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Atrocity in Iranian prisons continue unabated

TEHRAN, Iran, March 2, 2000 (IPS) Mr. Akbar Mohammadi, a student condemned to death sentence charged prison authorities of physical and mental torture, ill-treatment and gross violations on his person

In a letter sent from the notorious Evin prison to the Iranian Islamic Judiciary Chief, the Iraqi-born Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, Mr. Mohammadi, a student condemned on charges of "fighting God" and "rebellion against the Islamic Republic", Mr. Mohammadi denounces his conditions and asking him to intervene before it is too late.

The letter, large excerpt of which was published by reformist press and ignored by the conservative publications is a typical example that despite efforts made by the government of President Mohammad Khatami, savage, inhuman practices against political prisoners continue in Iranian prisons.

Mr. Mohammadi's death sentence had been confirmed last week by an Islamic High Court, rejecting an appeal motion for clemency that was introduced in January by Mr. Ne'mat Ahmadi, the Mohamadi's lawyer.

The Supreme Court has as well confirmed sentences issued against Mr. Ahmad Batebi, the young students who's picture holding the bloodied T-shirt of a friend wounded by the Law Enforcement Forces that became the Cover of many international newsmagazines to 10 years, Mr. Ali Shafe'i to 2 years and 6 months, Mr. Mehran Abdolbaghi to 9 years and Mr. Arya to 7 years of firm imprisonment.

Mohammadi was the only one of three students sentenced to death. His only recourse now is to seek an amnesty from Iran's lamed leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i.

Mr. Akbar Mohammadi, the younger brother of Manouchehr Mohammadi, the general secretary of the Association of Nationalist Iranian Students (ANIS) was condemned to death after he was identified in pictures published by the press throwing cocktail Molotov at members of pressure groups during anti-regime, anti-leader demonstrations waged by angry students last July.

But he says what looked being like a cocktail Molotov was in fact nothing but a bottle of water he was tending to demonstrators.

The riots, the worse the Islamic Republic had to face, sparked after Law Enforcement Forces and conservatives-controlled Ansar Hezbollah thugs savagely attacked a peaceful demonstrations by students in their dorms protesting the closure of the reformist daily "Salam".

The attack lasted several hours. LEF and members of the pressure groups in civilian clothing charged the students, burned their rooms, beat them up and occasionally threw one of them out of the window.

Mr. Manouchehr Mohammadi, 37, portrayed a the student's ringleader, was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment on charges of collaboration with foreign-based Iranian opposition personalities and groups.

He was condemned after he "confessed" on television to the charges, admitting he had received money, assistance and equipment from organisations opposed to the Islamic Republic.

In his letter, distributed to the press by his parents who live in Amol, near the Caspian Sea the younger Mohammadi says he was "physically tortured and whipped from the beginning".

To mark the authenticity of the letter, the press said it was written from cell 93 of block 209 of Evin.

"Specifically, I was hung upside down while being flogged at the bottom of my feet with metal cables as a result of which, I have suffered the loss of two toe nails. Because of severe punches and kicks to the facial area, I' have lost most of my hearing on my right ear".

"The prison doctor ordered me to hospital but up until now I have not been taken there and I continue to suffer," he said.

According to Akbar, his "only crime" was to be the brother of Manouchehr Mohammadi. "I have always honestly and genuinely stated that I had nothing to do with these events except to hand out water to the students and even to the security forces", he further said in his letter.

He also insists that prison authorities tried to force him into signing a confession and to identify and accuse individuals whose pictures were shown to him. "Because of my belief in the almighty and the fact that I have not witnessed any wrong doing by people whom I' have never seen, I never signed the confession", he added in his letter.

One year after the bloody demonstrations and while at least 1.500 students had been detained and jailed, 20 policemen went on trial on Tuesday in a military court for their role in the demonstrations.

The 11 officers and nine men, including former Commander of the LEF for Tehran, Revolutionary Guard's Brigadier-General Farhad Nazari, were charged with assaulting students at the dormitory complex.

General Nazari was accused of having ordered the attack against the orders of the Interior Ministry.

At his appearance, he was offered flowers by some Islamic vigilante and dismissed officers, but as the trial went in and students describing the inhuman treatment they received, he lost his arrogance, yet did not show any resentment.

The contrast between the slowness of the court martial of the police and the speed with which the courts prosecuted and convicted student demonstrators sparked criticism from reformers here.

The case marked a rare prosecution in open court of members of the powerful security forces, who have often been seen as a law unto themselves.

One student, Ramin Karimi described how the Islamic vigilante and the revolutionary guards had thrown out him from the window, saying "O Hossein (the tird and much venerated imam of the Sh'ia Muslims) this is a gift for you". "One I touched the earth, wounded, legs and arms broken, I heard other vigilante shouting he is alive, let's finish him off".

Another student, Mr. Mohsen Jamali, a medical student, told how he lost an eye after a tear-gas canister hit him in the face and police refused to allow the ambulance carrying him to leave the complex.

Other students testified to being forced through lines of policemen who beat them with batons before throwing them out of windows or down stairwells.

Student's lawyer, Hojatoleslam Mohsem Rahami, who also acted as lawyer for former Interior Minister Abdollah Nouri said while one hear talking about damages to the installations, rooms and other properties, I don't hear anything about damages caused to the students dignity.

Mr. Mohsen Armin, a newly elected leftist MP from Tehran, vowed the next parliament would take up the case if the judiciary did not prosecute the so-called pressure groups widely blamed for the attack.

Hearings will resume next Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran sentenced Wednesday three leaders of the Iranian People's Party (IPP) to long term prison terms.

The IPP's top leaders, Dariush Foruhar and his wife, Parvaneh Eskandari were savagely murdered in November 1998 at their residence in Tehran by high ranking officers of the Islamic Republic's Intelligence Ministry

The leader-controlled Iranian Broadcasting reported that Mr. Bahram Namazi, 65 was condemned to 15 years, Mr. Khosro Seyf, 68 and Mr. Farzine Mokhber, 58 to 13 years and Mr. Mehran Abdolbaqi to 5 years prison terms for "forming illegal political party, anti-government propaganda and rebellion against the Islamic Republic."

The men were arrested in July 1999 after student demonstrations in Teheran and held in Evin prison before being tried on an unknown date, the group said.

Mr. Namazi, the Party's interim general secretary was sentenced to 15 years as he was also accused of having insulted the leader of the Islamic regime, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i.

The small but outspoken organisation is one of Iran's oldest political formation that calls for the separation of the State from Religion and the replacement of the present theocracy by a secular system.

Though considered as "illegal", yet the IPP, like the Iran Freedom Movement is tolerated by the Islamic regime.

In a statement released from Paris where it is based, the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDHRI) said it was "extremely concerned" about the conditions in which the (sentences) were handed down and demands the immediate and unconditional release of the three men, whom the League considers as "prisoners of conscience".

Noting the bitter defeat suffered by the conservatives and their leader, ayatollah Khameneh'i at the recent Legislative elections, observers both in Iran and outside generally regard the recent sentences as the conservatives last shots against the reformists who won the absolute majority if the next 290 seats Majles (parliament).