London, 25 Jan – Detainees arrested during the ongoing widespread protest in Iran have been told to tell the Iranian authorities that they’re drug addicts in order to secure a speedy release, but these statements have actually been used to mar the names of the protesters and cover up suspicion deaths in custody, according to the CHR.
So far, there have been at least five suspicious deaths of protesters in Iran. Two of these, Vahid Heydari and Sina Ghanbari, were accused of being drug addicts who committed suicide. This was despite evidence of torture on their bodies.
In mid-January, Mah Sadeghi, a lawmaker from Tehran stated publically that detained protesters were being forced to take pills.
He tweeted: “Based on statements by the relatives of one of the detainees who died in prison, he had contacted them from prison several times to say that he and the detainees were being forced to take some pills that made them sick.”
Shortly after, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh told CHRI that detainees at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran were told that they would be released early if they requested methadone- a drug used to treat opioid dependence.
She said: “Before meeting a prison official in one of the rooms, security agents talked to the detainees in advance and recommended that if the official asked them about needing anything, they should say they are addicts and ask for methadone so that they would be freed sooner. One of the prisoners told me that he did not fall for it but some of the others did agree to say it [that they are addicts].”
She continued: “Instead of answering questions surrounding the deaths of detainees, the officials have taken an aggressive posture and their addiction charges have wounded the heartbroken families of the dead protesters and the public. This brings up the worrying possibility that this is part of a project to paint the protesters as addicts in order to dismiss them as unimportant and insincere.”
Sotoudeh, a former political prisoner, said that after talking with several detainees, she believes that the Regime is systematically attempting to “paint the protesters as addicts” and called for an independent investigation into the detainees’ deaths, noting that the Iranian officials are legally responsible for the wellbeing of detainees regardless of their current health, addictions, or ‘crimes’.
The CHRI has backed her calls for an investigation into the deaths.
CHRI’s Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi said: “If these protesters’ deaths were not caused by the authorities or conditions at the facilities where they were held, then the judiciary and state officials have no reason to impede an independent investigation.”