Exiled Ally Talks About Jailed Iranian Activist's Torture Allegations
Iranian student activists Abdollah Momeni (left), who's now in jail,
and the recently exiled
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has
letter, addressed to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, by prominent
Iranian human rights activist Abdollah Momeni in which he describes being
tortured, forced to make false confessions, and subjected to a "show trial."
Here are some excerpts:
Beatings, verbal abuse, and degradation, and illegal
treatments started at the very moment of my arrest. During my arrest, tear
gas was used, which prior to this had only been used in the streets and open
air. Breathing tear gas in a confined space made me feel as if I were
choking and rendered me unable to move. Still, the security officials did
not stop at that. With great spite and hostility they began to beat me,
punching and kicking me, so that they could turn me over to their superiors
at Evin prison with a bloody nose, mouth, and bleeding teeth and shackled
arms and legs.
The iron fist of interrogators would often result in my passing out. 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.
More than 400 days have passed since my arrest.... I just want to inform all
that I continue to hold the same beliefs that I had prior to my arrest and I
remain true to those beliefs.
Momeni is the spokesman of Advar Tahkim Vahdat, which is the alumni organization
of Iran's largest reformist student group. Several members of the group have
been arrested in the postelection crackdown while others have been forced into
exile, including Mohammad Sadeghi, a member of the central council of the
pro-reform organization who spoke to me about the plight of Momeni and the
reasons for the pressure on his organization.
Q: Your friend and
colleague Abdollah Momeni has written a letter from Evin prison in which he
recounts the torture and pressure he's been subjected to in order to make false
confessions. Momeni was arrested also several times in the past. Why do you
think he's come under so much pressure?
Mohammad Sadeghi: As
you know, Abdollah Momeni is one of the leaders of Iran's student movement who
in his activities has been always critical of the Iranian establishment, and
he's always done all he can to defend the rights of students who have been
sentenced to prison or [banned from classes] over their activities. Momeni also
had a great role in the entering of the Advar Tahkim Vahdat into the election
process. [Editor's note: Advar campaigned for reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi.)
He had very progressive and influential views ahead of last year's presidential
vote. He's always been very sensitive about human rights and he had a
significant role in leading the student movement. Naturally, all of this and his
critical stances have led to the anger and grudge of the establishment against
him. He was arrested again after the presidential vote after being jailed a
number of time in past years, and the establishment attempted to break Abdollah
Momeni as the symbol of the student movement to deal a blow to the student
movement and critical students and halt their activities."
Q: We received
reports that even when he was out of jail on prison leave for the Iranian new
year he was being pressured. You were still in Iran at that time. Could you tell
us about the kind of pressure he was facing then?
Sadeghi: Momeni had
been allowed out on prison leave under some kind of agreements -- [officials]
had told him that he had to distance himself from his previous stances, and they
had also said that he should play their game. In the very brief time that he was
out of prison, he was contacted many times by his interrogators, security
organs, and judiciary officials who wanted him to go to different universities
and speak against himself and Advar. He was even invited onto state television
to "confess" to his mistakes. A number of times reporters from hard-line media
contacted him for interviews. Momeni never accepted any of those demands. They
particularly wanted him to publish a letter against [opposition leader Mehdi
Karrubi] and against Advar. Momeni refused to do so and was forced to return to
Q: Momeni is the
spokesman of Advar. Ahmad Zeidabadi, the secretary-general of your organization,
is also in jail and reportedly also under great pressure as well as at least
three senior members -- Ali Malihi and Hassan Assadi Zeidabadi and Ali Jamali --
who were arrested last month. What are the reasons for the crackdown against
Tahkim Vahdat has in past years -- under reformist President Mohammad Khatami
and also before and after last year's presidential election -- has always
criticized the power structure in Iran. Many believe that our organization has
always been in the forefront of the fight for democracy of the Iranian people.
The establishment is forced to react to a group that is based on the fight for
human rights and freedom and challenged the power structure through its
criticism. The members of Advar -- including its then-secretar-general, Musavi
Khoeni -- were also arrested...the offices of Advar have been shut down a number
of times. I think that these reactions are the result of the freedom-seeking
efforts of Advar. But I'd also like to say that Advar is alive, like other
groups that are trying to remain active despite government pressure. Advar's
activities will not stop because of the arrest of a number of its members. Advar
has 15 provincial branches in Iran, our website is active, and the few senior
members who have not been arrested are continuing their work. We are still
pursuing the demands of the Iranian people.
Q: So you think
based on your own observations that the pressure and the increased repression
has not managed to silent the opposition Green Movement?
Sadeghi: When I read
the letter by Momeni and other friends, I come to several conclusions: It
uncovers the crimes that the establishment committed after the election against
the people and political activists; and the other issue is what you asked -- the
democracy movement of the Iranian people is alive despite all the pressure,
despite the dirty and cowardly projects of forced confessions. It all
demonstrates that prisoners who are now under harsh conditions are still
standing by their positions by publishing letters and documents. And this is a
dismissal of attempts by authorities to force prisoners to false confessions.
It is a sign that the movement is alive, the arrests, killings and pressure have
not put an end to the postelection crisis -- [authorities] don't even give
permissions to hold religious ceremonies. There are no more street protests, but
we will have more crisis in the country in the future and authorities have no
choice but to give in to the demands of the people.
Q: Can you also
explain under what conditions you were forced to leave Iran?
Sadeghi: I was
jailed for two months last year and released on a bail of 100 million toumans
(about $100 000). I was facing several charges and I was expecting a court
decision; in the meantime, a Czech NGO, "People in Need," gave Abdollah Momeni
and jailed student Majid Tavakoli its Homo Homini human rights prize. I picked
up the prize from the Czech Embassy in Tehran on behalf of their families.
After that I was faced with pressure from security organs who accused me of ties
to foreign embassies and even spying. Since I had also been banned from studies
and it was clear that they had plans to arrest senior members of Advar, I was
forced to leave Iran. It's now been about one month since I fled Iran, and I
currently live in Paris. I personally didn't want to live outside Iran; I really
wanted to be with my people and continue the fight. But I was forced to leave.
Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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