Iran’s Chief Justice Sadeq Amoli Larijani claimed that there are no political prisoners in Iran.
Amoli Larijani made the claim on Monday February 4 during a meeting with senior judicial officials in Tehran while announcing that 50,000 prisoners would receive “amnesty” on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian regime.
According to Judicial officials there were more than 200,000 prisoners in Iran’s prisons in 2016 and 2017 which is three times more than the prisons’ capacities.
Amoli Larijani criticized calls for pardoning political prisoners, claiming “We currently do not have such prisoners.”
He said at the meeting on Monday that “acting against security is different from political offenses defined in the law,” adding that these are two different offenses ,and different legal procedures apply to those who are accused of such offenses.
“Some people talk about releasing political prisoners or dissidents to marginalize this great measure. We do not have any criminals categorized as political prisoners. If someone acted against national security, this is an independent criminal offense that has to be addressed.
Political crimes have been defined in the law and seeing to these crimes has its own legal procedures,” Larijani added in comments carried by the state-run ISNA news agency.
International human rights watchdogs have observed that most political activists in Iran are charged with “acting against security,” possibly because the government does not want to be criticized for having “political prisoners.”
Responding to calls for pardoning political prisoners, Amoli Larijani said: “Unfortunately some people who have positions in executive bodies have said that the amnesty incorporate critics (of the regime).
It seems that they are indicating that there are people in prison only for criticizing (the regime). What a big lie this is. Is there anyone in prison today for criticizing (the state)? The judiciary has never prosecuted anyone only for criticism.
These remarks stem from a lack of attention to the fact that libel and insults are different from criticism and lawmakers have also distinguished between the two. We say explicitly that criticism is not at all a crime in the Islamic Republic,” the cleric said.
Iranians on social media have explained that the Judiciary’s jargon for “political prisoners” is “security prisoners.”
Ensiyeh Daemi, the sister of imprisoned political prisoner Atena Daemi tweeted “Every time that we go to the prison’s prosecutor’s office to ask for visitations, we write ‘political’ in fron of the slut that say ‘charges’. Then the secretary crosses it out and writes security. This is how they claim that we do not have political prisoners in Iran.”
Other officials of the Islamic Republic have also denied the existence of political prisoners in Iran time and again. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters during one of his visits to the United States that “No one is imprisoned in Iran for his or her beliefs.”
This is while lists of thousands of Iranian political prisoners and prisoners of conscience have been published by human rights organizations during and before Amoli Larijani’s stint as Judiciary Chief.
In addition to political prisoners with various political leanings, Iran jails journalists and religious minorities including Baha’is, dervishes and converted Christians.
Iran’s Judiciary even summonses members of the parliament regardless of their immunity, for making critical comments.
This is not the first time that Iranian officials deny the existence of political prisoners in Iran calling them “security” prisoners.
Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs recently said in an interview with an American journalist that “no one is imprisoned in Iran for their beliefs”.