To fend off any form of protest and uprisings, the Iranian regime issued unfair and heavy sentences to crackdown on protesters and dissidents. The regime also used vicious tortures as a means to silence any voice of dissent.
The policy of “creating fear by use of heavy sentences” turned into the official policy of the Iranian Judiciary to counter likely protests in 2020. Ebrahim Raisi, a member of the Death Committees in the massacre of political prisoners in summer 1988, heads the Iranian Judiciary.
Human rights activists and organizations have published a number of reports on the torture of protesters. They said those arrested during the protests were harassed, tortured, beaten, flogged, given electric shocks, suspended from the ceiling, subjected to mock executions, waterboarding, sexual violence, forced injection of chemicals and denial of medical treatment.
Eyewitnesses and former detainees have narrated shocking incidents of violence during their detention. Many of them were held incommunicado without access to their family or lawyer, in solitary cells for long periods. They were interrogated and tortured to appear in televised confession shows. Those arrested included minors under the age of 18 as well as women, young people, children, teachers, workers, students, athletes, and artists.
In September 2020, Amnesty International censured the Iranian regime for widespread violations of human rights in the wake of suppression of the nationwide uprising in November 2019. AI outlined a long list of cruel treatment of the detainees and their families. It stressed that the Police, Intelligence services, and prison authorities had committed a collection of “shocking” human rights abuses in complicity with judges and prosecutors.
The present study is a brief glance over cruel punishments of death and flogging sentences, and inhuman treatment of those who exercised their right to freedom of expression in various cities of Iran.
There are at least 34 prisoners of conscience and political prisoners presently on the death row in Iran. Among them are 10 protesters arrested during nationwide protests.
Death sentences for protesters
The Iranian regime’s authorities began brandishing threats of death sentences to crackdown on protesters in the last week of October 2019.
“Execution by hanging rope” was a promise first published by Kayhan daily, a mouthpiece of the mullahs’ leader Ali Khamenei, on the fourth day of the nationwide protests in November 2019.
Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old athlete, was arrested in Shiraz after the protests in August 2018. In complicity with the intelligence services, the Iranian Judiciary sentenced him and his two brothers to death and lengthy prison sentences.
Navid Afkari was executed in Adelabad Prison of Shiraz on September 12, 2020.
Mostafa Salehi, another protester, was executed on August 5, 2020, for participating in the protests of December 2017-January 2018.
More death sentences were issued last year for those arrested during the protests in December 2017-January 2018, August 2018, and November 2019 in different Iranian cities.
In Tehran, three protesters were sentenced to death whose cases are presently being examined by the Supreme Court.
In Isfahan, five protesters who participated in the protests of December 2017-January 2018, were also handed the death sentence.
Death sentences against protesters are issued based on vague charges. They are deprived of access to lawyers and are tortured to make false confessions against their will.
Heavy prison and flogging sentences handed down to protesters
Handing down flogging sentences is a common practice of the Iranian Judiciary.
The Iranian regime, however, made an excessive use of the cruel punishment of flogging against protesters over the past year. They also issued heavy prison sentences for dozens of people for participating in protests.
The flogging sentences for at least three of the protesters, Mohammad Baqer Souri, Ali Azizi, and Elyar Hosseinzadeh have been carried out, so far.
This report summarily reviews only a few examples of the prison and flogging sentences issued for protesters.
Siavosh (Mostafa) Norouzi Jafarlou, a student of Graphics at the University of Shiraz and one the protesters arrested during the protests in January 2020, was sentenced to 8 years in prison and 74 lashes by the Revolutionary and Penal courts of Shiraz.
Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced Morteza Omid Beiglou to 14 years in prison and 222 lashes. Morteza Omid Beiglou was arrested during the protests in November 2019.
The Penal Court of Shiraz sentenced 6 teenagers arrested during the nationwide protests in November 2019 to a total of 468 lashes, payment of fines and imprisonment. The teenagers were identified as Mohammadreza Heydari, Amir Bavi, Jabbar Fiouji, Ali Akbarnejad, and Salar Fiouji.
Fatemeh Davand, 42 and mother of three children, was sentenced to 5 years and 5 months in prison and 30 lashes. The forced confessions of this resident of Bukan were aired on the state television a few days after her arrest.
The Revolutionary Court of Tehran sentenced Hossein Hashemi to 6 years in prison, 74 lashes, re-writing of religious books and washing the dead, for participating in the November 2019 protests.
Torture of protesters
Numerous shocking letters and reports from inside prisons or former prisoners show that detained protesters are tortured to extract confessions from them.
Mostafa Salehi was hanged at dawn on August 5, 2020, in Dastgerd Prison of Isfahan. He was viciously tortured under interrogation. He spent 8 months in solitary confinement in the detention center of the Department of Intelligence of Dowlatabad. He was held another 5 months in solitary confinement in the basement of Dastgerd Prison. During this time, his hands and feet were cuffed and he slept on bare floor without any blanket. His daily food was a small piece of dry bread. He was deprived of visitations for 14 months. His torturers broke his teeth and limbs and inflicted serious damages on his neck and backbone. Despite such tremendous pressure, he kept repeating: “I am innocent!”
Navid, Habib and Vahid Afkari were viciously tortured to testify against one another. Under this tremendous pressure in prison, Vahid Afkari twice attempted suicide. Navid and Vahid Afkari declared in audio recordings sent out from the Prison of Shiraz, that their confessions had been extracted under torture. In another audio recording of part of the trial of Navid Afkari, he says that the report by the Coroner’s Office confirming that he had been tortured was available and that he had a witness for his claims. But the judge presiding the case turns down his request to call the person who had witnessed his torture in a police department in Shiraz.
Amir Hossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi, and Saeed Tamjidi made objections at every stage of their prosecution that their confessions had been extracted under torture. They also said they had been tortured, beaten and given electric shocks.
Morteza Omid Beiglou wrote a letter in which he described the manner of his arrest and his interrogations accompanied by threats, torture, and beating. Agents threatened him that if he did not comply with their demands, they would rape his wife. Omid Beiglou added that agents had broken his teeth and beaten him in the detention center.
Abolfazl Karimi, a young teenager arrested during the protests in November 2019, is detained in the Great Tehran Penitentiary. In a letter from prison, he wrote that intelligence agents had beaten and tortured him under interrogation to extract confessions from him. He wrote that his interrogators also threatened him with the arrest of his family members and rape of his girlfriend.
Before getting arrested, Karimi was a worker and his family’s breadwinner.
Karimi who was under 18 years old at the time of arrest also points out in his letter: “I was detained for nearly 50 days in a solitary cell in the IRGC Intelligence Ward 2A (in Evin Prison). Then I was imprisoned in the general ward for 15 days. Throughout this period, I could contact my family only once and I was under tremendous psychological pressure.”
Hossein Rayhani was denied access to a lawyer for months after his arrest. During this time, he did not have any information about his case. He was repeatedly tortured. He was struck by hosepipes on the sides, back, and limbs. He was held in solitary confinement and psychologically tortured. He has been held without trial but is at risk of being executed.