Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses

A Student Activist' s Account of 21 Months and 3 Days Detention in Shiraz (2009-2011)

Hamed Kavusi/ABF Interview and Translation
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
October 31, 2014

Pre-arrest Activities: Exercising the right to Freedom of Assembly and Expression

My name is Hamed Kavusi. I was born on March 22, 1990, in [the city of] Shiraz. I went to school in Shiraz and obtained my high school diploma in mathematics and physics. In September 2009, I enrolled in the undergraduate program in petroleum resources, exploration, and mining at the Fars Science and Research Branch of Islamic Azad University. I was unfortunately arrested in the course of the post [presidential] elections unrest, and was then sent to Shiraz Adelabad Prison to serve my sentence.

After the announcement of the elections results in 2009, a number of the Fars Science and Research Branch students and I started a group, in order to organize demonstrations to declare our opposition to those results.

On October 28, 2009, we organized a sit-in at Fars Science and Research Branch, in which I took part. In fact, a few days prior to the sit-in, one of the university buses was involved in a fatal accident on the Shiraz–Esfahan highway, in which several students lost their lives. Around four hundred university students subsequently demonstrated for five days in front of the university president’s office, not attending classes. They demanded that the ancient, out-of-commission buses, which were being used as university shuttles and had very low safety standards, be changed. The students were not challenged much; the university Herassat simply warned the students and told them to quickly end the situation. Ultimately, the students ended the sit-in, and everything went back to normal after five days.

On November 4, 2009, on the occasion of student day, there was another demonstration at Shiraz University, in which I participated, along with my college mates.

Arrest and Interrogation : Shiraz Number 100 Detention Center

There was a large crowd gathered there, who had come from most of Shiraz’s universities. Around 5 p.m., security forces attacked the campus and started to beat the students, arresting some of them. One of the agents struck a blow to my head with a club, causing severe bleeding. Four agents then proceeded to arrest me.

Without saying a word to me, and continuing to beat me, they forced me into a white Pride (a brand of automobile) with regular [non-governmental] tags. I sat with two agents in the back while the other two were in the front. One of the agents blindfolded me with a piece of cloth used to clean the car and took me to an unknown place. On the way, they kept insulting and beating me, saying, “Don’t even think about saying a word. We’ll take care of you now.”

They took me to a barren piece of property where there was a wall all around but no buildings. Without paying the slightest attention to my bleeding, they took me to a corner and continued to beat me with clubs and chains, asking questions at the same time, “What’s your name?” “Hamed,” I replied. As soon as I said my name, one of them said, “Why did you talk? Beat him again.” Then they continued the beating, asking, “What is your last name?” I didn’t answer. The same agent said, “So you don’t want to answer our questions, is that it? Beat him again.” After they had beaten me for five hours, they took me to Shiraz, [the Information Administration Detention Center, also known as] Number 100, in that same car.

When we got to Number 100, they took the blindfold off and put another one on. As soon as we got to the main building, they took me to a room and tied my hands to a pipe and said, “Put everything you have with you on the table.” I turned over my personal things, [and] they made a list, which they had me sign, after which I was taken to another room. I changed into prison clothes. They also gave me a pair of sandals and took me to a solitary confinement cell.

The cell had a shower and a toilet and, on the other side, there was a space for sleeping. It was six meters long and 180 centimeters wide.

They brought a doctor that night to tend to my severe bleeding. He just cleaned my head and face, put a bandage on the wound, and left.

I spent the first night alone and was not able to sleep, because of severe pain. At 9:00 a.m. the next day, they put a blindfold on me and took me to the Shiraz Revolutionary Court in a van; the purpose of the trip was to issue a temporary order of custody. When we got to the court, they took the blindfold off and I was taken to Mr. Mussavitabar’s room. When I got in, he simply put a piece of paper in front of me and told me to sign it. The paper said “Police custody for ten days or 50 million Tuman bond.” The session lasted the time of a signature, and I was transferred back to Number 100.

I was taken to the same cell as before. Suddenly, another student by the name of Hadi, who had been arrested that day, was brought in.

I spent two days in the cell, thinking that they might get in touch with my family to post bail and have me released, but that never happened. On Saturday, my interrogation started.

The first session was Saturday morning. They would put a blindfold on me and take me to the interrogation room. The first session dealt with the Fars Research Sciences University sit-in. The interrogator was very sensitive about the issue: “Who planned it? Who organized the demonstrations? What was your objective? You’re the leader of the Fars Research Sciences University students,” he would say.

I denied everything, pretending that I didn’t know anything about anything, and saying I had just started studying there. But the interrogator would repeat the same questions, and every time I said I had no idea, he would say: “You’re lying. We know you were there and that you were in contact with the other students.” He also asked me a bunch of questions about the November 4 demonstrations and said, “If you weren't a student at that university, then how did you get in? When did you enter the campus? Who did you come with?” After the session was over, they took me back to the same cell as before.

I was interrogated close to nine times while I was at Number 100. Interrogation times were different, and there was no set time. Some days they would take me twice [to be interrogated], and sometimes I would not be interrogated for four days. At certain sessions there was one interrogator, and at sessions relating to November 4, there were two. The procedure was that they would ask me a question and I would write the answer on paper. I could pull up my blindfold just enough to be able to see the paper and write.

The duration of the sessions differed as well. The interrogations related to October 28 took close to three hours, but the ones about November 4 did not last more than 15 to 45 minutes.

They were more sensitive about the Fars Research Sciences University sit-in than the November 4 demonstrations. I think it was because nothing resembling that sit-in had ever happened at our university before then, and they wanted to arrest whoever was conducting any specific activity, so that it wouldn’t happen again.

The interrogators were disrespectful, time and again. They threatened me several times, saying they would create problems for my family, that they would destroy me, personally, and that they would have my sister expelled from college. I also was slapped in the face a few times.

As I said, I was alone in the cell on the first day. But the second day, another fellow student named Hadi became my cellmate and, three days later, they brought in someone by the name of Ebrahim Purmehdi, who had been arrested for trafficking illicit drugs. After four days, they were taken to other cells, and I was taken to Mr. Mussavitabar’s office again, to renew my custody order. Everything happened as the previous time: no questions, they had me sign a paper which said, “ten days police custody,” and I was taken back to Number 100. I was by myself in the cell for three days. Then someone was brought in by the name of Mohammad Mosallai, who had been arrested for forgery and had been severely tortured; so much so that, when he heard a noise at night, he would become anxious and jittery and would hide under a blanket. He recounted, “I was tied up in a basement at Number 100 for a month, and just beaten without being interrogated.” He was my cellmate for one week and was then taken elsewhere.

Two weeks after the arrest, I was handcuffed and taken to Assistant Prosecutor Hosseini, at the Shiraz Revolutionary Court, to be formally charged and questioned. I was accompanied by a Ministry of Information agent. Mr. Hosseini put a paper in front of me and asked if I agreed with what was written on it. I told him I hadn’t read it. He then looked at the agent and said, “Looks like you guys haven’t gotten through to him, and you still brought him here.” The agent looked at me and said, “If you’re not going to sign, we can take you back and force it out of you.” I took a look at the paper, which did not really contain much of anything, mostly what had been said at the interrogations. At the bottom of the page it was written, “I accept what has been written above.” So I signed.

Visitation in Prison

That same day I was allowed to contact my family for about a minute. They had told me to call and just say that I had been arrested and that I was fine, and not to say anything about where I was. Three days later, 17 days after my arrest, I was able to have visitation with my family. I asked them to hire an attorney for me, but my father said, “They told us not to hire a lawyer and not to complicate the case. They said not to give out information [or do interviews] and that they would release you soon.”

Trial : Shiraz Revolutionary Court, Branch 2

I was held in custody at Number 100 for a month, during which I was taken to the final trial session at Shiraz Revolutionary Court, Branch 2, presided by Judge Ali Yazdani, held on November 22, 2009.

At 9:00 a.m. they put blindfolds and handcuffs on me, as usual, and put me in a van. Inside, there were two rows of steel pipes, one for the hands and one for the feet. They attached me to the pipes, and we proceeded to go to the Revolutionary Court. They took me inside, through the back of the building and through the courtyard, where they took off the shackles and the blindfold and then into the courtroom in handcuffs.

At this trial session, the judge didn’t ask me anything in particular. He simply handed me the decision and told me to sign it. Without even having read my file, the judge had written anything he pleased. In fact, they had made up charges, one of which was leadership of the Fars Research Sciences University’s students, a charge I had denied throughout the interrogations, and that I had just started college. Another charge was organizing university protests. In any event, I signed the paper as usual. I was then transferred back to the Information Administration Detention Center, known as Number 100, pending the final decision of the court.

The decision was communicated to me on November 27, 2009, after 23 days of detention. The charges were: “Taking action against national security, pursuant to Islamic Penal Code Article 498; Propaganda against the holy regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran on behalf of groups and organizations opposed to the regime; insulting the Supreme Leader and acting against national security, by participating in illegal gatherings; and engaging Basij and Police forces and chanting specific slogans against the regime and security agents.” I was sentenced to three years imprisonment in Adelabad Prison, in Shiraz.

The authorities at Number 100 purposely refrained from transferring me to Adelabad Prison for a week, just to torture me psychologically. I therefore began a number of protests, one of which was a two-day hunger strike. I started the strike on the fourth day and, two days later, a number of the agents beat me, in order to force me to break my strike. Fortunately, nothing happened to me, and on the next day I was transferred to Adelabad Prison, having spent 30 days at Number 100.

Shiraz Adelabad Prison

On the morning of the transfer, I was blindfolded and handcuffed and driven to prison in a car. I was first taken to a room to be fingerprinted, but that didn’t happen: the director of the Adelabad temporary detention center told the agents accompanying me that my “file was incomplete,” and I was returned to Number 100.

Once again, [back at] Number 100, I was taken to a cell where Mohammad Mosallai was. I was told, “You’re going to be here until tomorrow morning. Don’t talk to this guy. If you talk to him, you won’t go back to Adelabad.” I didn’t pay any attention to what they said that night, and I talked to Mr. Mosallai. The next day I was taken to Adelabad Prison without any problems.

The hygiene situation at Number 100 was very good. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we used the shower. The food was high quality, and the prisoners were given three full meals a day. For instance, every day at 4 a.m., after the morning call to prayer, we had a full breakfast, comprised of bread, butter, honey, cheese, eggs, and a glass of tea. For lunch, we had either rice with kabob, rice with chicken, or rice with fava beans [and the] same thing for dinner. And we had a glass of tea in the afternoon.

When we were in our cells, they treated us with respect. But once outside the cells, their behavior changed. We were allowed to go outside in the yard for 10 minutes every day unless it rained, which in my case, unfortunately, it did, four or five days a week, the entire time I was there.

At Adelabad Prison, I was first taken to the Adelabad temporary facility, which was reserved for people who did not have a specific sentence or had just been arrested. During that period, I saw around twenty individuals who had been arrested for murder. These people would quickly be taken out of temporary detention and transferred to the main wards.

After four days, I was transferred to Ward 1 and spent one day there. There were quite a few prisoners in Ward 1, and they were mostly drug addicts. The Ward was therefore very dirty. There was no carpeting, and prisoners had to sleep on the floor. I was then transferred to Ward 4, which was reserved for drug addicts who had quit or who appeared not to use drugs. In any event, the prison officials had provided certain advantages for the prisoners, because they had shown a willingness to quit. For instance, the ward was carpeted, their blankets were cleaner, and the bathrooms were in order. In reality, the wards at Adelabad were not categorized in any particular way.

About four months after my arrest, when I was in Ward 4, I received a General Court decision, which had been issued in absentia on December 14, 2009. That is, about 40 days after I had been arrested. I had been sentenced by the Shiraz General Court, Branch 115, presided by Judge Darab Karimi, to 9 months imprisonment and 25 lashes for “insulting the Supreme Leader, [and for] insulting and assaulting Bassij and Police forces.” The interesting thing was that, subsequent to the decision of the Revolutionary Court, neither I nor my attorney and family had any knowledge of, nor information about, this trial and the new charges. My attorney appealed the ruling, but our appeal was never considered, and we never received any decisions from the appellate court.

I should note that, after the decision of the Revolutionary Court was rendered, my family hired Mr. Farshid Yadollahi as my attorney, who appealed my three-year prison sentence. I don’t remember the appellate court date, because neither my attorney nor I were present. I do remember, however, that we received notice of the appellate court after four months of detention, affirming the lower court decision.

Nearly six months into incarceration, I was able to go on furlough for five days by posting a property deed worth 300 million Tumans as bail. I was able to renew that period before its expiration and stay out for 20 additional days.

During my leave, my parents talked to me about what had transpired when I was at Number 100: “They called us at some point and told us that they were holding you but didn’t say where. During the two weeks when we had no news about you, no one would tell us where you were and where and by whom you had been arrested. When we would go to the court, they would send us to the medical examiner, saying that they had no record of you and couldn’t find you. They had told us not to hire an attorney and not to follow up on the case and that they would release you.”

After I returned to jail, they repeatedly changed my ward. For instance, I spent a while in Ward 11, then was transferred to the Adult Consultation Ward, known as the Green Ward.

The facilities in these wards were very different. The difference was that Ward 11 had 600 inmates and 8 showers. People who first came to this ward had to sleep in the hallway and could only stay in a room if there was an empty bed or if a prisoner was released. Twice a day, we were allowed to walk in the yard: the first time, at the 7:00 a.m. roll call, we were allowed to stay out until 10:30 and the second time from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.

The situation at the Green Ward was different, and inmates had more facilities. For instance, inmates could pay a 20,000-Tuman monthly rent and could come into the ward and have a bed for themselves. Each prisoner was also allowed to purchase blankets and pillows. This plan was implemented by the warden, Mr. Mozaffari.

The Green Ward was much cleaner than the other wards. It had a library that we could use. We were allowed to stay in the yard twice a day: the first time, at the 7:00 a.m. roll call, until 1:00 p.m., and the second time from 3:00 to 6:30 p.m. These hours would change in the cold seasons, and the time would be reduced in all wards in fall and winter.

Three months after returning to jail, I was once again allowed to go on furlough for ten days, with that same 300 million Tuman bail. When I came back from leave, at my request, and with the warden’s approval, and with that same bail amount, I was allowed to go on a work-leave program (“Raye Baz”) for nine months. With the warden’s approval, the prisoner was allowed to work for the Prisons Organization and get minimal remuneration.

Those in the program had to perform any task given to them by the Prisons Organization, inside the prison and in places belonging to the Organization. On certain days, the prisoner would be allowed to go home to his family for twelve hours, with the warden’s approval.

I performed different tasks while on the program, such as sweeping floors, moving things, construction work, working inside the prison warehouse and, for a time, working in the trash dump at Adelabad. I was also doing demolition and construction work for a while at the Soltanabad Prison, to turn the place into the Prison Organization’s club.

Our salary was given by the prison’s co-operative, but it wasn’t distributed equitably among us. I remember one time we went to a place, accompanied by prison authorities, to pick up 5 million Tumans that was supposed to be distributed equally among ten of us, but we only got 50,000 Tumans each.

While on the program, [the Ministry of] Information authorities sent letters to the prison on two or three occasions, telling them that I was not allowed to be in the program and that I should be transferred back to prison. This was not limited to the time I was in the program; there were a number of times when the Prosecutor had agreed with me going on furlough, but the Information people would write to the prison authorities, telling them I was banned from going on furlough.

They Sought to Frame a Lawyer, I Fled From Iran

About a year into incarceration, several Information agents came to visit me in jail: “We want to submit a request for your pardon, and we need to ask you a few questions,” they said. But what they asked me had nothing to do with my case and more to do with my attorney, Mr. Farshid Yadollahi: “What did your lawyer tell you? What does he do? Who is he in contact with? Are you in touch with him?” they asked. They wanted to know the extent of my contacts with him and what information I had about him. I didn’t understand then why they were asking me those questions, but now that I think about it, I realize that they were trying to frame and arrest him. As far as I know they reached their objective, and Mr. Yadollahi has been under arrest for a while.

After that visit, I expected to receive the conditional pardon they had promised me, but that never happened. When I realized I wouldn’t be pardoned and, given the fact that there were fifteen more months of jail time left, I decided to leave the country. I therefore asked that the bail amount be reduced, which it was, for good behavior, and also due to the fact that I had served most of my sentence. Ultimately, on August 7, 2011, after 21 months and three days of jail, I went on furlough for the last time, for five days. I was able to renew the leave for an additional 15 days, during which I entered Turkey in a clandestine manner. On August 28, 2011, I submitted my application for refugee status to the UNHCR.

The medical and sanitary conditions at Adelabad Prison were highly unsuitable. The infirmary, for instance, was very dirty, and the food was so bad that most prisoners got their own ingredients and cooked food in the ward kitchen.

Remembering Prisoners on Death Row

There were stories told by prisoners, one of which was that of a young boy who had been raped by several prisoners, causing his death. Thereafter, some prisoners kept raping his lifeless body. Another story was that of an old execution where a boy from the Kovar village, near Shiraz, was executed at Adelabad Prison after four years of incarceration and, a few months later, the real killer was found.

I, too, met many people at Adelabad Prison who were sentenced to death and saw sixteen individuals who were taken to be executed. One of the executions I remember is that of two brothers and their cousins who were from [the town of] Yassuj. [They were]about thirty years old and were executed during the Noruz celebrations of 2011 on charges of transporting 60 kilograms of opium. Unfortunately, I don’t remember their names, but I do remember that they had been arrested two-and-a-half years, before being put to death. I had once seen them inside Ward 11 and wasn’t exactly close to them, but I kind of knew them. The morning they were being taken for execution, I was not allowed to leave the prison to go to work -- I was on the “Raye Baz” program -- and was told to go back to the ward, because it was Noruz holidays. I was at the entrance to the prison, registering my name to go back inside. They had brought them for carrying out the sentence. When they were being registered to exit the prison, the warden told them mockingly: “I give you two hours to obtain the prosecutor’s approval, and I will postpone your sentence.”

The day these three individuals were executed, there was a major scuffle in front of the prison between their relatives and the guards outside. They broke the windows and beat several of the guards. Ultimately, the anti-riot police intervened, and the whole thing ended.

I also remember that when I was on the program, in early 2011, six or seven individuals convicted for drug trafficking were hanged in a single day. The warden told those of us in the program to “go bring those bodies down,” but none of us listened to that order.

Alireza Ebrahimian, 30 years old and single, if I’m not mistaken, was sentenced to death for transporting eight kilograms of heroin.

Alireza and I were in a cell together for two months. We talked a lot about his arrest and his personal life. He was a respectable man. He was a trucker, and his job was transportation of goods, which he did with his father. There was no sign of violence in his conduct and behavior. He was an athlete and was always betting on his strength with other prisoners. He told me that he had gone on a work trip with his father and that his father had drugs with him. When they had gotten arrested, he took responsibility for his father’s actions, so he wouldn’t go to jail. He told me that he had been tortured repeatedly and had gone through extremely tough interrogations. He had an attorney, but he had been sentenced to death. He was executed in early 2013.

Haj Rassul was another prisoner who was taken out of the Green Ward to be executed. I was with him in the Green Ward. He was an old man of 60, married and residing in Shiraz. He had been arrested for possession of four or six kilograms of morphine, and when I met him in the Ward, in 2010, he had been incarcerated for around five years.

Haj Rassul was a very calm and happy man. We would go to his room at night to hear him sing Shirazi folk music. They took him out of the Ward in September 2010 to carry out his death sentence. We later heard that he had been executed, but the news we got afterwards was that he had been transferred to Pirbenu Prison. So I’m not one hundred percent sure that he’s been executed.

Ali Sajjadi was another individual who had been arrested for murder in 2007. He was about 27, married, from Shiraz, and he had a Bachelor’s degree in computer science.

He was my cellmate for almost three months. He told me that two other people had been arrested for the murder but had testified that Ali had committed the killing. So, he had been arrested in Shiraz for the murder of a man in Sepidan in Fars Province that he didn’t even know. I got chills when he told me about his interrogation sessions. “They beat me morning ‘til night for thirty days. They hanged me from my wrists (“ghapani”) for five days and beat me endlessly until I had to confess,” he said.

I could easily see the signs of torture on his body. His wrists were enmeshed with extra scar tissue from injuries that were obviously from ropes or handcuffs used to hang him with. There was also scar tissue on his back from the beatings. Yet, after all this torture, he was still a calm man.

As far as I know, he didn’t have a lawyer until his trial had been over, and he was only allowed to hire one after the sentence of death had been pronounced. The lawyer had objected to the sentence and said that the confession had been obtained under duress, as could be seen from the signs of torture on his body.

Last I heard from Ali Sajjadi’s case is that it is still under consideration and that the appellate court has not issued a ruling yet.

Hamid was another one of my cellmates, who had been arrested for murder. He was 25, married, and from Shahreza in Esfahan Province. Hamid too, had been severely tortured. He also said that he had been hanged for a few days, in order [to persuade] him to confess. As far as I knew, he had appealed his sentence, and no final decision had been issued in his case by the time I left.

Alireza Mashayekhi had been arrested on charges of possession of heroin and had been sentenced to death.

Seyyed Said Hosseini was another individual arrested for drug trafficking. He had been incarcerated for four years when I was in jail, and he had been sentenced to death.

Sirus Dehqan and Said Rastam were two inmates who had been arrested for rape in two different cases, and both had been sentenced to death.

I also came across a sentence of amputation of the hand. Mr. Mohammad Hassan Peyro was 32 and had been arrested for theft in 2008. Because he had a prior record of theft, he had been sentenced to amputation of four fingers of his right hand. The sentence was carried out in 2011.

Fortunately, one of our prison mates was able to find him a job at his brother’s chicken shop in Shiraz. During one of my furloughs, I went and paid him a visit at his place of work, but he wasn’t in good spirits and was very upset about his hand and the resulting conditions.

Mohammad Hossein Peyro had also been tortured during interrogations, and signs of torture were easily visible on his body.

Cases of breaches of human rights were abundant in Adelabad Prison. It is true that individuals had committed crimes, but I think their treatments amounted to obvious breaches of human rights. When I saw these cases, I completely forgot what had happened to me during detention and imprisonment. The way I had been treated, or had been beaten with a club for four hours, was nothing compared to those who had been raped or whose arm and leg had been broken. I try not to think about them.