Iranian authorities should immediately release two students who are in solitary confinement for nearly two months unless they can promptly charge them with a recognizable crime, Human Rights Watch said.
Iranian authorities have arrested Ali Younesi, 20, and his friend, Amirhossein Moradi, also 20, both students of Sharif University in Tehranon April 10, 2020.
Gholam hossein Esmaili, the judiciary’s spokesperson, accused the two students, without citing any evidence, of having ties to anti-revolutionary groups, including the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), and of pursuing “destructive” actions.
Younesi’s family has denied the accusation of ties to the group and said that authorities are using his parents’ former membership in the group as an excuse.
“Iranian authorities have a history of targeting dissidents’ family members on bogus charges, and after nearly two months, they have failed to provide an iota of evidence against Younesi and Moradi,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“The prolonged solitary confinement, lack of access to a lawyer, and the judiciary’s history of coerced confessions signal that there’s almost zero chance that the due process rights of these two students will be respected,” Page said.
The MKO is an Iranian opposition group currently based in Albania. In 2005, Human Rights Watch documented abuses by the group against its own members when it maintained a presence in Iraq.
On April 21, Reza Younesi, Ali Younesi’s brother, tweeted that authorities had severely beaten his brother at the time of his arrest. They had also arrested his parents briefly and interrogated them for four or five hours.
Younesi’s family said that the detained students have not had access to a lawyer and remain in solitary confinement. “He last called on May 21,” his sister said. “His voice was tired. He said he was still being interrogated.”
The authorities have only allowed Younesi to make a few brief phone calls and have not permitted the family to visit, she said.
The Iranian authorities have a history of targeting family members in Iran of those who have real or perceived ties with the MKO, a banned organization in Iran that was disarmed after the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003.
According to Amnesty International, following the post-June 2009 election protests, the authorities arrested several people who had relatives with a past or current association with opposition groups, including the MKO.
As recently as 2014, the authorities executed GholamrezaKhosravi, convicted of helping the MKO, on the charge of “enmity against God” in a case that was marked with serious due process violations.
International treaty bodies and United Nations special rapporteurs on torture have concluded that prolonged solitary confinement may amount to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment that violates human rights.
“Arresting and holding these two college students in solitary confinement for two months without any credible evidence would be unreasonable at any time, but exposing them to prison conditions at the time of a pandemic adds to the concern,” Page said. (Source: HRW)