Brutal torture of Iranian protesters revealed in Amnesty report

Brutal torture methods – including pepper spraying genitals, pulling out finger nails and stringing prisoners up in agonising ‘chicken kebab’ position – are revealed in Amnesty report on ‘Iranian interrogation tactics’

  • The tactics followed mass protests in November 2019 after a major petrol hike
  • An estimated 7,000 people were arrested amid a near-total internet blackout 
  • Amnesty recorded more than 500 people subject to unfair criminal charges
  • Many were tortured into making confessions, with some sentenced to death

Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Iran’s security forces of using torture to extract confessions, saying hundreds of people have been jailed since a sweeping crackdown against protests last year.

Demonstrations erupted across Iran in November 2019 after a major petrol price hike, but they were put down by security forces with mass arrests amid a near-total internet blackout.

Amnesty said it had gathered dozens of testimonies from the 7,000 people it estimated were arrested, which included children as young as 10.

The accounts reveal ‘a catalogue of shocking human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment’, the London-based human rights group said.

Torture techniques included water boarding, beating, electric shocks, pepper spraying genitals, sexual violence, mock executions and pulling out finger and toe nails, Amnesty reported. 

Pictured: Methods of torture allegedly used by police in Iran against citizens who took part in the November 2019 demonstrations against the petrol price hike and the government. Amnesty International released the above images to demonstrate the methods

Those arrested were tortured into ‘confessions’ of involvement in the protests, membership of opposition groups or contact with foreign governments and media, it added.

Torture and other ill-treatment by police, intelligence operatives and others ‘was widespread’, the rights group said.

Amnesty said it had recorded the names of more than 500 people ‘subjected to unfair criminal proceedings in connection with the protests’.

‘Hundreds have since been sentenced to prison terms and flogging and several to the death penalty following grossly unfair trials which were presided over by biased judges behind closed doors,’ Amnesty said.

Prison sentences ranged from one month to 10 years, the report said, for charges such as gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security’, ‘spreading propaganda against the system’, ‘disrupting public order’ and ‘insulting the Supreme Leader’.

One man allegedly tortured with electricity told Amnesty: ‘It felt like my entire body was being pierced with millions of needles.’

Pictured: Demonstrators gather during a pro-government demonstration to react to protests due to fuel price increase of Iran, on November 25, 2019 in Tehran, Iran

The protests divided Iran, with some coming out in support of the government following the demonstrations. Pictured: Iranians burn US flags during a rally to show their support to the Islamic Republic system and to condemn the demonstrators

Another man said he was suspended from his hands and feet from a pole – a method reportedly called ‘chicken kebab’ by his interrogators – the report read.

‘The pain was excruciating,’ he said. ‘There was so much pressure and pain in my body that I would urinate on myself… My family know that I was tortured, but they don’t know how I was tortured. I feel choked with tears because there is no one here I can speak to.’

A third man, from from Khorasan Razavi province, spoke of how he was subjected to waterboarding, telling the activist group: ‘They [my interrogators] would drench a towel in water and place it over my face.

‘Then they would pour water slowly over the towel, which made me feel like I was suffocating… They would stop… until I started to feel better and then they would start torturing me this way again. They also punched, kicked and flogged me on the soles of my feet with a cable.’ 

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, gave a statement on the findings. 

‘Instead of investigating allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment and other crimes against detainees, Iranian prosecutors became complicit in the campaign of repression by bringing national security charges against hundreds of people,’ she said.

The research done by Amnesty International (pictured, file photo) took 500 names of people who claimed they were subject to torture methods, forcing them to confess to crimes

People were subject to these charges ‘solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, while judges doled out guilty verdicts on the basis of torture-tainted “confessions”‘, Eltahawy added.

The Regional Director said that people were made to make televised confessions for state propaganda videos, accompanied by ‘grotesque statements from top officials who have praised intelligence and security forces as heroes for their role in the brutal crackdown.’

In Amnesty International’s release, the group urged member states of the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to address the human rights violations in Iran by establishing a UN-led inquiry.

In May, Iran’s interior minister suggested that up to 225 people were killed during the November protests, when petrol pumps were torched, police stations attacked and shops looted.

A group of independent UN rights experts said in December that more than 400 people could have been killed in the crackdown, based on unconfirmed reports.

Iran blamed the violence that broke out during the protests on ‘thugs’ backed by its foes the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. 

Iranian wrestling champion receives a double death sentence on top of 74 lashes while his two brothers are jailed for a total of 81 years for taking part in a protest against the regime 

An Iranian wrestling champion has been sentenced to death for taking part in protests against the regime in 2018. 

Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed two death sentences for Navid Afkari along with six years and six months in prison and 74 lashes, according to Persian-language broadcaster Iran International.  

His brother, Vahid Afkari, received a prison sentence of 54  years, while a third brother, Habib, was given 27 years and both will receive 74 lashes. 

Iran’s judiciary charged the brothers with 20 different crimes including ‘attending illegal gatherings, assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security, and insulting the supreme leader.’  

Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed two death sentences for wrestler Navid Afkari (pictured) along with six years and six months in prison and 74 lashes

Navid (left) and his brother Vahid (right) were sentenced by Iran’s supreme court along with a third brother, Habib 

A source close to the brothers said Navid, a wrestling champion with no criminal record, and his siblings had joined in the protests ‘so the judiciary deemed the participation of all three brothers as the organisation of a group’. 

It is not clear why two death sentences were handed down to the same person.  

Iran International reported that Navid and Vahid Afkari were severely tortured to give confessions. 

The US government made similar claims, alleging that ‘Khamenei’s thugs tortured Navid to the point that he confessed to fake crimes’.

‘Those who were not satisfied with trampling on Navid’s human dignity have now sentenced him to death,’ a Persian-language statement said.  

The court even heard testimony from witnesses who described the beatings and torture, it is claimed, but judges ignored it.  

An Iranian opposition group quoted their mother Bahieh Namjou as saying the brothers had been arrested by plain-clothes officers without a warrant. 

British-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi pleaded with Iran not to execute the brothers, saying: ‘Champion wrestler Navid Afkari has been sentenced to death for participating in anti-government protests in Iran. 

‘Those close to him have said he was subjected to a forced confession under torture. Stop executions in Iran.’

According to Amnesty International, Iran is already the world’s second-most prolific user of the death penalty after China, with at least 251 executions in 2019. 

Amnesty said some people were executed in public, while several of the condemned prisoners were under 18 at the time of the alleged crime.  

The human rights charity also alleged there were ‘systematic violations of fair trial rights’ in Iran.  

Last month Iran’s judiciary halted the executions of three young men convicted in connection with November’s mass anti-government protests.   

The #Don’tExecute campaign erupted after three men – Amirhossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi – were sentenced to death on charges of taking part in arson and vandalism during the 2019 protests.

An Iranian opposition group quoted their mother Bahieh Namjou (pictured) as saying the brothers had been arrested by plain-clothes officers without a warrant

Sadeq Saba, the editor of Iran International, said: ‘The Islamic Republic has witnessed many protest movements over the years, most recently in mid-November over petrol price rises. 

‘Security forces brutally killed hundreds of people and detained thousands more. These movements have become more radical, more frequent and have spread across Iran.’

He added: ‘In response to internal and external pressures, the regime has adopted a bunker mentality, evolving into an authoritarian-theocratic centralised state presided over by an all-powerful supreme leader with no respect for constitutionalism.’

Many of the recent protests have been set off by economic hardships, in a country where many people have struggled to make ends meet because of US sanctions. 

Further protests erupted last year after an announcement that gas prices would rise by as much as 200 per cent.

The US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January 2020 initially led to an outpouring of grief and nationalism in Iran. 

But the public anger turned against the regime after blundering Revolutionary Guards shot down a passenger plane with dozens of Iranians on board. 

The stand-off with the US eventually calmed, and political tensions were soon superseded by the coronavirus crisis in which Iran was an early hotspot. 

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