Security detainees held in Evin 209 often face the prospect of ill-treatment during interrogation and detention. Prolonged interrogation while blindfolded and without counsel, lack of access to phone calls or visits with family members, and confinement in solitary cells are among the routine experiences of detainees. In some instances, Ministry of Information personnel subject detainees to sleep deprivation, threats, and other forms of physical and psychological ill-treatment.
In a July 24, 2007 open letter to Ayatollah Shahrudi, head of the Judiciary, the families of detained students Majid Tavakoli, Ahmad Ghasaban, and Ehsan Mansouri wrote that prison officials were physically and psychologically mistreating those at Evin 209 to coerce them into making self-incriminating statements and to implicate other students. Based on conversations with their sons and the statements of five students released on bail on July 18, the families alleged that authorities had subjected their children to 24-hour interrogation sessions, sleep deprivation, and threats against them and their families. The families also said that security agents had confined the detainees in cells with dangerous convicted prisoners, beaten them with cables and fists, and forced them to remain standing for long periods of time.153
A student activist imprisoned in July 2007 reported to Human Rights Watch how interrogators treated him and fellow students:
Journalist Jila Baniyaghoub was among the 33 women arrested on March 4, 2007. Her writings document the interrogation practices she experienced at Evin 209:
Baniyaghoub goes on to describe her first interrogation session, where, blindfolded, her interrogator told her to write in depth about all of her political, social, and cultural activities while blindfolded. She says that when she pointed out that the Citizens Rights Law enacted by the Irans head of Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahrudi, prohibit the questioning of prisoners while blindfolded, the interrogator interrupted her, stating that I know what Mr. Shahrudi has said, but this is the prison of the Ministry of Information and has its own special rules.156
Another womens rights activist described her experience of being questioned blindfolded, facing a wall, punished when she tried to object, and pressured to sign a false confession:
Ministry of Information agents were in charge of the detention and interrogation of the students and activists arrested in May and July 2007.158 A student activist detained during these sweeps described his detention and interrogation experience in Evin 209 to Human Rights Watch:
The security forces at Evin held at least seven of the teachers who took part in the March 2007 demonstrations in solitary confinement for periods ranging from 16 to 60 days.160 One of the four whose wives wrote in objection to their detention (see above), Mohammad Bagheri, spent 33 days in solitary confinement. 161
As noted above, Ali Farahbaksh spent 45 of his 318 days in prison in solitary confinement. Kian Tajbakhsh was in solitary confinement from the day of his arrest, May 11, 2007, until his release on bail on September 20, 2007. Haleh Esfandiari was in solitary confinement in Evin 209 without access to her lawyer for almost four months.
A woman activist arrested on March 4 described how the police and security forces blindfolded them on arrival at Evin 209, and how one womens rights protestor was taken immediately into solitary confinement:
This woman emphasized to Human Rights Watch, however, that compared to what has been alleged about the Information Ministry agents treatment of students and other activists in the detention facility, the agents treated the women detainees relatively well.
153 The Complaint Letter of the Families of Majid Tavakoli, Ahmad Ghasaban, and Eshan Mansouri, Advaar News , Amir Kabir University Newsletter, July 11, 2007, http://www.advarnews.us/university/5426.aspx (accessed August 24, 2007) and Human Rights Watch email correspondence with student activist (name withheld), July 25, 2007.
154 Human Rights Watch online messenger correspondence with student activist (name withheld), August 17, 2007.
155 Jila Baniyaghoub, What Happened to us in 209 Evin (Part Two), Gooya Newsletter, June 8, 2007,http://khabar.gooya.com/columnists/archives/2007/06/060217print.php, (accessed June 8, 2007).
157 Human Rights Watch online messenger correspondence with womens rights activist (name withheld), August 14, 2007.
158 Human Rights Watch online messenger correspondence with student activist (name withheld), August 17, 2007.
160 Some of the Teachers Who Have until Now Paid a Heavy Price for their Cry for Justice, website of the Trade Association of Tehran-Iran Teachers, July 30, 2007, http://ksmt3.blogfa.com/post-201.aspx (accessed July 31, 2007).
162 Human Rights Watch online messenger correspondence with womens rights activist (name withheld), August 15, 2007