Two of the Iranian protesters who were sentenced to death last week had fled to Turkey in December in order to apply for political asylum; instead, they were arrested and handed back to Iran for imprisonment.
Mohammad Rajabi, 25, and Saeed Tamjidi, 27, were handed over to the regime authorities on 28 December and sent to Tehran’s Evin prison, where their friend and co-protester Amir-Hossein Moradi, 25, was already interned.
Last week, it was announced that all three were sentenced to death by Abolqasem Salavati, a notorious judge of the No.15 branch of Islamic Revolutionary Court, according to opposition media.
Moradi has a diploma in computer science and used to sell computer parts, cell phones and computer software before his arrest. Tamjidi has bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.
Their death sentences were not unexpected because on 19 November, the state-controlled Kayhan newspaper had published an announcement on behalf of the Ministry of Islamic Justice that death sentences would be issued for those who led the protests, which were sparked off by a big jump in fuel prices four days earlier. On 26 November, state media aired a live program during which Abolfazl Bahrampour, a Quranic expert, talked about how it was necessary to amputate limbs of those arrested and torture them to death for their participation in the protests.
The brutal suppression of the protests led to the massacre of at least 1,500 protesters, according to Reuters. Amnesty International reported 4,800 protesters were injured and the government announced the arrest of over 7,000 although the real number could be twice that.
The death toll increased even further as many of those arrested later lost their lives as a result of torture or lack of medical attention during detention. From the very first days of the protests, authorities announced their plan to execute some of the protesters in custody in a show of strength to others who might take part in future anti-regime protests.
The three young men had taken part in the second day of the nationwide protests in the Sattarkhan district of Tehran on 16 November. Moradi was the first to be identified three days later by the security forces using CCTV footage and he was then arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence. After spending a month in solitary confinement in the Ministry’s No. 240 detention center, he was transferred to Evin prison in December.
As soon as Moradi was picked up, Rajabi and Tamjidi immediately tried to escape to Turkey, to seek political asylum, only to be arrested by Turkish police. They handed the two asylum seekers back to Iran at the request of Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the pair were sent to Evin prison, where they were initially sentenced to one year in prison for illegally leaving Iran.
According to relatives of Moradi, he was tortured with electric shocks and lashes and was forced to confess. The interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence promised to treat his wounds if he signed a false confession sheet and agreed to testify in court. One of the charges against Moradi was instructing the protesters how to lead the crowds and stop the security forces filming the protesters.
Torture and forced confessions are common mistreatments doled out to detained protesters, according to Amnesty International citing family members. The corpses of those who die under torture are often disposed of in dam reservoirs or rivers by the security forces. In several cases, they have been delivered to their families on condition they agree not to hold public funerals for them.
There has been a deafening silence in the Western media about the brutal treatment of these protesters. More death sentences for arrested protesters should be expected from the Islamic Revolutionary Courts in the coming weeks and months.