Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Return of Television Confessions

Esfandiyar Saffari, Rooz Online:
With the increase in pressure on critics and the growing detentions in recent months, many fear the return of the old television confessions by some agencies in Iran. In the latest such incident, Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeini, secretary general of Iran’s Danesh-Amookhtegan student organization, announced from his place of detention over the telephone,The standard for authenticity of my words and actions are what I have said or done outside the prison, and so any writing or film that contradicts the positions I have made when I was outside the prison has no validity.”

During the recent weeks when the detention centers in Tehran and some other provincial towns in Iran are filled with detainees, reports have been published that speak of pressure on the detained to make televised confessions. The source for these reports relates to the arrest of Ramin Jahanbegloo, a cultural activist. After his arrest, certain pro-government media published reports speaking of “hundreds of pages of confessions” by Jahanbegloo. READ MORE

Similar news reports were published for detainees arrested in connection with the unrest in Tabriz city and some political groups in the city issued statements reporting that the detainees had been pressured for televised confessions.

The short but meaningful news item from prison by Mousavi Khoeini a few days ago has strengthened the suspicion that previous news reports about increased pressure on recent detainees to obtain televised confessions were correct. Khoeini is an Iranian student movement activist who was voted into the sixth Majlis (Iran’s Parliament). In his efforts to form a committee to visit prisons and detention centers in Iran in 2000, he became one of its members and leader of representatives who repeatedly visited Evin and other detention centers. The reports of this committee at the time were one of the main impediments to illegal detentions and coerced confessions from prisoners which created problems for those government agencies that engaged in such activities in prisons.

Khoeini was among the first officials to protest interrogation methods and the practice of “taazir” (torture) of detainees in prisons, and has said, “Measures are also underway to define “taazir” because this term has carried many ambiguities and even some personal interpretations have been made over it.”

Coerced confessions have a long story in Iran and have been practiced not only in the initial years of the victory of the 1979 revolution, but also during all subsequent years. These confessions became the source material for a television series called “hoviyat” (meaning identity). It was subsequently discovered that the series were the product of Saeed Emami (An individual from the ministry of intelligence who was arrested by the government and portrayed as the person responsible for the serial killings of imprisoned writers. He died in prison after taking a strong hair removal liniment) and Hossein Shariatmadari (the editor-in-chief of right-wing extremist Keyhan newspaper). The last time such confessions were broadcast on national television was in connection with the four detained web-bloggers which was severely criticized by political and social circles, in addition to the committee to pursue and oversee the constitution, and human rights organizations in and outside Iran.