A lawyer who is said to have bitten off part of his tongue after being injected with an unknown substance. Videos showing guards freely beating detainees. A prisoner re-arrested after alleging rampant abuse in women’s jails.
There has long been concern about abuse in prisons in Iran but a slew of recent allegations concerning high-profile detainees and claims disseminated on social media have amplified the anxiety.
“Iran’s intelligence apparatus, in close collaboration with the revolutionary court, has turned the justice system into a cornerstone of repression,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“Victims experience horrific mistreatment and are left with no means to seek redress and accountability,” Sepehri Far added.
HRW and the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran last week sounded the alarm over the case of Payam Derafshan, a prominent attorney whose clients included the jailed prize-winning rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
In allegations posted on social media, which HRW said it had independently confirmed, the lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, said Derafshan had been injected with an unknown substance soon after his arrest in June 2020. He then experienced a convulsion that caused him to bite off part of his tongue.
He was sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he is said to have been subjected to shock therapy that caused more damage but was then granted medical leave and conditional release.
“The authorities’ revolting abuse and medical negligence of a prominent human rights lawyer should make us extremely concerned about the situation of dozens of lesser-known political prisoners in Iran,” said Sepehri Far.
The latest controversy came after a group calling itself Edalet-e Ali (Justice of Ali) in August this year posted videos of leaked surveillance footage from Tehran’s Evin prison showing guards beating or mistreating inmates.
In a rare response to footage broadcast widely on Persian-language media based outside of Iran, the head of the national prisons organization, Mohammad Mehdi Haj Mohammadi, condemned the behavior as unacceptable, while judiciary chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei asked prosecutors for an investigation.
Amnesty International described the videos as just the “tip of the iceberg of a torture epidemic.”