Omid Memarian

Friday, March 16, 2007

Bashful Deceptions or Responsible Assertiveness?
Behind the Arrests of Women: In Response to the Allegations of Judiciary's Spokesman

Dr. Alireza Jamshidi, who recently abandoned his lectures, research, and his academic position, and has been promoted from his position of Judicial Development Deputy with the Judiciary Branch, to the Speaker for the Branch, in his recent press conference and in reply to questions about the condition of Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr, the two prisoners in custody after last week’s protests by women, has said:
“In this assembly, the Police tried to address the issue in a peaceful and non-military fashion. These ladies seemingly had gathered by the Revolutionary Court to protest a trial scheduled for that day. Their assembly was a planned illegal gathering, and of course they were gently confronted.”
These words are uttered by the very author of Citizen’s Rights Guidelines, The Proposal for Elimination of Solitary Confinement, The Law for Alternative Punishment, and other legislature and bills within the Judiciary Branch. Though it is understood that the Speaker has to tread sensitive waters, it is expected that he won’t lose sight of justice. How is a congregation of 40 friends and colleagues of five accused in last July’s gathering by the Court House, and their peaceful attempt to convey a message through silence and devoid of any noise, through standing on the street, illegal? Which article of Iranian Constitution supports Mr. Speaker’s words? Is the country under a martial law? Should we interpret what he says to mean that national security is so compromised in Iran that intelligence and judicial analysts have arrived at the conclusion that if a few women stand on the street and display placards, our national security is threatened? Then the question becomes who and how is he responsible for having compromised national security over the past several years, such that a citizens’ assembly is now so threatening?

The other point he raised is the “planning” in this gathering. All evidences indicate that these were the closest friends and colleagues of the five women on trial. The five women were on trial on the charge of “Actions Against National Security by Participation in Illegal Gatherings.” The ones gathered outside were attempting to attest to a fine point, a contradiction, in the treatment and confrontation of the Judiciary (or intelligence, or security, or whatever), and that fine point was that we, too, had participated in that assembly! There was a hidden message in this gathering, a message worthy of contemplation by anyone who cares about justice and citizenship rights.

First, Mr. Speaker should also explain in what ways the Police attempted to “in a peaceful and non-military fashion” address the situation? What kind of peaceful attempt is utilization of foul-mouthed individuals, inattentive to basic manners, individuals who destroy the image of the Police? Secondly, what is the meaning of arresting people without warrant, transferring them to Vozara Complex, delaying reading of their charges, and sending them to Evin Prison for four nights? Does Alireza Jamshidi believe that arresting these women for an assembly, but questioning them about their private life and their friends’ professional and business affairs is a peaceful confrontation? Is it peaceful to ask some individuals questions about their moral values and about their boyfriends?

In many countries, even when police intervene in gatherings—meaning large gatherings where police use tear gas and water pumps to disperse the crowds—if some of those involved in the protests are arrested, within a few hours they are released, because the objective is to disperse the crowd, not to treat the crowd violently. But it should be pointed out to Mr. Speaker that prior to the arrests of 33 women’s rights activists, imprisoning them between 48 hours and 11 days (thus far), repeated interrogations, talk about financial support for their activism, their trips abroad and such matters, there had been other precedents, and neither those precedents, nor the recent arrests were peaceful. On the contrary, it is obvious that a segment of our security-judicial system, which sees the world through a very small viewpoint, instead of strengthening its policing and intelligence methods through which national security is increased, uses simple-minded methodologies, and creates a great liability for citizens.

Additionally, he may be a newcomer to the Judiciary, but everyone knows about the kingdoms and fiefdoms of Evin Prison. Mr. Speaker is aware that in the past, no authority could question goings on of sections of this same prison. Such kingdoms and fiefdoms are still on in this locale. Maybe they have better coordination. News of three-shift interrogations and keeping political prisoners in the Death Row Ward, and those interrogated round-the-clock by separate teams is reminiscent of memories to some.

Furthermore, it is expected that Mr. Speaker would elaborate on what exactly a “soft confrontation” is. Is it the kind different from the one Zahra Kazemi received? Or the kind dealt Saeed Emami’s wife? What are the characteristics of this confrontation? Is it by “words” alone? Or is it “environmental?” For whom and for what reason and to what end is such a confrontation prescribed? Doubts and suspicions about the announcements of the Judiciary’s educated newcomer pick up momentum when we remember that only two years ago, in a meeting with District Attorneys of the country, Ayatollah Shahroodi, Head of Judiciary, spoke words which are completely different from the words expressed today. Let’s review his words:

“They acquire a permit to interrogate, they take the prisoners to private prisons, without a judge or clerk in attendance they conduct their interrogation, and then they tie this with the Prison System. It is only the judge’s responsibility to question [the accused]. Any confessions acquired this way are not considered confessions. We have revived the
Local District Attorney system to prevent this type of treatment. Local courts must not dodge this responsibility, because one of the reasons for revival of local courts was to revive the role of the judge, previously performed by the police….Types of questioning, types of interrogation must be made clear, for example sometimes we see that they arrest someone for financial issues, but during the questioning, he is asked about moral issues, family matters, photographs, and family trips. This is not right, because it has nothing to do with his charges…Have you ever seen how they get people into cars* some cases we observe that the types of behavior displayed resembles what Americans do to terrorists in Abu Ghoraib Prison. Therefore we must be cognizant that in regular crimes this type of confrontation is not performed…A local court which behaves in this way is better closed than revived.”

We ask Mr. Jamshidi, Judiciary’s Speaker, how things have improved over the past two years, since Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad and his team have come to power? What genetic and super-human evolution has taken place in the “better closed than revived” Judiciary, rendering its confrontations “non-military” and “peaceful?” Please tell us why Mr. Shahroodi assimilates the interrogators’ behavior to that displayed in Abu Ghoraib Prison? What did he mean by that and how have things changed? Please give us some examples of the Abu Ghoraib-like treatment! Tell us that during questionings of recent years, some prisoners have had to shower naked in front of cameras. Tell us of the sick interrogators, themselves in dire shape, “peacefully” asking prisoners to write details of their sex life. Thanks to Islamic Republic of Iran’s Broadcasting Organization, we all know what happened in Abu Ghoraib.

It is no secret how vulnerable some of the prisoners shoved behind the doors of solitary confinement are. Only a few people have ever been able to navigate through the many layers surrounding high authorities, keeping information from reaching them, to tell stories, attesting to the truth about what happens with the District Attorney’s Office and the interrogations and such, and this is how the Head of Judiciary was moved to say the words that he did, the same man who upon taking power, had called the Judiciary “in ruins.”

Even if we are sure that such treatment is spared the arrested women, the question is why are you going to such lengths to hide the truth? Why are you hiding facts about a situation over which you and the Head of Judiciary have the least amount of control? Or have you slowly reached a peaceful ground with parts of the Judiciary about whom even your boss is angry?

Arrests of women on the pretense of an assembly, prolonged interrogations about their personal and professional affairs and beliefs and such, is starting another project for which Kayhan is salivating, so that once again using the written interrogation reports, editorials are produced. This will neither increase your and Mr. Shahroodi’s prestige, nor will it improve the reputation of the Judiciary. The honest dedicated segments of the Judiciary, who work day and night to uphold justice, are watching these events with concern. All human rights activists are sure that segments of the Judiciary and the Cabinet can return peace of mind to our citizens. Your conservative and non-exact opinions implicitly support the unacceptable behavior of certain individuals within the Judiciary, emboldening them in their illegal behavior. We expect differently from Mr. Shahroodi…You will be indebted to history if you can’t stop the tears of children of those imprisoned. Welcome to the important position of Speaker. Bashful deceptions or responsible assertiveness?


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