Forty-one political prisoners held at Evin Prison’s Ward 350 have issued a joint statement testifying that dissident blogger Sattar Beheshti was tortured to death while in custody.
The 35 year-old was arrested by Iran’s cyber police on national security charges on 30 October. After raiding his home in the city of Robat Karim and violently arresting the young activist, the security forces confiscated his personal belongings, including his computer and handwritten notes.
A week later, his family was told to receive his body and to buy a grave.
Kaleme, an opposition website close to Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, has published a letter it said Beheshti had written to prison officials while being held in Evin. In his letter, the blogger complained about maltreatment and tortured during his interrogations.
Since Beheshti’s death, his family have been under the pressure and surveillance of Iran’s security apparatus. They’ve also been ordered not to speak to the media about the death of the family’s only breadwinner.
The prisoners of Ward 350 say that Beheshti was held there from 31 October – 1 November. During these two days, they add, they witnessed Sattar Beheshti’s “painful” physical and psychological condition.
“We consider it out national and religious duty to inform the honourable people of Iran about his condition.”
The 41 inmates add, “In the presence of inmates from Ward 350, he [Beheshti] stated that he had been beaten while being hung from the ceiling of the police station. The police then tied his arms and legs to a chair and beat him in that position.”
At times, the prisoners claim, Beheshti’s captors were beating him after handcuffing his hands from behind. “At times, they threw him onto the floor and delivered severe blows with their boots to his head and neck. During the tortures, the most profane language was used against to insult family and he repeatedly received death threats.”
The inmates say they witnessed various bruises, marks and wounds on the body of Beheshti, who appeared to be in agonising pain. They state that Beheshti’s wrists, in particular, bore the marks of extensive torture.
“Sattar, who could hardly write owing to [severe] pain in his arm, wrote a letter of complaint to the head of Ward 350 and in a few lines described his condition and maltreatment at the hands of police, and asked for an investigation.”
The detainees testify that Beheshti was then taken to the Evin Prison clinic where a doctor saw him. On 1 November, he was transferred from Ward 350 to [a facility presided over by] the security police. “As he was leaving, he was very worried and told inmates that ‘they [the police] want to kill me.’ Four days after his transfer, his family was informed of his death.”
According to the 41 prisoners, Beheshti’s torture in Ward 350 is by no means an isolated incident.
They held the leaders of the Islamic Republic responsible for all the blood that has been unjustly spilt as part of the regime’s heavy-handed suppression of dissent.
On Sunday, the Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope, the Green Movement’s highest decision-making authority, expressed its “deep regret” over Beheshti’s “murder.” “Sattar Beheshti’s only crime was that he criticised the country’s despots and inadequate rulers,” the council said in a statement.
“His body was secretly laid to rest in the absence of his family, and with no regard for the rites of burial and funeral proceedings. Since then, not a single official from the police, the relevant judicial bodies or the security organisations of the Islamic Republic has been willing to provide any explanation for this tragedy. Cloaked in an eerie silence, state-run media have not been willing to cover the news of this murder either.”
Calls for probe
International rights groups have called on Iranian officials to launch an investigation into the circumstance of Beheshti’s death.
“Fears that Sattar Beheshti died as a result of torture in an Iranian detention facility, after apparently lodging a complaint about torture are very plausible, given Iran’s track record when it comes to deaths in custody,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director.
“The Iranian authorities must immediately carry out an independent investigation into his death, including whether torture played a part in it. Anyone found responsible for abuses must be brought to justice in proceedings meeting international fair trial standards, without resort to the death penalty.”
On Sunday, the deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament announced that the Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy would be investigating Beheshti’s death.
The same day, Iran’s High Council of Human Rights promised to make public the results of its own findings on the case. “All aspects of the case have been accurately investigated following a special order by judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani,” the council said in a statement.
On Monday, the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, as saying that an autopsy report revealed that Beheshti had indeed sustained bruises on five points on his body, including the legs, wrists, shoulder and one of his thighs.
According to Ejei, Beheshti was arrested on 30 October and died four days later on 3 November.
Just a few hours before Ejei’s announcement, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the Chairman of Iran’s Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, dismissed reports that Beheshti had been physically tortured while in custody.
“Based on initial information, there’s been no trace of beatings on the body of this individual,” he claimed.