Political Prisoners Including Swedish Resident Hidden from Ambassadors During Evin Prison Visit
Shortly before Iranian officials took the Swedish and other foreign ambassadors on a staged tour of Evin Prison on July 5, 2017, Swedish resident Ahmadreza Djalali and other political prisoners were moved to a ward under the control of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
“That same morning, security agents took Ahmadreza and several other inmates to Ward 209 and returned them to Ward 4 in the evening,” a source close to Djalali’s family told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “The agents themselves admitted that they were hiding them from the ambassadors who were coming to visit the prison.”
When the Djalali family contacted the Swedish Embassy in Tehran, “they were told that the embassy was following up on Ahmadreza’s case at the highest levels, but unfortunately, they still do not have precise information about his situation,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
“They did not answer the family’s questions about the Swedish ambassador’s visit to Evin Prison,” added the source.
Intelligence Ministry agents arrested Djalali, an expert in emergency disaster medicine who lives in Sweden, near Tehran on April 24, 2016. He was visiting Iran on an official invitation by Tehran University and had previously cooperated with the country’s Red Crescent Society.
More than a year and a half into his imprisonment, the charges against him have not been publicly disclosed, but during the interrogation stage he was accused of “collaborating with enemy states.”
“Moving the prisoners before the ambassadors arrived means Iran’s human rights situation is not good,” added the source. “Otherwise there was no reason to move Ahmadreza and the other prisoners. Obviously they have violated his human rights and they didn’t want him to talk to the ambassadors and tell them what hell he has been through.”
Continued the source: “They have accused him of espionage and kept him in prison for 15 months without any evidence. The family has repeatedly asked for his case to be reviewed and his human rights to be respected. The family wants the Swedish ambassador and Iranian officials to look into his case.”
Djalali is due to go on trial on August 2, 2017 at Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Abolqasem Salavati.
Salavati has not only denied Djalali’s lawyer of choice on several occasions, he also threatened Djalali with the death sentence on the first day of his trial.
Salavati has presided over many cases involving dual nationals, including Iranian-British citizens Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, currently serving a five-year prison sentence, and Kamran Foroughi, serving a seven-year prison sentence.
The judge is also infamous for imposing harsh sentences in politically motivated cases.
“They have no evidence whatsoever against Ahmadreza,” the source told CHRI. “All they have is a piece of a confession that he was forced to sign after months of interrogations and threats against his family.”
Forced “confessions” in politically motivated cases are often extracted under the threat of or actual torture and then broadcast by the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) to win public opinion.
Responding to a tweet by CHRI, Swedish Ambassador Helena Sångeland said she was aware of the limited nature of her visit to Evin Prison.
“Clearly limits to what we were shown,” she said.
Envoys from countries including Great Britain, Germany, Japan and Denmark were among the dozens of diplomats who were treated to a reception on Evin Prison’s lawn after the heavily guarded tour.
Civil rights activists Atena Daemi and Golrokh Iraee, currently imprisoned in Evin, pointed out some of the places the ambassadors were prevented from viewing in a joint letter from the prison on July 8.
“Did they give you a tour of Ward 209, Ward 2-A or Ward 241? Did they show you the solitary cells without windows, ventilation or toilets? What about the cells known as the ‘graves?’” asked the political prisoners.
“Did they introduce you to a physician with the alias ‘Shahriari?’” asked the prisoners. “He’s the one who finds out what’s wrong with sick prisoners just by looking at them. He’s the one who never dares to sign his name because he’s afraid one day he will be exposed for his malpractice.”
“When we invite guests to our home, we obviously try to make a beautiful presentation, even if it’s the same place where [thousands of] political prisoners were executed in the 1980s,” added the letter.
An estimated 4,500-5,000 political prisoners who had already been tried and sentenced—mostly members of political opposition groups—were suddenly executed in prisons throughout Iran including Evin during the summer of 1988 without being provided access to due process.