Rights groups urge EU to sanction Iranian TV for airing prisoners’ confessions

IRIB reporters Ameneh Sadat-Zabihpour and Ali Rezvani, who human rights groups say should be sanctioned for their roles in the interrogations. (Twitter)

Human rights groups have called on the European Union Council to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) for airing forced confessions of political prisoners over the years. 

At least 355 people have been forced to confess that they instigated protests or operated on orders from foreign intelligence services on state TV following protests after Iran’s controversial 2009 presidential elections, according to the London-based human rights organization “Justice for Iran.” 

There have also been at least 22 cases of forced televised confessions on Iranian state TV since the November 2019 anti-government protests, according to the rights groups’ joint letter to the EU Council.

There is a “real risk” that those who were arrested in the aftermath of the shooting down of the Ukrainian airliner on January 8 by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will also be forced to confess in front of camera, the letter’s 13 signatories said.

Iran said it arrested the person who filmed the footage showing the Ukrainian airliner being shot down by a missile. Security forces also arrested dozens in the protests that followed Iran’s admission to downing flight PS752.

The rights groups are concerned that the content of the forced confessions will be used to give detainees harsher sentences, including the death penalty. The fate of those who confess on TV usually remains unknown.

The signatories of the letter have also requested three IRIB officials and four IRIB reporters be sanctioned – including Ameneh Sadat-Zabihpour and Ali Rezvani – for their roles in extracting and broadcasting forced confessions. 

Sadat-Zabihpour and Rezvani have both previously been accused of being involved in interrogating detainees. 

Labor rights activist Sepideh Gholian revealed in December 2019 that Sadat-Zabihpour was present during her interrogations.

Gholian said that “after hours of physical and psychological torture,” Sadat-Zabihpour presented her and other labor rights activists with a pre-prepared text for them to read in front of camera as “confessions.”

Rezvani was also accused of being involved in interrogating activists and their families.

Ramin Seyed Emami, son of Kavous Seyed Emami, an Iranian-Canadian environmental activist and university professor who was arrested in 2018 and later died under suspicious circumstances in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, had said that Rezvani had been at his parents’ house along with a group of agents from the IRGC intelligence service.

Emami said that his mother had to be taken to the hospital following her interrogation with Rezvani.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:57 - GMT 06:57
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