Iran General NewsTop reformers admitted plot, Iran declares

Top reformers admitted plot, Iran declares


ImageNew York Times: Iranian leaders say they have obtained confessions from top reformist officials that they plotted to bring down the government with a “velvet” revolution.

The New York Times

Published: July 3, 2009

ImageCAIRO — Iranian leaders say they have obtained confessions from top reformist officials that they plotted to bring down the government with a “velvet” revolution. Such confessions, almost always extracted under duress, are part of an effort to recast the civil unrest set off by Iran’s disputed presidential election as a conspiracy orchestrated by foreign nations, human rights groups say.

Reports on Iranian Web sites associated with prominent conservatives said that leading reformers have confessed to taking velvet revolution “training courses” outside the country. Alef, a Web site of a conservative member of Parliament, referred to a video of Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who served as vice president in the reform government of former President Mohammed Khatami, as showing that he tearfully “welcomed being defrocked and has confessed to provoking people, causing tension and creating media chaos.”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards, Mojtaba Zolnour, said in a speech Thursday that almost everyone now detained had confessed — raising the prospect that more confessions will be made public. Ayatollah Khamenei is supreme religious leader.

The government has made it a practice to publicize confessions from political prisoners held without charge or legal representation, often subjected to pressure tactics like sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and torture, according to human rights groups and former political prisoners. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of people have been detained.

They fear the confessions are part of a concerted effort to lay the groundwork for banning existing reformist political parties and preventing any organized reform movement in the future. “They hope with this scenario they can expunge them completely from the political process,” said Hadi Ghaemi, coordinator of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based group. “They don’t want them to come back as part of a political party.”

The confessions are used to persuade a domestic audience that even cultural and academic outreach by some of the nation’s top academics is really cover to usher in a velvet revolution, human rights workers and former prisoners say.

“If they talk about the velvet revolution 24 hours a day people don’t care,” said Omid Memarian, a former Iranian journalist who was arrested and forced to issue his own confession in 2004. “But if reformers and journalists say they are involved in it, it makes the point for them. Once my interrogators said, ‘Whatever you say is worth 100 times more than having a conservative newspaper say the same thing.’ ”

Fars, a semiofficial news agency, reported the confession of a Newsweek reporter, Mazaiar Bahari, that he had done the bidding of foreign governments, as well as a confession by the editor of a newspaper run by Mir Hussein Moussavi, the opposition leader. And at Friday Prayer, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said the government planned to put on trial several Iranian employees of the British Embassy — after confessions were extracted.

In addition to Mr. Abtahi, other prominent reformers being held include Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, Mr. Khatami’s spokesman, and Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former deputy interior minister.

In 2007, Iran produced a pseudo-documentary called “In the Name of Democracy,” which served as a vehicle to highlight what it called confessions of three academic researchers charged with trying to overthrow the state. “They don’t like new ideas to get to Iran,” said a researcher once investigated about his work, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “They don’t like social and cultural figures in Iranian society to become very popular.”

In 2001, Ali Afshari was arrested for his work as a student leader. He said he was held in solitary confinement for 335 days and resisted confessing for the first two months. But after two mock executions and a five-day stretch where his interrogators would not let him sleep, he said he eventually caved in.

“They tortured me, some beatings, sleep deprivation, insults, psychological torture, standing me for several hours in front of a wall, keeping me in solitary confinement for one year,” Mr. Afshari said in an interview from his home in Washington. “They eventually broke my resistance.”

The problem, he said, was that he was not sure what he was supposed to confess to. So over the next several months, he said, he and his interrogators “negotiated” what he would say — and, more ominously, whom he would implicate. Once his confession was complete, he said, he practiced it for 7 to 10 days, and then it ran on state-run television.

Three years later, Mr. Memarian, the journalist and blogger, was arrested in another security sweep. He said that his interrogator at first sought to humiliate him by forcing him to discuss details of his sex life, and that when he hesitated, the interrogator would grab his hair and smash his head against the wall. He said the interrogator asked him about prominent politicians he had interviewed, asked if they ever had affairs, and asked if he had ever slept with their wives.

“I was crying, I begged him, please do not ask me this,” said Mr. Memarian, who is in exile now in the United States. “They said if you don’t talk now you will talk in a month, in two months, in a year. If you don’t talk now, you will talk. You will just stay here.”

The pressure was agonizing, he said, as he was forced to live in a small cell for 35 days with a light burning all the time and only three trips to the bathroom allowed every 24 hours. He was forced to shower in front of a camera, he said. At one point the interrogators threatened to break his fingers.

“They came up with names, and topics,” he said. “They gave me a three-page analysis and said read this and include it in your confession. My interrogator once said, ‘You have written seven years for the reformists; it’s O.K. to write for us for two months.’ ”

Mr. Memarian said that even in 2004, his interrogators were most interested in several leading reformers, including Mr. Abtahi, who at the time was an adviser to the president. When he was finally released, and after his confession was published by Fars, he was asked to testify before a committee led by the reform government investigating confessions, which included Mr. Abtahi. Mr. Abtahi, who has not been heard from since his arrest on June 16, understood even back then just how vulnerable he was, Mr. Memarian recalled.

“Abtahi said, ‘We cannot guarantee anyone’s security,’ ” Mr. Memarian said. “ ‘We know what happened to you guys. When you leave this building we do not know will happen to you, or what can happen to us in this committee.’ ”

Latest news

The World Must Acknowledge the Iranian People’s Right to Self-defense

Victor Hugo once said: “When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.” Throughout history, this has been the...

Iran: 60% Of Population Is Poor

The livelihood baskets of the Iranian people are shrinking dramatically. This, in turn, has introduced new concerns to protect...

The implications of EU’s terrorist designation of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC)

The European Parliament called on January 18 for the European Union to list Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a...

Iran’s Regime Is Hiding Human Rights Violations In Its Prisons

With more than four months into Iran’s latest round of nationwide uprisings, the brutality of the Iranian regime’s security...

How Internet Censorship Is Damaging Iran’s Economy

While in the last four months, internet access in Iran has been cut off or severely limited, the regime’s...

Iran Regime’s Upcoming Budget Bill Will Lead To More Protests

On January 12, the Iranian regime’s president Ebrahim Raisi handed over the country’s budget bill to the parliament.  According...

Must read

Iran’s technical export contracts top $2.5b in 2008

Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Apr. 06 - Iran signed...

White House rejects Ahmadinejad accusations

AFP: The White House Thursday accused President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad...

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you