The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran announced on June 3rd Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei’s decision to reduce the sentencing for 81 political prisoners. The consideration of release for some prisoners is a positive move. Nevertheless, such a decision clearly reveals the unjust and arbitrary nature of the post-election justice system. The Campaign is asking for the immediate release of 450 other people who are imprisoned solely because of their opinions regarding the Islamic Republic.
The news of Khamenei’s amnesty comes at a time when the arrest of political activists and journalists is on the rise in Iran. The identities of the individuals who have been pardoned have not been released.
Aaron Roodarz, speaker for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said, “The pardon of the leader is proof that these people never committed a crime. All political prisoners who were arrested under similar conditions and who were put through sham trials must be released. Otherwise, it is a clear indication that this ‘pardon’ is nothing more than a political move to deflect criticism from both within the country and from the international community as the one-year anniversary of the election approaches.”
The International Campaign for Political Prisoners has announced that in order to obtain the ‘leader’s forgiveness,’ prisoners were put under extreme duress. In one instance, when film director Mohammad Nourizad refused to ask for a pardon and stated that he had done nothing wrong, he was severely beaten by prison officials.
Nourizad was once considered a supporter of the Iranian leader, but after the election, he began to view the government unfavorably. He wrote several open letters criticizing the leader, after which he was arrested. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and 50 lashes. There are many other prisoners who, for the same reason, have insisted on their innocence and have refused to ask for forgiveness.
According to the Iran courts, the verdict has been finalized for 250 of those arrested in the post-election period. The Campaign believes that there are at least 2,000 people who have been temporarily incarcerated, and others whose trials have not ended. There are only 3 judges who have the authority and responsibility over the post-election prisoner files: Abolghasem Salvati, Mohammad Moghisheh, and Pir Abass.
The Campaign is asking the office of the Judiciary in Iran to release all people imprisoned because of their beliefs and opinions. These prisoners have not committed any crime and should not have been arrested. Roodarz stated that “the time has come for those responsible for making these false arrests to be held accountable for their actions.” The Campaign believes that the 3 judges responsible for the cases of the post-election prisoners should be dismissed, and all files under their supervision be immediately placed under judges who abide by the law.
Several human rights lawyers have told the Campaign that they never had a chance to defend their clients, and that security agents had a strong influence on their clients’ verdicts. In addition, during the past few months, political prisoners have been given abnormally heavy bail amounts (up to 800 million tomans) in order to be freed from jail. Many of them have been prohibited from making family trips or leaving the country. These large bails are being used as a tool to guarantee the silence of the prisoners after they are released.
Several released human rights activists in Iran have said that their interrogators call them frequently, making threats and demanding that they not appear in public places. They are warned of re-arrest if they do not follow the demands of the interrogator. The Judiciary and Security agencies must put an end to this illegal behavior and cease all harassment of political activists, journalists, and human rights activists.
Roodarz observed, “If the released prisoners are harassed and controlled when they are out of prison, one can no longer consider them to be free.”