Examining the case of 12 Arab political prisoners; One case, six death sentences, 70 years in priso

Jul 20, 20230 comments

This report is an investigative account of the case of 12 Ahvazi Arab political prisoners in a joint trial, six of whom were sentenced to death and the other six to a total of 70 years in prison. This report first deals with the ambiguities in the case of these 12 political prisoners, then it documents the violations in the trial process of the case, and at the same time, it will expose a part of the repression mechanism of the Islamic Republic in Khuzestan.

To prepare this report, while researching the details of the case of Ali Mojadam, Mohammad Reza Mojadam, Moin Khanfari, Habib Darees, Salem Mousavi, Adnan Mousavi Ghobeishavi, Fares Amouri, Jasem Alboughobeish, Eskandar Mojadam, Mohammad Ghasem Mojadam (brother of Mohammad Reza Mojadam), Raad Maniat and Tofigh Maniat, Iran Prisons Atlas has investigated 65 cases of Arab political prisoners and 11 incidents similar to this case in Khuzestan in order to better understand the mechanism of repression in this province. The findings recorded in this report are based on the database of Iran Prisons Atlas (IPA), the Atlas interview with eyewitnesses, the review of audio and video evidence, and the statements of government officials and media.

Atlas investigations show that in the case of these 12 Ahwazi Arab political prisoners, the right to a fair trial was violated, arbitrary violence was used during the arrest, and the accused were subjected to torture and cruel and inhumane treatment in order to obtain a forced (video) confession. They have experienced arrests, threats, and harassment, the defendants have been denied access to a lawyer of their choice, and despite being aware of the confessions of the defendants being obtained under torture, the court has made their forced confessions the basis for issuing judgments.


Two Basij members were killed in Abadan

Abadan, at three in the morning on Monday, November 12, 2018; Following the shooting of two motorcycle riders on the coastal road of Arvand Saghir, one of them died at the scene of the incident and the second person died of his injuries after being transferred to Taleghani Hospital in Abadan; This is the story reported by “Seyed Mohsen Taghizadeh”, the commander of the Abadan police force, to the IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency, about the killing of two Basij fighters in Abadan, named “Ali Salehi Majd” and “Younes Bahr”. A narrative that was published on the website of this news agency a few hours after the incident.

An hour after the incident, some media and social media users attributed this event to the members of the Harakah al-Nidhal Party. However, one day later, on November 13, in an interview with the media, the attorney general of Abadan and the police chief of this city denied the news published about the participation of Harakah al-Nidhal members in this incident. The commander of the Abadan police force said in an interview with state TV: “The murder case of these people has nothing to do with their Basij membership. From the police’s point of view, this is not a security issue, and being Basij members has nothing to do with the incident because these motorcyclists were not on a mission.” In this report, quoting its sources, the state TV’s news agency wrote: “According to an informed source, a family dispute is probably the motive for this murder.”


Two police officers were killed in Bandar Khomeini

Bandar Khomeini, time, 00:35 am on January 25, 2019; A police officer from Bandar Khomeini’s 13th police station named 1st Lieutenant “Allah Nazar Safari” and a private named “Mohammadreza Rafiei Nasab” were killed by AK-47 bullets from unknown assailants. While announcing this news, the NAJA Martyrs website wrote that the bodies of these two police officers were buried in Khomeini Port a day later.

For months after this incident, in all the news related to this incident published in the local and state media, the perpetrators of the shooting were mentioned as “unknown people”. None of these news reports mentioned the name of a person, group, or political movement.


The “net” of security agencies; 33 citizens were arrested in Khuzestan province

IPA research shows that after incidents that lead to the death of military, law enforcement, and security forces, or incidents in which government or military centers are attacked, in order to identify the culprits or to obtain information about it, the security institutions start an operation called “Toor” (net). In Toor operations, the security forces arrest a large number of citizens without any documents and evidence that they have committed a crime, and they are locked in solitary cells for a long time; They continue to arrest and torture until one of the detainees provides information about the causes of the incident or is forced to do so.

IPA has analyzed 11 incidents similar to the killing of two Basij members in Abadan and two police officers in Bandar Khomeini to better understand the reaction of security institutions. The investigation of such incidents that occurred between 2008 and the end of 2018 shows that the security forces carried out Toor operations shortly after all these incidents.

In one of the incidents investigated by IPA, when on April 8, 1987, a bus of visitors from Iran-Iraq war zones known as “Rahian Noor” was shot by unknown assailants on the Susangerd-Ahvaz Road, the security agencies arrested more than 20 Arab citizens. All the detainees were taken to the detention center of the Intelligence Ministry and locked in solitary cells. One of the former political prisoners who was imprisoned in that detention center at the same time as these citizens later said in an interview with Atlas: “I remember well, that the cells of the detention center were full. Many of the detainees were teenagers or young adults, and you could hear their constant cries and moans from torture.”

This former political prisoner told IPA about the trial process of this case, the main accused in this case was a citizen named “Mehdi Kouti”. He, along with “Jamil Saedi” and another Arab citizen with the last name “Atshani”, was transferred to Karun Prison after being tortured for a long time in the detention center. At the same time, the security forces arrested Mehdi Kouti’s younger brother and imprisoned him in Sepidar prison to force him to confess. This former political prisoner went on to say that all these people were released after a while and the case was closed, saying: “Three of the accused were in prison for more than a year, and Mehdi Kouti also endured two and a half years in prison in this case. But no sentence was issued against them, and they were all acquitted and released eventually.”

Meanwhile, after the attack on the Rahian Noor bus on the Susangerd-Ahvaz Road, Mehr news agency published a report citing “Mohammad Taqi Khademi”, the deputy coordinator of the IRGC in Khuzestan, and identified the detainees as “members of separatist groups”!

February 9, 2019; Three months after the incident in which two Basij members were killed in Abadan and two weeks after the incident in which two police officers died in Bandar Khomeini, the security forces arrested Ali Mojdam and Moin Khanfari at their friend Jasem Al-Boghobeish’s house in Khorramshahr. In the same month, Salim Dariavi, Ali Javadi, Salem Mousavi, Habib Darees, Tofigh Maniat, Taregh Maniat, Adnan Mousavi Ghobeishavi, and Eskandar Maniat, all residents of Kout Seyed Saleh in Karun and Shadgan county (Falahieh) were arrested by IRGC intelligence officers. In total, 33 family members and friends of Ali Mojdam, Moin Khanfari, and Jasem Al-Boughobeish were arrested by IRGC intelligence officers between February 2019 and 2020. Mohammad Reza Mojadam, Mohammad Ghasem Mojadam (brother of Mohammad Reza Mojadam), Fares Amouri, Eskandar Mojadam, Raad Maniat, and Tofigh Maniat were all arrested during this period. Simultaneously with the arrest of Ali Mojadam and Habib Darees, their wives and children were also arrested by IRGC intelligence agents.


Torture in the detention center, imprisonment in the torture center

According to IPA sources, of the 33 citizens arrested in this case, all of them were subjected to severe torture, were locked in solitary cells for months, and after the interrogation process was over, they were transferred to Shiban, Sepidar, and Mahshahr prisons. A former political prisoner who was imprisoned with the defendants of this case for some time in Shiban Prison said in an interview with IPA: “The interrogators tortured Ali Mojdam in front of his wife and child and kept him in solitary confinement for more than six months. so that they can force him to confess.”

Sometime after Ali Mojdam’s arrest, the state TV’s Ofogh channel aired a video of Ali Mojadam and Jasem Heydari‘s coerced confessions, in which they were forced to confess to armed action against IRGC and Basij forces. After the release of the forced confession video of Ali Mojdam and Jasem Heydari, Ali Mojdam’s wife and child were released. Jasem Heydari was executed in Sepidar prison in Ahvaz in March 2021. A source who talked to IPA described the cruel and long-term torture against the defendants in this case, quoting Habib Darees, said: “Habib said, the Interrogators of the IRGC tied my legs and pulled me up. While my head was facing down, they put my head in the water many times in a hanging position. Sometimes, while they tied my hands and feet, they put a towel on my face and poured water on my face, which made me feel suffocated, and they repeated these things over and over again. These tortures were different from the tortures that were done with cables and green pipes. They beat me with cables and green pipes so much that my body was scarred, and my skin was torn off.” He continued: “The interrogators did not allow Habib to sleep. Sometimes as torture, they forced him to eat watermelon and then they tied his penis so that he could not urinate. At the same time, the wife and children of Habib and Ali Mojadam were arrested, and they used that to put pressure on them.”

This former political prisoner further said that the accused in this case were locked in solitary cells for a long time and were tortured in the same way as Habib Darees and Ali Mojdam. During this period, they were denied access to medical services, they were not allowed to have a lawyer, and they were denied family visits for months. After being interrogated in Ahvaz IRGC Intelligence detention center, Ali Mojadam, Moin Khanfari, Habib Darees, Salem Mousavi, Adnan Mousavi Ghobeishavi, and Mohammad Reza Mojadam were transferred to Sheyban prison. The rest of the accused in this case were distributed between Sheyban and Sepidar prisons, and several others were released after some time.

IPA investigations show that the transfer of the accused in this case to Shiban and Sepidar prisons was not the end of the pressure and abuse of these prisoners. Since the middle of 2019 and after the defendants, in this case, were transferred from the Ahvaz IRGC detention center to the prisons of this city, they were imprisoned in inhumane conditions, endured solitary confinement many times, and were denied access to medical services. There are still restrictions on their family visits and phone calls.

Also, Sheyban and Sepidar prisons in Ahvaz have been assessed by the IPA in the category of prisons with inhumane living conditions due to their structural features. Accordingly, these prisons impose additional suffering on their prisoners. IPA research shows that Sepidar and Sheyban prisons lack basic health facilities, the prisons do not have enough doctors, medicine, and facilities, their physical structures are dilapidated and do not have the necessary safety, heating, and cooling equipment malfunction in different seasons, sufficient food and sanitary products are not distributed among the prisoners, the per capita physical space of the prison is not proportional to the number of prisoners, and a large number of them experience sleeping on the floor, and the prison officers treat the prisoners in a systemically inhumane and humiliating manner.


Disturbance in informing; Threatening, summoning, and arresting the accused’s family

By examining and analyzing 43 cases of Arab political prisoners who were arrested and tried between 2016 and 2023, IPA has realized that the security and judicial institutions’ efforts to disrupt the family’s attempts to publicize the accused’s case are a common practice in Khuzestan province. IPA research shows that: out of 43 investigated cases, in 31 cases the security and judicial institutions directly contacted the families of the detainees and tried to prevent them from publicizing their cases, and in seven cases at least one member of the accused’s family were arrested to force the families to remain silent.

In the case of the 12 political prisoners examined in this report, all the families have been threatened by the security agencies that they will be arrested if they report to the media about the case of their loved ones. In this case, one of the reasons for arresting the wife and children of Ali Mojdam and Habib Darees is also considered to be disrupting their attempts to report these political prisoners to the media.

IPA has found out that the security institutions, with a detailed understanding of the cultural context in the Arab-populated areas, in most of the cases, contact one of the women in the accused’s family and summon her or threaten her not to publicize the accused’s case. In many cases, the summons to the prosecutor’s office and security institutions are repeated more than once and at different stages of the case proceedings. This method also forces the men of the family to remain silent about the case due to their concern about the fate of the women. In a number of cases, the security institutions try to convince the family of the accused by using a relative or clan head as a mediator: “Publicizing it will turn it into a security case and end up harming the accused.”


One case, six death sentences, 70 years in prison

In February of 2023, the IPA was informed through its sources that on Tuesday, February 14, 2023, the Judge of the 4th Branch of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court personally attended Sheyban and Sepidar prisons and notified them of the sentences of 12 political prisoners imprisoned in these prisons. According to the verdict, Ali Mojadam, Mohammad Reza Mojadam, Moin Khanfari, Habib Darees, Salem Mousavi, and Adnan Mousavi Ghobeishavi were all sentenced to death on the charge of Moharebeh (waging war against Islam). In this case, six other Arab political prisoners were sentenced to five to 35 years in prison. Fares Amouri to 35 years, Jasem Alboughobeish to 15 years, Eskander Mojadam, Mohammad Ghasem Mojadam, Raad Maniat, and Tofigh Maniat, each to five years in prison.

Three weeks after IPA published the news of the conviction of 12 Arab political prisoners, Mizan, the official news agency of the judiciary, confirmed the news published by IPA. In this report, Mizan named Ali Mojadam, Mohammad Reza Mojadam, Moin Khanfari, Habib Darees, Adnan Mousavi Ghobeishavi, and Salem Mousavi, and wrote: “Six members of the terrorist group Harkah al-Nidhal, who in 2017 and 2018 carried out part of the armed operations of this group in Khuzestan province were sentenced to death.” In this report, Mizan did not mention the prison sentences issued in this case against six other Arab prisoners.

Referring to the incident of the death of two Basij members in Abadan and two police officers in Bandar Khomeini, Mizan identified the perpetrators of the deaths of these people as Ali Mojadam, Mohammad Reza Mojadam, Moin Khanfari, Habib Darees, Adnan Mousavi Ghobeishavi, and Salem Mousavi and claimed that during their trial, the accused have confessed to the murder of Ali Salehi Majd and Yunus Bahr in Abadan and Allahnazar Safari and Mohammad Reza Rafi’inasab in Bandar Khomeini. No photo or video of the court session was published in this report.


Mizan’s ambiguous account of the events of Abadan and Bandar Khomeini

The official news agency of the Judiciary, without identifying the names of the defendants who accepted responsibility for the killing of two Basij members in Abadan and two police officers in Bandar Khomeini, published their confessions, which have many contradictions.

Mizan News Agency has narrated the confession of one of the accused about the way two Basij members were killed in Abadan as follows: “We hit two Basij members with volleys, and they fell to the ground. We fled to Khorramshahr. The next target was to blow up the Khorramshahr natural gas station; we went there and stopped next to the gas station at half past one in the morning. We threw two grenades towards the station.”

This is while in a news published only a few hours after the incident on November 12, 2018, citing Seyed Mohsen Taghizadeh, the commander of the Abadan police force, Fars News Agency announced the time of the incident in Abadan at 3 in the morning. At the same time, the state TV’s news agency also wrote, quoting its sources: “According to an informed source, family dispute is probably the motive for this murder.” A day after the killing of two Basij members in Abadan, in their interviews with the media, the prosecutor general of Abadan and the police chief of this city denied the news published in the media about the involvement of Harakah Al-Nidhal members in the incident.
One year after the killing of two Basij members in Abadan, in an interview with Rukna, a news agency close to the security institutions of the Islamic Republic, the families of these two Basij members said that “permission to place a tombstone” on the graves of Ali Salehi Majd and Yunus Bahr has not yet been given, and government officials and the officials of “Shahid (Martyrs) Foundation” have not recognized these two Basij members as “martyrs” in their letters.

The Islamic Republic of Iran defines the citizens and military, police, and security forces killed in incidents that are perpetrated by groups opposing the regime as martyrs. The word martyr is engraved on the gravestones of these dead, and the Shahid Foundation is also obliged to pay salaries and provide services to their families, similar to those killed in the Iran-Iraq war.

Also, on the third anniversary of the killing of two Basij members in Abadan, the state TV news agency reported that Ali Salehi Majed and Younus Bahr were still not accepted as martyrs by the Shahid Foundation and they were not issued a “martyrdom code”; circumstances that add to the ambiguity of the case. It seems that some government institutions, including the Shahid Foundation, did not accept the narrative of the security institutions about the way the two Basij members were killed and evaluated the cause of their deaths differently.

Mizan’s account of the killing of two police officers in Bandar Khomeini also has many ambiguities. This news agency claims that the report was prepared based on the confessions of the accused in the case. In this report, Mizan has only cited the confessions of the accused and has not published any other documents or witnesses to prove his claim.

According to IPA sources, none of the defendants in the case of the death of two police officers have participated in this incident, and there are no documents to prove the claim except the forced confessions of the defendants.

The examination of seven incidents that occurred in Khuzestan between 2018 and the beginning of the summer of 1402, in which traffic officers’ cars or police patrols were shot at, shows that: most of these incidents occurred by ordinary citizens, and none of the political parties and Political groups have had involvement in them. However, some Arab political parties and organizations have sometimes accepted the responsibility of these incidents due to the lack of organic connections with their social base and with the assumption that the perpetrators of these incidents define themselves under the intersubjective concept of “National Resistance of Al-Ahwaz”. In a conversation with local sources, IPA found out that the main reason for the repetition of such incidents in Khuzestan is the officers’ uncontrolled use of firearms against citizens, the systemic violation of the right to a fair trial in cases of complaints against the officers, the use of excessive physical violence by the officers, the repetition of racial and humiliating insults against Arabs, extortion and receiving heavy bribes from the people, and public anger caused by systematic discrimination in this region.

In the latest case of the officers’ irregular use of firearms, on Friday, June 9, 2023, the police officers shot a passer-by vehicle on Ahvaz-Shushtar Road. In this incident, a 9-year-old child was killed due to a bullet wound.


The lives of six prisoners sentenced to death are in danger

In Mizan’s report, the defendants in this case have been accused of being members of the Harakah al-Nidhal party. In a part of this report, “Habib Asiod”, the former leader of Harakah al-Nidhal, is also mentioned. Habib Asiod was an Arab political activist and an Iranian-Swedish citizen who was kidnapped by a drug trafficking gang from Turkey on October 9, 2020, and taken to Iran. He was finally executed on May 6, 2023, in a controversial case without a fair trial.

Habib Asiod’s name is mentioned in Mizan’s report of the court hearing on the case of the killing of two Basij members in Abadan and two police officers in Bandar Khomeini; However, IPA has been informed through its sources that in March 2021, during the ongoing interrogation of Habib Asiod, the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence transferred him to the detention center of the Ministry of Intelligence in Ahvaz and they confronted him with Ali Mojadam, the first-tier accused in this case. IPA is not aware of the details of this interrogation session. However, it seems that this meeting was an attempt to obtain a confession from these political prisoners regarding their relationship with each other; A connection that has been repeatedly emphasized in Mizan’s report is the relationship between the defendants in this case and the leaders of the Harakat al-Nidhal movement abroad.

At the same time, the publication of a long list in Mizan’s report of accusations similar to the cases filed against Arab citizens and activists in the past two decades shows: The policy of suppressing Arabs that the Islamic Republic started from the first days of the 1979 revolution, and experienced a new turning point after the bloody suppression of April 2005 protests in Ahvaz (Nisan intifada), is still ongoing.

Examining the April 2005 protests in Ahvaz and the continuation of the repression of Arabs by the Islamic Republic in the years after that has made IPA more concerned about the imminent execution of Ali Mojadam, Mohammad Reza Mojadam, Moin Khanfari, Habib Darees, Salem Mousavi and Adnan Mousavi Ghobeishavi.

In April 2005, following the publication of a letter assigned to the chief of staff of Seyed Mohammad Khatami, the president of Iran at the time, which mentioned the government’s policies of changing the population structure and emigrating Arabs from Khuzestan, this province became the scene of large-scale protests by the Arab people for several days. These protests (Nisan Intifada) were severely suppressed by the Islamic Republic; at least 51 people were killed, hundreds of people were injured, thousands of people were arrested, and some were executed.
The IPA has reviewed the case of those arrested during the April 2005 protests on the charge of being members of Harakah al-Nidhal. In this case, 22 Arab citizens were arrested and kept in solitary confinement for months and subjected to severe torture. Out of this number, 10 people named Ali Motiri (Motirinejad), Malek Tamimi, Abdollah Soleimani, Mohammad Chaab, Amir Chaab, Alireza Asakereh, Alireza Sanavati (Zargani), Sadegh Salamat, Khalaf Khaziravi, and Majed Al-Boughobeish, were executed without a fair trial one year after their arrest, and 12 others were sentenced to prison terms from five to 35 years. The bodies of those executed in this case, similar to many executed in the last two decades, were not surrendered to their families, and the agents buried them secretly.

One of the detainees in this case, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison, was Fahmieh Esmaili (Badawi), the wife of Ali Motiri. Fahmieh Esmaili was arrested at the same time as her husband. She was pregnant when she was arrested. Mrs. Esmaili was locked in solitary confinement for months, and after being transferred to the hospital for delivery, male agents were present in the operating room and handcuffed her to the bed. After the birth of Fahmieh’s child, the attending physician spat in the face of the newborn child in the presence of the mother and abused the mother and her child. After the birth of her child, Fahmieh Esmaili was first taken to the detention center and then to the prison. Some time later, they were exiled to Yasouj prison, and later the infant was separated from the mother and handed over to the family of Fahmieh Esmaili. Ms. Esmaili was released after serving 10 years in prison. She was a primary school teacher before her arrest.

The repetition of many events and proceedings in the case of 22 citizens arrested in the April 2005 protests and the case examined in this report shows the continuation of the repression mechanism in Khuzestan.

While examining the case of 22 detainees from the April 2005 protests who were arrested on charges of being members of the Harakah al-Nidhal, Iran Prisons Atlas has also examined the case of the members of the Wefaq party and the detainees of the Al-Hawar (Dialogue) group. The similarity between the suppression mechanism, accusations, and proceedings of these cases with the case of the 12 defendants, the subject of this report, shows the suppression mechanism in the Arab-populated areas of Khuzestan has been constant with minor changes over the past two decades: Suppression of civil society, incitement and encouragement of protesters to commit violence, arbitrary arrests, excessive violence by agents, systemic violation of the right to a fair trial, harassment of the families of detainees, disrupting the efforts to publicize, issuing long-term prison sentences, carrying out retaliatory executions, and not releasing the bodies of the executed to families.