Iran forcing confessions from political prisoners: rights group

[JURIST] People arrested in Iran after last month's disputed presidential election [JURIST news archive] have been beaten, deprived of sleep, and threatened with torture in an effort to force false confessions, according to a report [text] released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. HRW alleges that Iranian authorities are attempting to support accusations that the post-election civil unrest was orchestrated by Western powers by having detainees sign blank statements or give videotaped confession under duress. The report points to the cases of Amir Hossein Mahdavi, editor of the reformist newspaper Andishe No, and Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek [media websites] correspondent, as emblematic of the situation in Iran. Both were arrested, detained, and subsequently confessed to their involvement in foreign-directed plots on state television, though supporters of both men have defended their innocence. Among the first-hand accounts gathered for the report is that of a 17-year-old who was beaten, sleep deprived, and given a blank confession to sign during four days in detention, and another describing the release of prisoners with "bruised faces and hands" from Tehran's Revolutionary Court. An eyewitness said that a list of people who were still detained was posted outside the court, suggesting that "their families should come back in a couple of weeks." HRW urged authorities to allow prisoners "to communicate with counsel of his own choosing" and "not to be compelled to ... confess guilt" in accordance with Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], to which Iran is a party. Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official profile; BBC profile] on Monday warned Western nations [BBC report] to stay out of the country's internal affairs, claiming that relations with meddling countries would suffer

Iran has been experiencing turmoil in Tehran and elsewhere since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was declared the winner the election in June. Last week, a conservative paper called for opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi [IranTracker profile; JURIST news archive] and former president Mohammad Khatami to be tried for treason [JURIST report] for their involvement in post-election protests. Also last week, the Iranian government barred the publication [press release, in Persian; JURIST report] of a newspaper linked to candidate Mehdi Karroubi, attempting to quash political dissidence. The country's Guardian Council of the Constitution [official website, in Persian] recently certified the contested results [press release, in Persian; JURIST report], officially sanctioning the re-election of Ahmadinejad. Authorities stated that those arrested would be dealt with [Reuters report] by the court system. Human rights groups have viewed the arrests as political repression [JURIST report], saying that Iranian forces are using the protests to "engage in what appears to be a major purge of reform-oriented individuals."



 

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