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Concerns Over Fate Of Detained Protesters In Iran

Video grab shows riot police and protesters in a neighborhood of Tehran, on Saturday December 30, 2017.
Video grab shows riot police and protesters in a neighborhood of Tehran, on Saturday December 30, 2017.

Nahid Khoda Karami, a member of Tehran City Council, has expressed concern over the condition of protesters who were detained during the recent demonstrations in Iran’s capital.

She said on January 7 that people still have "bitter memories" about the deaths of detained protesters 9 years ago and worry the same could happen again.

All members of Tehran’s city council are reformists; swept into power in May 2017 elections.

Following the controversial presidential election in 2009 and the re-election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad, millions of voters took to the streets to challenge the official results. Security forces arrested thousands.

In Tehran, hundreds were transferred to a substandard facility on the outskirts of the city. Young protesters were held alongside serious criminal offenders who allegedly tortured and, in some cases, raped them.

According to official accounts, at least three detainees died due to torture and poor conditions. More than eight years later, the prosecutor-general of Tehran at the time, Saeed Mortazavi, received a two-year prison sentence, in November 2017 to for being an accessory to murder; after almost 8 years legal wrangling.

“People are concerned that another judge, another rogue element, or another cellmate who is a thug will make a mistake and, God forbid, something can happen, which is irreversible,” Karami said.

According to official numbers, approximately 1,800 people were arrested during the recent protests in Iran, at least 100 of whom are students. Only a handful has been so far released.

According to two members of the Iranian Parliament, most of the detained students did not participate in the protests and their arrests were a “pre-emptive” measure.

On January 7, 37 student associations demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the detained students. In a letter to the science minister, the students accused the security institutions of illegal interference in university affairs and described the arrest of their colleagues as unjustified, citing Article 27 of the constitution, which allows public gatherings so long as participants do not carry arms and are not in violation of the fundamental principles of Islam.

However, in practice, any public gathering in Iran requires a permit from the Interior Ministry, and only those requests that pose no challenge to the establishment are approved.

Against this background, the decision by members of the Tehran City Council on January 7 to ratify a bill determining a place for public protests cannot be considered an improvement of the situation.