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Either Confess or Die, Agents Warned Award-Winning Student

Ali Younesi, a bright 20-year old physics student was arrested with physical assault at the family home on April 10, 2020

An award-winning Iranian student is allegedly under pressure to make a forced televised confession in order to commute his death sentence, his sister says.

In a tweet on Saturday, Ali Younesi's sister, Aida, said that the Ministry of Intelligence agents in charge of investigating her brother's case gave her brother the option to make a televised confession on August 2.

Aida said that agents told her brother, "We will decide the judge's verdict. If we want, the verdict would be a death penalty ... but you would be spared provided you accept to have a televised confession." While Ali's trial has yet to be held, Aida said that Intelligence Ministry agents told her brother that they were responsible for deciding his fate, not the courts.

Ali Younesi, the silver medalist of the National Astronomy Olympiad in 2016 and the gold medalist of the World Astronomy Olympiad in 2017, was severely beaten before being arrested without a warrant on April 10, 2020.

Ten plainclothes agents raided Ali's residence without a warrant and brutalized him before taking him away to an unknown location, the Iran Human Rights Monitor reported. The reasons behind Ali's arrest, the charges against him and the location of detention are still unknown.

In a video clip recently published on social media, Aida demanded an explanation from intelligence services for the arrest of her brother, challenging officials to either provide more information on Ali's case or otherwise issue an apology for slandering him.

"Where is it written in the laws that a twenty-year-old boy should be brutalized while his parents are shocked by seeing his bloodied face?" Younesi said.

On the day Ali was arrested, the Intelligence Ministry's agents detained another award-winning student rights activist, Amir Hossein Moradi.

Also in his twenties, Moradi is a physics student and the silver medalist of the National Astronomy Olympiad in 2017.

Days after their arrest, Gholam-Hossein Esmaeili, the spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, accused the two students of having links to "counter-revolutionary" groups, particularly the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO).

Working with MKO, Esmaeili said that the two young men were involved in subversive operations and were ready to engage in actions to sabotage Iran.

Intelligence agents also allegedly held a meeting attended by directors of the Sharif University of Technology, the Students Basij and the Islamic Association directors on July 13 at the Tehran Public Prosecutor's Office.

Based on several accounts published by those present at the meeting, judicial and security officials attempted to force the two students to accept some of the charges. The attempt failed after the audience supported their award-winning classmates.

In a report on the gathering, the Sharif University Islamic Association divulged that the detained students were deprived of the right to meet their families and did not have access to a lawyer of their choice.

After five months of incarceration, the authorities have not held any court hearings for the two detained students.

The Younesi family has dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous" and "fictional," citing the judiciary's history of "mental and physical torture of the detainees" to force "so-called confessions," as well as applying "pressure on families."