The head of the Iranian Prisons Organization has dismissed recent statements about the use of torture in prisons as “absurd lies.”
Gholamhossein Esmaili told the semiofficial Mehr News Agency: “Torture is practiced in prisons that are run by the police and where prisoners are continuously being interrogated. But Iranian prisons are not run by the police or the judge. They are instead run independently as subsidiaries of the Prisons Organization, under the supervision of the judiciary.”
Esmaili went on to deny the existence of unofficial prisons in Iran saying: “There are no secret prisons or detention centres under the administration of the Prisons Organization.”
He also denied the veracity of reports of hunger strikes among prisoners, dismissing such news as “mere propaganda.”
“In most cases, the prisoners are not on a hunger strike and have no intention of going on strike either,” Esmaili said. “However, they fabricate reports of hunger strikes, and foreign media pick up on it with great hoopla.”
He did acknowledge, however, that some prisoners occasionally refuse food, but it is not always because they are on strike but rather that they may be fasting or have bought food for themselves from the prison store.
Over the past two years, scores of Iranian prisoners and their families have spoken out against torture and abuse in Iranian prisons.
Most recently, families of post-election political prisoners wrote a letter to Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Investigator for Iran, urging him to travel to Iran to observe the “harsh conditions” in prisons and the “pressures” to which their families are subjected.
On May 26, political prisoners filed a suit against Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence for “torture and violating their citizens rights.”
In the past two years, those prisoners have gone on hunger strikes several times, either alone or in groups, to protest their situation and the government policies against prisoners.
In June, 12 prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest the deaths of two other political prisoners: Hoda Saber, who died 10 days into a hunger strike, which in turn was to protest the death of Haleh Sahabi, yet another political prisoner, who died on furlough when her father’s funeral was overrun by security forces.
Doctors announced that Saber had died due to the side effects of his hunger strike, but scores of prisoners testified that he had been beaten by prison authorities on the eighth day of his strike.
Jailed lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and imprisoned student activists Bahareh Hedayat and Mehdieh Golrou are other prominent activists that have gone on hunger strike to protest “harsh prison conditions in Iran.”