Navid Mogharab, Student Plaintiff in the 1999 Tehran University Dormitory Attack Case, Recounts Failure of Justice
ABC Note: In the early morning hours of July 9, 1999, the day after student demonstrations to denounce the closing of the daily newspaper Salam, members of the Riot Guards, along with members of government supported militia in civilian clothes known as “Hezbollah’s Aides,” raided the dormitories of the University of Tehran and began battering and seriously injuring many students, some of whom were just waking up. The invaders then proceeded to savagely ransack the rooms and destroy or pilfer the students’ belongings.
The raid was apparently a reaction to the gathering of students to protest the closing of the Reformist daily journal Salam. The protests had flared up following the publication of a letter by Said Emami (one of the undersecretaries of the Ministry of Information who had been accused of complicity in the serial murder of the opponents and critics of the regime). The letter disclosed a government plan to tighten control over newspapers. An announcement posted on campus bulletin boards called on students to congregate in protest to the restrictions imposed on, and the closing of, dissident journals. Answering the call, several hundred students gathered in front of the campus gate and began to shout slogans in praise of freedom and condemnation of tyranny. The students continued their march from the campus area to an adjacent street and finally returned to their dormitories. Some of the students, however, noticing the presence of security forces and plain-clothes militia, remained in the street and, following a brief skirmish with the militia, returned to their dormitories at the request of the president of the university.
Later on, following the raid of the dormitories by the riot police and plain-clothes militia, a number of students, along with the University president were arrested and taken away. Denouncing the violent and destructive police raid on their dormitories, a few thousand of shocked and angry students continued their demonstrations for another day. According to a BBC report, nearly 20,000 students had participated in one of the street demonstrations. Protestors in Tabriz University were also brutally attacked.
Furthermore, according to the report of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations for the year 2000, nearly 1500 individuals were arrested over the course of these demonstrations in Tehran, and, on the basis of the available evidence, at least 8 persons were killed in the demonstrations and the campus raid. The authorities, however, confirmed the death of only one of the demonstrators by gunfire: Ezzatollah Ebrahimnejad.
On March 4, 2000, pursuant to the complaint lodged by the injured students, the trial of the personnel of the security forces who had been accused and indicted for the injuries suffered by a number of students in the campus incident commenced. The trial was conducted by Branch Seven of the Military Court of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The court dismissed the cases against Farhad Nazari, the commander of the uniformed soldiers and 17 plain-clothes security agents who had participated in the raid. Only a single conscript was convicted for the crime of stealing the electric shavers of some of the students. The court also ordered cash payment as compensation to the 34 students who had been severely beaten and some of whom had suffered broken hands, legs, jaws and other injuries during the raid. The compensation was to be determined according to the Islamic penal code for retribution. One of the students, Mohsen Jamali, was paid half of the legal compensation for the loss of his right eye.
In mid-March 2000, Navid Mogharab, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, spoke with ISNA News Service about the case:
Navid Mogharab, a Master’s student in biophysics and one of the plaintiffs in the university dormitory case, has called the indictment which has been prepared “weak” owing to a failure to investigate the plaintiffs:
“According to Mr. Eqbal, the Ministry of Information, law enforcement, and other related bodies were consulted in the preparation of this indictment, but other than preliminary questioning of the defendants, nothing has been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office. How is the court going to restore what is owed to the plaintiffs with this indictment?
At the third court session, Mr. Nazari declared plainly that [those responsible for the dormitory attack] were identified and introduced to the judiciary at the Provincial Security Council, and it’s the judiciary which is failing to deal with them.
Everyone knows that the people who were filming during those hours at night had coordinated beforehand. The question is: which body or people prepared these videos, and where are they now? These videos could serveas fine evidence at court, given that the people doing the beating and the people getting beat can be identified well in them.
The court permitted [the representative of the Law Enforcement Force] to defend Nazari; the very same court did not permit Mr. Kuhi [General Manager of the dormitory] to speak about the dormitory incident since he was the representative neither of the university nor of the students. The Law Enforcement representative, however, insulted [the students’ lawyer] Mr. Rahami repeatedly, calling him a propagandizer bent on certain political ends.
Nazari’s defense was in fact a lie: if I hadn’t been there at the incident myself, it would have been hard for me to believe he’d had any role in the criminality, based on his statements. Besides this, he said on the night of the incident he’d been present from 3:30 AM onward, despite the fact that in his defense statement he’d spoken of events which had happened prior to this time, and the defense statement shows that Mr. Nazari was one of the first people to be at the dormitory the night of the incident.
A human being’s prayers have to do with privacy before God. When a person says prayers in a public forum like this, he surely has someone in mind other than God. It was interesting for me that the military cap which, in Mr. Nazari’s statements, possessed such sanctity – not the university or the mosque. It was because the students had taken his cap, on which was written a verse from the Qor’an, that he reasoned those very same students had desecrated the Qor’ans in the dorm mosque.”