Tehran’s representative in parliament has criticized the intelligence arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), accusing it of rights abuses.
In an open letter reformist MP Mahmoud Sadeghi has called upon IRGC intelligence director, mid-ranking cleric Hossein Ta’ib to “revise his style of management,” noting that his subordinates ignore the legal standards set for investigations and neglect the legitimate and lawful rights of detainees.
According to the letter, published on Sadeghi’s Telegram channel on April 21, the reformist MP said his constituents frequently complain about the behavior of the IRGC’s intelligence unit during various stages of detention and interrogation.
The IRGC’s Intelligence Organization, closely tied to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, operates parallel to President Hassan Rouhani’s Intelligence Ministry.
Considered the most fearsome intelligence entity in Iran, the IRGC unit expanded its dominance after the so-called reformist Mohammad Khatami won the presidential election in 1997. It has since detained scores of political and civil rights activists, including individuals affiliated with the religious-national activists and Iran Freedom Movement.
It played a pivotal role in suppressing widespread unrest and protests against the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. At the same time, Khamenei issued an edict promoting the IRGC intelligence apparatus to the level of an organization practically on par with the government’s Intelligence Ministry.
However, analysts and legal experts maintain that the existence of the Intelligence Organization -- and specifically its interference in cases related to espionage -- explicitly violates the Iranian Constitution.
Tehran MP and deputy parliamentary speaker Ali Motahari has said espionage and counterespionage operations are the exclusive domain of the Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC has no legal right to interfere.
Khamenei’s approved organization has detained several people charged with espionage, including Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, an Iranian accountant and member of Rouhani’s delegation in Tehran’s nuclear talks with global powers that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015.
IRGC intelligence agents detained several prominent environmentalists on January 24, including the Iranian-Canadian founder of Iran’s Wildlife Heritage, Kavous Seyyed-Emami. Two weeks later, it was announced that Seyyed-Emami had committed suicide at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, an allegation that Seyyed-Emami’s friends and family categorically rejected.
Seyyed-Emami and his fellow environmentalists were charged with espionage, while the chairman of the parliamentary Environment Faction, Mohammad Reza Tabesh, cited top officials of the Intelligence Ministry as dismissing the allegation.
The arrest of Seyyed-Emami and his fellow activists forced the deputy head of Iran’s Environment Department, Kaveh Madani, to leave Iran.
“Since my return to Iran, without any warrant, not only have my personal hardware and social media accounts been broken into, but my ‘citizen rights’ and privacy have also been violated right from the beginning,” Madani wrote in his resignation letter last week.
Sadeghi noted in his letter that the IRGC agents “treated Mr. Madani in such a way that Iranian youth have lost hope in participating in service to their homeland.”
Referring to the environmentalists still behind bars at Evin, Sadeghi admonished Ta’ib by saying, “The way they have been treated clearly violates the legal rights of the defendants, who three months into their detention are still deprived of access to lawyers or meeting with their relatives.”
Sadeghi said the IRGC’s “intelligence approach” toward social and political issues had “seriously damaged” the public’s opinion of the IRGC.
He also voiced dismay that IRGC intelligence authorities do not usually respond to MPs’ inquiries.