Iran: Human Rights Groups Call for Release of Prisoners, as Larger Crackdown Looms
By Staff Writer
On Thursday, the Italian human rights organization EveryOne released a statement in partnership with Iran Human Rights Monitor, urging the release of all political prisoners detained in the Islamic Republic of Iran over the previous six months.
The statement highlights “widespread arrests” and the killing of “defenseless prisoners” that started during nationwide “pro-democracy demonstrations” that began on December 28, 2017. The initial protests in the city of Mashhad gave rise to more of the same in approximately 140 cities and towns throughout the country. In many of those demonstrations, participants were heard to chant provocative slogans like “death to the dictator” and “death to Rouhani,” in reference to Iran’s supreme leader and president, respectively.
Relying on intelligence networks inside the Islamic Republic, the National Council of Resistance of Iran determined that roughly 50 people were shot dead during the protests, 8,000 were arrested, and at least 14 were tortured to death while in custody.
It is not known how many of the 8,000 detainees remain in jail to this day, but even among those who were released on bail, hundreds have recently been subjected to indictments, including indictments on national security charges that could carry the death penalty. Before the nationwide uprising was suppressed in January, representatives of the Iranian judiciary declared that capital punishment would be the likely outcome for leaders of the movement.
Thursday’s statement called for the release not only of those who were accused of participating in the January uprising but also of those activists who have been caught up in a law enforcement dragnet in the subsequent months. These ongoing arrests continue to result in reports of torture, forced confessions, and the arbitrary punishment of political dissent. An Iran Human Rights Monitor report pointed out on Wednesday that a detainee by the name of Masoud Ghanbarzehi had recently been transferred to Zahedan Central Prison following three weeks of torture after he was accused of “acting against national security by cooperating with opposition groups.”
Regime authorities’ anxiety about opposition groups has been noticeably elevated since the January uprising, which prompted Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to acknowledge that the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) had played a leading role in the planning and execution of the protests. This was a significant digression from the regime’s usual strategy of downplaying the political strength of major opposition groups and denying that they have significant followings within the Iranian Regime.
The PMOI/MEK and its allies have similarly been blamed for more recent protests that grew out of the January uprising. Iran Regime’s fficials have accordingly warned Iranians of the potential consequences of cooperating with such organizations.