Reza Rafii-Forushan, an Iranian stringer for Time magazine, appeals his frame-up in the following open letter. The Persian original is published on RAHANA’s website.
His Eminence Ayatollah Amoli Larijani
While submitting my greetings,
God is the Manifestation of truth, He loves truth and is disgusted with lies, for piety only takes form in truth and nowhere else, for without truth, neither faith nor piety appears before us. The human who worships God and seeks Him has the power to see the truth and can distinguish it from the false. The only people who refrain from seeing the truth are those who are afraid of it for various reasons and plot to eliminate it.
(Explanation: Publishing this as an open letter means that it is possible to send it on government stationary through the prison and the predetermined deadline to investigate it has come to an end, since nothing has effectively been done by Your Eminence about Your Servant’s appeal, and it has not even been confirmed that Your Eminence has yet received it, and since it has passed its legal course and there is nothing else to be done but to publish this appeal and complaint publicly and in an open form, we have thus come do to so.)
This appeal has been sent to Your Eminence so that, while stating the facts and distinguishing truth from falsehood and right from wrong, it might help you to come to the aid of trampled righteousness and the oppression which has been visited upon me, and by acquainting you with the essence the frame-up in Your Servant’s case and, in accordance with Article 34 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, I meekly appeal to you to review the absolute truth about Your Servant and the complaint lodged against the judge of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, Mr. [Abol-Qasem] Salavati,1 the Ministry of Intelligence, and the Voice and Visage of the Islamic Republic in a blatant and conspiratorial frame-up to hide the truth and poison the officials’ ideas and public opinion in such a way that they could not see the crowd and trample underfoot Articles 23, 35, 37, and 39 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution and, ultimately, trample underfoot Your Servant’s human, Islamic, legal, and civil rights. According to Article 181 of the Constitution, I have the right to compensation for material and psychological damage and a rehabilitation of my character and punishment what those who spoke and acted against me.
A frame-up is not as a lack of knowledge, but active, the effect of evil forces the source of which is corrupt and violent efforts to mislead our senses and which nourishes in our souls the habit of resistance against right and wisdom. Should I have for an instant found it in myself to trust the idea that this frame-up resulted from the judges not having infinite wisdom and perhaps erring regarding some facts and that the judge does not investigate any case fully, and so Your Servant’s case, too, might perhaps be one of these instances, I would never have published this letter, and so I state that although you consider the institutions and individuals whom Your Servant is criticizing to be pure and clean, it might not be so, and their actions might to a large degree unconsciously arise from political aspirations or void perspectives.
And now I will break my bitter silence of one year. I will command you the proper and in the meantime call upon exalted God as witness that I am not saying anything but the truth and am avoiding lies and insults, and proceed to write the facts and my long-suffering complaint in hope that it might be received in that spirit.
An Explanation of the Events
At noon on Tir 6, 1388 [June 27, 2009], agents of the Ministry of Intelligence arrested Your Servant in his mother’s home and transferred him to of the Ministry of Intelligence’s terrifying Detention Center 209 located in Evin Prison. They imprisoned me in the narrow and filthy Solitary Confinement Cell 105, which measures 2 by 1.5 meters. I was kept for 43 days in the worst physical and psychological conditions and interrogated with beatings and deprived of any human or civil rights, my eyes blindfolded. These interrogators kept me under severe moral and psychological pressure, with threats and terror mixed with deception and trickery, trying to extract false confessions against myself and others.
For example, they insistently asked me to make a false confession against the sons of one of the statesmen whom I have the honor of knowing and pressured me to make a false confession to his having had an illegitimate relationship with the faithful and honorable wife of a former Majlis representative. Although I resisted their illegitimate and false demands, the psychological pressures exerted on Your Servant caused him to him to suffer anal bleeding which remained with me for some time.
Although in Your Servant’s opinion and according to Article 38 of the Constitution, all confessions under torture or duress lack value and credibility, explaining them to you will make you aware of the sort of interrogations which are practiced on the accused when he was arrested, and so I will lay them out for you.
The interrogators centered on campaigning and electoral activities and investigating opinions about support for my preferred presidential candidate, whose suitability had been recognized by the Guardian Council, activities which had been carried out to attract votes of Iranians living abroad. These interrogations, contrary to Article 23 of the Constitution, were accompanied by inquisitions into beliefs and inappropriate insults and lying exaggerations, and on top of that, they brought under question the fundamental rights included in Article 27 of the Constitution about participating in the peaceful protest marches of 25 Khordad 1388 [June 15, 2009] in protest against how the elections were held and the votes were tabulated, the violation of the principle of impartiality by the Voice and Visage, the illegal support by a number of members of the Guardian Council of one of the candidates and the culture utilized by the winning candidate and tried to link it with the street disturbances.
The interrogators then tried to denigrate Your Servant’s proud history as part of their agenda, an example of which follows:
First, there was Your Servant’s long years of press activity and collaboration with the respectable magazine Time, by insinuating this false presupposition that Time belonged to the Pentagon and was run by the CIA. I was accused of collaboration with the American intelligence organization merely based on this presupposition, overlooking the fact that this respectable magazine had had an active desk in Iran with the permission of the Ministry of [Culture and] Islamic Guidance for over twenty years and that all the presidents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, including Mr. Ahmadinejad, sat for interviews with it. Moreover, the Distributors’ Company, which is part of the Ministry of [Islamic] Guidance, distributed it in Iran.
Following this, my legal activity as president of the Iran-Swiss Friendship Society, which is an NGO and has been confirmed as being licensed by the Iranian Ministry of the Interior and works to bring the people of Switzerland and Iran closer and which organized cultural and scholarly meetings and exhibitions to gather funds for student stipends for the children of this homeland, done with the legal cooperation of the Swiss embassy in Tehran as laid out in the society’s founding statement, was also denigrated and I was accused of spying for Switzerland. On the excuse that the Swiss embassy staff members in Tehran are American spies, they continued hurling groundless accusations against Your Servant.
From the point of view of the honorable interrogators, Your Servant was and is absolutely a born American spy. They had no need to present any arguments or documents to confirm this charge and Your Servant’s higher education and long sojourn in Switzerland and America were only presuppositions and false evidence against Your Servant. But since I answered all the interrogators’ oral and written questions honestly and rejected all their vain charges decisively, the interrogators focused on Your Servant’s activities in the media companies in the UAE.
Your Servant began his activity six years ago in a private media company in Dubai by starting broadcasts and providing technical support for television channels via Arabic satellites, the greatest pride of which was founding and supporting the television channel Kerbala, whose endowment was for the pure shrine of Imam Hosein (Upon whom be peace!). This channel spread Shiite culture among the Arabic countries and was under the direct supervision of Ayatollah Sistani and the honorable officials of the pure shrine of Imam Hosein (Upon whom be peace!)
Five years before, one of Iran’s statesmen, who had been one of the highest officials in the system for years, asked Your Servant to set up a special satellite television channel. This channel was set up, but I refrained from sending its programs up from the antenna because of the National Security Council of Iran’s clear statement that this channel’s activities were illegal, and I even accepted all the resulting financial losses of these people. The Ministry of Intelligence’s interrogators, paying no attention to my having held fast to the law, took this as another excuse to charge me.
Finally, Your Servant’s broad working connections with state and government officials of Iraq and the UAE, which were the result of having set up the Kerbala Channel, and which had no connection with Iran, was also taken as an occasion for raising the charge of espionage, of which I considered and consider myself exonerated by honest answers to the questions they raised.
On 12 Mordad 1388 [August 3, 2009], the interrogators sent a copy of Kayhan to solitary confinement cell 105 in which the confessions of some leading figures of the reform faction in court were published, and the accused, who from the beginning of his confinement had no access to newspapers or any kind of news about the events outside the prison, studied them earnestly. That very night, the interrogators threatened me, saying that I had shown absolutely no cooperation and so they would issue a hodud punishment and that if I were to continue to not cooperate, Your Servant would be sent to the basement of Detention Center 209 for a “reception” and the execution of hodud.
This session lasted for hours and finally, frightened of a lengthy and illegal imprisonment in a cage which they named a seclusion cell and in which I would be at the mercy of the guards for the most minor human needs, such as going to the toilet, so that they might keep the accused prisoner for hours under the pressure of his intestines, colon, and bladder or even be so obstinate as to make the accused wallow in his own excrement and so force him to give in to their demands.
I firmly believed that the day would come when their lawlessness and the frame-up for implementing this conspiratorial plot of the Ministry of Intelligence would be exposed. And so, I prepared myself to cooperate with them to be freed from my imprisonment. What I did not expect was the Ministry of Intelligence’s insistence on Your Servant’s continued and unrelieved imprisonment to prevent the revelation of this great feast.
Starting the next day, the interrogation sessions were turned into sessions for making excuses and practicing the text of a false and forged defense prepared by the Ministry of Intelligence. In the space of less than a week, I went before the cameras three times to read a statement prepared in advance and it was revised according to the interrogators and people who had by now joined them, though I could not see their faces because of the blindfolds. Then, on Friday, 16 Khordad 1388 [June 6, 2009], which fell on mid-Shaaban, the birthday of His Holiness the Imam of the Age, they transferred me to the Palace of Justice. It was closed, but I, and nine other prisoners, all of whom were dressed in the uniform of Detention Center 209, along with a number of Ministry of Intelligence operations officers, entered the courtroom and read the prepared text before the Judiciary’s representatives of that time and representatives of the Ministry of Intelligence and the Voice and Visage cameras which had been brought along by Mr. Shamshadi’s organization’s reporters. Voice and Visage, in an inappropriate, un-Islamic, and illegal move, went and broadcast this false and forced exercise in its 8:30 Channel Two program.
From among the ten people present in the exercise session in the Palace of Justice, five were chosen to be present in the fake show trial of Saturday 17 Mordad 1388 [August 8, 2009], known as the Foreigner’s Trial. This was a show trial since it was rehearsed before it was performed and it was fake because the texts which we read had been prepared in advance.
Saturday morning, I, along with Ms. Reiss, the French citizen, was once more transferred to the Palace of Justice by a personal car accompanied by Ministry of Intelligence operations forces so that I could be “tried” in public by Judge Salavati, the judge of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, in front of the Voice and Visage’s cameras and in the presence of the magazines’ journalists and photographers. Yet the Voice and Visage’s broadcasting and the magazine’s reporting of Your Servant’s name and taking advantage of me before having even confirmed the charges was against the shariat and a clear violation of the law and Article 29 of the Islamic Republic’s constitution. This has offended the accused’s honor and person and is therefore illegal and can be litigated under criminal law, particularly since it was a conspiratorial frame-up between various security institutions, the judiciary, and the Islamic Republic’s Voice and Visage to deceive public opinion and the court of the nation’s officials concerning an event, which had vast consequences in the country’s security, this in and of itself being a clear measure against national security through conspiring and making a frame-up.
In this fake court, Judge Salavati officially began the trial with a pure lie. He announced before the Voice and Visage cameras and the reporters, “The accused had defense lawyers and met with their lawyers and their lawyers reviewed their clients’ files.” This speech of the judge was not true, at least in my case, since not only had I been deprived of having a lawyer and had not met with any lawyer, but there was not even any cross-examination (unless it could be done blindfolded) and the code of appeals was not obeyed in Your Servant’s case. I saw that individual who was forced by the court to be my imposed lawyer for the first time in the courtroom.
Did such a court, under such conditions, generally satisfy my human and legal rights? Do we need another reason for a retrial? Wasn’t the Islamic Republic’s judiciary aware of this frame-up?
In this court, I read prepared texts parts of which, of course, I refrained from reading on the excuse that I had forgotten them. But on the whole, instead of defending myself, I would confirm the charges brought against me in the indictment against myself and here I believe that according to Article 38 of the Constitution, since these statements had been expressed under pressure and compulsion, they lacked and lack any value or credibility.
After the court, along with Ms. Reiss, and separated from the other accused, were sent to Iran’s Guantanemo, i.e., Detention Center 209 of the Ministry of Intelligence, Your Servant was once again transferred that same day to cell 52 in which three accused were imprisoned which had twice the dimensions of the previous cell, that same day and after 43 days of imprisonment in solitary confinement.
Forty days later, I was summoned to Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court. There, Judge Salavati, in the presence of the lawyer appointed by that court, gave me a letter of representation by the imposed lawyer for me to sign. I told them that I had a defense lawyer and preferred to have a lawyer of my choice take up my defense and that I would refrain from signing. Judge Salavati announced that no other lawyer would be allowed access to the case and that should I refuse to accept the imposed lawyer, the next session to investigate my case would be put off for six months. I was therefore forced and, in order to prevent my period of imprisonment from being extended, I accepted the lawyer appointed by the court as my lawyer.
The only written question which was then asked of me as my last defense was, “You are accused of spying. What defense do you have?” And so I explained my defense and rejected the charge, which was given me by my court-appointed lawyer, who had still not studied Your Servant’s case and could be of no help for me on the defense brief. Then, when I protested the judge’s disregard for the courtroom’s bylaws and how he was taking false statements, I was expelled from the court’s office.
Yes, Your Eminence Ayatollah Larijani,
Your Servant was tried and convicted without the court’s bylaws being followed, without cross-examination, and without having a lawyer for the defense. Please say how an innocent man, a protesting citizen who, in the course of being interrogated with eyes blindfolded, slapped and punched on all sides by interrogators and forced to make a false confession against himself and, when he looked with hope on the judiciary, saw such courts and behavior and activities which violate the judicial dignity and honor of the judge and despaired of achieving what was right and just for him, he could do anything and to what sound authority could he complain?
By writing this letter, I want to set the truth and the lie before your eyes and those of other officials, since everyone knows that if they face each other on an even and just playing field, truth will defeat falsehood.
At the beginning of Aban 1388 [the end of October 2009], I was once more summoned to Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court and made aware that I was condemned for the crime of espionage and sentenced to at least seven years of prison and forbidden to leave the country for five years after suffering imprisonment because of the unjust trial against me. I protested this.
Ten days later, Mssr. Judge Jaafari-Dawlatabadi met me in Interrogation Center 209 and I declared that I had still not had an opportunity to study the charges and prepare a defense brief for a retrial and asked him to kindly do something so that I could meet with my own chosen lawyer and prepare a bill of defense for an appeal and present it before the twenty day deadline is up.
This turned out to have been possible two days before the deadline and the imposed lawyer, instead of Your Servant’s chosen lawyer, holding a hand-written copy of the charges which he refused to provide me, received permission to meet with me for two hours for me to, within two hours, lay out a defense brief for an appeal concerning a vital and essential case concerning charges which were so vast. In fact, I did practically all the work.
After 150 days of prison in Detention Center 209 of the Ministry of Intelligence, early in Azar 1388 [late November], I was transferred to Prison 250 in Evin Prison in a cell with five prisoners. The ruling on my appeal arrived in 12 Bahman 1388 [February 1, 2010]. In this ruling, Your Servant’s crime was changed from Article 501, i.e., espionage, to Article 610, i.e., conspiracy against national security and the period of imprisonment was changed from seven years to four, although I was still firmly forbidden from leaving the country. It was very satisfied that the crime of espionage had been removed. Although the judge did not explain the new crime to me and I had no possibility of defending myself, this was not so strange, considering the illegal policy pursued in Your Servant’s case.
Now that I am writing you this letter from the hoseineh of Hall 8, Cell 3 of the Rajaishahr prison of Karaj, which is Your Servant’s illegal place of exile, it has been over a year that I have been imprisoned in the Islamic Republic’s prisons. Now that I have broken the silence, I expect that you will say what my rights were as a citizen and how they have been trampled, how the dignity of a citizen can be so assaulted and how his character and honor can be so trampled, being called a spy for a foreign power and having this charge mentioned in all the magazines and the Voice and Visage, along with his name and photograph being broadcast and called a plotter against national security and there being no avenue for redress in this ancient land which calls itself Islamic to the oppression visited upon him.
Now that so much of what they wanted to keep hidden has been expressed and you as Chief Justice have become aware of the truth, your duty as a human, in accordance with the sharia, and in accordance with the law is to investigate and protect Your Servant’s legal and human interests. I ask you that, in speedily and justly investigating the statements included in this letter and in reviewing the case, to do something about the requests and complaints set out in this appeal and impartially allow the truth to come out and consider the instructions called for regarding the following matters:
- I request that you issue an order that Your Servant’s case be sent to a suitable trial owing to violations of the juridical bylaws for judicial review so that it might be organized publically and in the presence of reporters so that Your Servant might be able to defend himself with a defense lawyer of his own choosing.
- I request that until this trial is organized, it be ordered that the execution of the sentence be suspended so that there might be sufficient time to gather documents and summon witnesses to confirm my innocence.
- I request an investigation into Your Servant’s complaints against the Ministry of Justice and those who spoke and acted to put this conspiracy into action to trample Your Servant’s rights, force him to state lies and use this to mislead public opinion and outrage his honor and character and, while calling for damages for financial and psychological loses, call for punishing the guilty in a suitable court.
- I request an investigation into Your Servant’s complaints against Judge Salavati, who was the driving force behind this conspiracy and broadcasted Your Servant’s charges, name, and face before confirming the crime which led to offending Your Servant’s honor and character, along with his recklessness in not carefully implementing the judicial bylaws, behavior violating judicial prestige and honor, preventing the accused from having a defense attorney chosen by himself, issuing an undocumented and unreasoned opinion, to compensate for the material and psychological damages done and to punish the guilty.
- I request an investigation into the Your Servant’s complaints against the Islamic Republic’s Voice and Visage, which broadcasted interrogations and false confessions issued under duress and without Your Servant’s consent and published Your Servant’s face, name, and accusations before the crime was confirmed, and compensation for the financial and psychological damages suffered and being given the possibility to have equal time to restore my character, and to punish the guilty, in a suitable court.
- I request you order a judgment to remove existing obstacles to choose and meet with a defense attorney and prepare and organize a brief in a true fashion and present it to the judiciary.
- I request that you order a judicial inquiry as soon as possible to return Your Servant’s wealth seized by the judiciary’s officers, the value of which is about twenty million tumans and which includes a number of photographer’s cameras and film holders and a number of computers and a number of mobile phones, etc., and return my national ID card, my military service exemption card, my passport, more than six international banking cards and credit cards, and personal documents and computer memory cards which include family pictures. According to law and Ayatollah Khomeini’s testament, entering into the private sanctuary of individuals is a crime.
- I request that you earnestly issue an order for a judicial inquiry concerning restraint on the judiciary’s officers in using or abusing family and private pictures and photographs in an effort to denigrate and taking advantage of them in the magazines and Voice and Visage with the aim of character assassination and bringing under question issues raised in this letter and trampling the rights of the complainant so that not obeying this matter will be followed by their legal prosecution.
Your Eminence Ayatollah Amoli-Larijani,
I know that the violation of Your Servant’s fundamental, human, and legal rights took place before your enthronement as president of the judiciary and that your lack of awareness regarding these complaints is understandable and no one had accused you or is accusing you of anything. I completely believe that this frame-up was kept from the high-ranking officials and was carried out by a special group acting on its own, but now that Your Eminence has heard what I have to say, let him take speedy measures to eliminate oppression and carry out justice. Any delay or attempt to prevent justice from being carried out through neglecting the requests laid out here or thought transferring Your Servant to an unknown place or cutting off relations between Your Servant and his family would mean eliminating the possibility of restoring Your Servant’s rights and character by the judiciary of the Islamic Republic. Therefore, may you consider these rights restored and protected for Your Servant and my family living abroad so that, through investigation and implementing justice for Your Servant using all suitable international authorities and organizations in objecting and complaining in every way deemed proper, we can struggle against oppression. And so, in order to witness the exercising of justice in our homeland and hope for a daily increase in pride and prosperity for the Iranians and Iran, we await Your Eminence’s speedy measures.
Prisoner of Jail 2, Salon 8, Rajaishahr Prison, Karaj, Alborz Province, Iran
|cc:||Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Leader of the Islamic Republic, so that he might be apprised and do what is proper|
|Article 90 Commission of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, so that it might do what is proper|
|National Supreme Court, so that it might do what is proper|
1 “Chief of the Revolutionary Islamic Court and alternative judge of the Tehran Public Courts. He has in recent years been the judge for sensitive cases.” These included the trials of those accused of participating in the Velvet Coup, leading to the execution of Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipur. He also convicted the journalist and human rights reporter Said Matinpur to seven years in prison on charges of engaging in propaganda against the Islamic Republic. When he was not able to get the satirist Sayyed Ebrahim Nabavi to answer a summonds, he detained his lawyer and threatened him. (Wikipedia)