letter comes fresh on the heels of another similar note written by a political prisoner to Iran's chief prosecutor. In his letter, Hamzeh Karami, editor of a reformist news website, before his detainment following last year's disputed June 2009 election, claimed he suffered physical and mental abuse in detainment and that he was tortured into making a confession that he had sexual relations with relatives of Iranian opposition leaders.
Reports about allegations of continued mistreatment of detainees arrested in last year's post-election protests have steadily surfaced in the media and among human rights groups. In late August, Iran's prosecutor-general, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, suspended three high-ranking judiciary officials over mistreatment of detainees at Iran's Kahrizak detention center, according to Iranian media reports. Several other prison officials were also accused of involvement in the deaths of at least three detainees in the facility, the reports added.
Momeni's letter alleges repeated abuse he has been subject to since his July 2009 jailing, including having his head stuck down a toilet bowl, constantly being threatened with execution and being beaten until losing consciousness. His crime? Demanding democracy and reform for Iran, he wrote.
"The iron fist of interrogators would often result in my passing out," he alleged. "On several occasions the interrogator strangled me to the point of me losing consciousness and falling to the ground. For days following these strangulations, I suffered such severe pain in the neck and throat area, that eating and drinking became unbearable."
Hadi Ghaemi, the campaign's spokesman in New York, called on the Iranian authorities in a statement to probe allegations of torture and abuse by detainees and now allow for impunity.
"If Ayatollah Khamenei does not respond by launching a credible and independent investigation aimed at holding violators accountable, then there is ample evidence that these systematic and inhumane methods for extracting false confessions are sanctioned by him," Ghaemi said.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: In a letter to Iran's supreme leader, student activist Abdollah Momeni claims he was tortured and dragged through a shame trial. Credit: ICHRI / ISNA