Fate of jailed Iran protesters remains foggy, kin fear death

February 08, 2020
Iranian protesters gather around a burning motorcycle during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the central city of Isfahan, in last November. — AFP
Iranian protesters gather around a burning motorcycle during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the central city of Isfahan, in last November. — AFP

By Yaghoub Fazeli

DUBAI — The fate of thousands of Iranian protesters arrested since last November remains unknown, with their relatives fearing they are dead as they have not received any information from authorities, according to a report by the US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Protests broke out across Iran last November after the government introduced gasoline rationing and price hikes. Thousands were reportedly arrested during the protests.

Iranian authorities have not yet released an official death toll nor confirmed the number of detainees in current police custody nearly three months later.

At least 8,600 Iranians were arrested during the nationwide anti-government protests which took place last November, according to an investigation carried out by exile-run broadcaster Radio Farda.

Some of the detainees have not had any contact with their families since their arrest and their whereabouts remain unknown, the US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said in a report.

The detainees are believed to be held by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Intelligence Organization, which is independent from and operates parallel to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence.

“We have no information on some of the people who shared updates, images and videos of the protests, and neither do their families ... we do not know where they are kept, we only know they are held by the IRGC Intelligence Organization,” Ahwazi human rights activist Karim Dehimi was quoted as saying in the report.

Dehimi added that some of the missing detainees were arrested and taken away while receiving treatment in a hospital in the city of Shadegan in Khuzestan.

“Their families are deeply concerned that they may have been killed,” he said, adding that authorities refuse to respond to the families’ inquiries about their loved ones.

In the Iranian capital Tehran, the majority of detainees are held at Qarchak and Fashafuyeh prisons, where some were released on bail due to overcrowding, according to the report.

“Due to the high number of detainees, an extra three branches of the Revolutionary Court which previously dealt with drug-related cases have been put in charge of the cases of the November detainees,” a Tehran-based lawyer representing some of the detainees told the rights group.

The number of detainees is so high that authorities have released some of them with lesser charges on bail purely due to lack of space in prisons, the lawyer said.

Some of the detainees whom authorities have classified as “leaders” of the protests have been denied any legal representation, the unnamed lawyer said.

“We have no information about their status and their cases have not been sent to court,” the lawyer said.

Another Tehran-based lawyer told the rights group that the bail amounts are set so high that many of the detainees’ families cannot afford them.

Some of the detainees released on bail told the rights group that they were tortured in order to force them to confess that they had links to foreign-based opposition groups.

There have been at least 22 cases of forced televised confessions on Iranian state TV since the November protests, according to rights groups. — Al Arabiya English

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