Friday , 27 November 2020

Two Honor Students, Violently Arrested, Still Detained Without Charge Six Months Later

CHRI – Ali Younesi and Amirhossein Moradi Under Pressure to Make Forced “Confessions”

Student Groups: Allegations Unfounded, State Building False Case Without Evidence

Two honor students at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, who were both violently arrested by the security forces on April 10, 2020, have been in detention ever since without any announced charges—and are reportedly under intense pressure to provide forced “confessions,” the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.

Ali Younesi and Amirhossein Moradi (no relation to the Amirhossein Moradi, whose death sentence is currently under review in Isfahan), were originally arrested for allegedly tearing up a poster of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, but a case has been built around them by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry that is unfounded and based on false evidence, according to informed sources who requested anonymity for security reasons, as well as student groups.

Only court–appointed lawyers have been given access to some part of the files for the two students—and those lawyers have not shared any information with the families, and lawyers hired by the families of the two have not been allowed any access to the case files at all, the sources told CHRI.

Original Arrest: Violent and Without Warrant

The Iranian Students Trade Union Council reported on April 20, 2020, that plain-clothed agents, who did not have an arrest warrant, violently assaulted and beat the two students during the arrest.

Younesi won a gold medal in the International Astronomy Olympiad in 2016 after winning a silver medal in Iran’s domestic astronomy Olympiad in 2015. Moradi won a silver medal in Iran’s domestic astronomy Olympiad in 2016.

Younesi, who suffered a severe head injury during his violent arrest by 12 security agents on April 10, was taken to Evin Prison following a search of his home during which his computers and mobile phones were confiscated.

“During the search, the ranking security agent told Younesi’s family that the two students were being arrested for tearing a poster of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei,” a source close to the Younesi family told CHRI.

Intelligence Ministry Builds Unfounded Case Against Younesi and Moradi

On May 5, 2020, Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili accused Moradi and Younesi of establishing contacts with the banned Mojahedin Khalgh Organization (MEK) and claimed that agents had found “explosive items” inside their homes.

However, the source close the students told CHRI the accusations were unfounded.

“The accusations against Younesi and Moradi have no basis in reality, they’re all fabricated,” the source said on condition of anonymity. “First, they were only accused of tearing Khamenei’s poster but gradually, given the history of the political activities of Ali Younesi’s family, more allegations were added.”

In his press conference on May 5, the judiciary spokesman alleged that “one of the family members of the students (Younesi) had been a member of the MEK.”

On July 12, 2020, three months after their arrest, a meeting was held at the Palace of Justice in Tehran in the presence of Younesi and Moradi, as well as student representatives, Sharif University administrators, academics, judiciary and Intelligence Ministry officials, as well as two agents who interrogated the two students.

“The meeting was held primarily at the request of university officials but ultimately the Intelligence Ministry took advantage of the occasion to build its case against the detained students,” a source with knowledge about their case told CHRI.

The source said there were representatives from five student organizations, including the Basij militia organization’s student branch (the Basij is affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)) and the Islamic Students Association.

During the meeting, a film was shown in which two persons, who had no resemblance to the detained students, were seen setting fire to a building.

The security officials in the meeting claimed that the two were Younesi and Moradi—a claim that raised objections among some of the attending students.

“The security officials took advantage of the meeting to push their own agenda and depict the two detained students as saboteurs,” according to a source with knowledge about their case.

The security officials had asked the students at the meeting not to publicize it. But after five days, a group known as the Islamic Society of Independent Students at Sharif University, which is controlled by the Intelligence Ministry and the security forces, published, an article about the meeting suggesting that the student representatives had been convinced that Moradi and Younesi were saboteurs.

Revolutionary Guards Chime in with False Statements regarding Evidence

Also on July, 16, 2020, Fars News, which is close to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), published its version of the meeting and claimed those present were shown many examples that proved the two students had committed acts of sabotage.

The publications angered many student organizations.

“Other student groups eventually published their own account of the meeting at the Palace of Justice, but the first article became a reference point for many students, even though the Islamic Society of Independent Students at Sharif University is under the full control of the Intelligence Ministry and the security forces,” an informed source told CHRI.

On July 16, 2020, the Iranian Students Trade Union Council condemned the controversial article as  “another devastating assault on the independence of the universities in Iran.”

More than a month ago on September 10, 2020, Mostafa Nili, the lawyer for the Younesi family, revealed to the reformist Ensaf News, that judicial officials had informed the detained student that he could have a meeting with the Swedish ambassador in Tehran.

Nili said the offer was unusual because the Swedish Embassy had no knowledge of any such meeting being discussed. As such, it would appear then that the security establishment is trying to build a case against him by accusing him of collaborating with a foreign government, to make up for a lack of evidence of guilt.

“Ali Younesi’s family and his lawyer were strongly against the meeting because they believe it’s part of a scenario against Ali,” a source with knowledge about the case told CHRI.

The source added: “There’s no reason for Sweden to take diplomatic action in this case because Ali is not a Swedish citizen.”

Younesi and Moradi Under Pressure to Make Forced “Confessions” for State TV

According to this source, “Younesi and Moradi have been put under pressure during interrogations to make forced ‘confessions’ on television and accept the fabricated allegations against them. The so-called meeting with Swedish ambassador was probably going to be part of a scenario by the security agencies to arrange a fake encounter and use it [to discredit] Younesi.”

“The authorities in charge of Ali Younesi’s case say that his brother has met with high-ranking Swedish officials [in Oslo] and if Ali is interested, he can meet with the Swedish ambassador,” Nili was quoted as saying to Ensaf News.

According to an informed source, the interrogation of Younesi and Moradi ended nearly three weeks ago and the case has been submitted to the judiciary.

Lawyers Hired by Families Denied Access to Case Files, Still No Announced Charges

More than six months after the two students’ arrest, no details have emerged of the charges against them.

According to a source close to the detained students’ families, “Lawyers hired by the two families say they have not been allowed access to their files. Only court-appointed lawyers have been able to study portions of their case but have not shared any information with the families.”

The source added that it was not yet clear which court would handle the case.

“Ali and Amirhossein are in a very difficult psychological state because they are still in legal limbo and being held in Evin Prison’s Ward 209 (controlled by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, which is under the authority of President Hassan Rouhani).”