The interrogator of Abbas Amir-Entezam - the first and longest-jailed political prisoner in post-revolutionary Iran - has admitted that the prominent politician who spent decades in prison was a victim of anti-American sentiments.
In an interview with Mostaghbal newspaper on Wednesday, Mohammad-Hossein Mottaqqi who was in charge of Amir-Entezam's interrogations after his arrest in December 1979 said Amir-Entezam was innocent and charges of espionage against him were never proven.
According to Mottaqqi, the prisoner was interrogated for one week at the residence of one of the U.S. diplomats near the embassy after which authorities were informed of his innocence.
Before the revolution Amir-Entezam was part of armed groups opposing the Shah and he spent time in Lebanon before the revolution, where Palestinian and ultra-militant groups at the time had training bases and networks operating with impunity.
After the revolution succeeded in 1979, Amir-Entezam served as deputy prime minister in the Provisional Government of Mehdi Bazargan. He was appointed as Iran's ambassador to Sweden a few months after the revolution. He was arrested two months before the first anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in December 1979 after being asked to quickly return to Tehran.
The charges of espionage brought against Amir-Entezam were based on some documents retrieved by students from the U.S. embassy. The notorious judge Mohammad Mohammadi-Gilani sentenced him to death on charges of spying for the United States and opposing Velayat-e Faghih (guardianship of an Islamic jurist) that was inscribed in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic a few months earlier. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
Amir-Entezam was kept in solitary confinement for 454 days after his arrest. In letters smuggled out of Evin Prison Amir-Entezam revealed that on three different occasions he had been blindfolded and taken to the execution chamber only to be returned to his cell later. On one occasion he was kept in the execution chamber for two days.
"Espionage charges could not be proven. I don't know how the judge sentenced him for it," Mottaqqi said after four decades. He also stressed that in his view Amir-Entezam was a victim of strong anti-American sentiments following the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by students in November 1979.
Amir-Entezam always denied the charge of espionage and for years demanded to be put on trial again and to be exonerated. He was released from prison in 1998 but was rearrested in less than three months because of an interview he gave to the reformist Tous newspaper. In the interview he called Assadollah Lajvardi, the Warden of Evin Prison, "an executioner". He was detained again in 2003 after writing an article in which he called for "an internationally-supervised referendum to determine the type of government in Iran".
Amir-Entezam who was awarded the Austrian Bruno Kreisky prize for human rights in 1997 died of cardiac arrest at the age of 86 in his home in Tehran on July 12, 2018.