Report condemns 'torture' regime in Iran

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The Independent Online

Torture, arbritrary arrest and solitary confinement have grown in Iran since the Islamic state started a human rights dialogue with the European Union, according to a report issued by US-based Human Rights Watch.

Torture, arbritrary arrest and solitary confinement have grown in Iran since the Islamic state started a human rights dialogue with the European Union, according to a report issued by US-based Human Rights Watch.

The report accuses the judiciary and shadowy "parallel" security forces of using the techniques in prisons to quash political dissent.

A student identified only as Hossein T, told Human Rights Watch: ""The second time they took me in there they hung me from my hands. They used a baton to beat my torso. They broke my hand and I fell unconscious. When I regained consciousness, they said, 'if you lied, we will stop.' I could not speak. It is not because I am brave that I did not confess. It's because I couldn't talk," .

Another former inmate, a journalist identified as Massoud B, said prisoners made a grim joke of their confinement: "solitary is like being like 'the dead in their coffins' because we had heard that the dead's nails grow in their coffins".

In May, the outgoing reformist parliament passed a law prohibiting torture. The legislation, based on guidelines issued by the head of the judiciary, was also approved by the hardline Guardian Council.

But Human Rights Watch says that, without effective enforcement, the new law is meaningless. The most stinging section of the report is reserved for the judiciary, which it says: "is at the core of the systematic crackdown on those who express views critical of the government." The report accuses judges of visiting interrogation rooms and secret detention centres. It says that two prominent judges had been seen in the notorious section 209 of Evin prison in north Tehran.

Reformists, on the back foot since their election defeat in February, are wary of openly challenging the hardliners. "The judiciary is facing serious problems and challenges in the way it is encountering various issues. Political considerations are affecting its behaviour and we believe it must keep away from political strife. Unfortunately, this has not been the case,"former female MP Elaheh Koulai told the Independent.

HRW called on the EU to reconsider its relations with Tehran in light of the human rights abuses. With new pressure building over Iran's nuclear programme, some conservatives fear a rift with Europe could hasten UN action on the nuclear issue and end trade deals. In late May, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei quashed a death sentence on dissident lecturer Hashem Aghajari, whose conviction in late 2002 prompted student protests.

Hardliners have been more sensitive to criticism since February's parliamentary elections, in which nearly half the reformist candidates were barred from running. In recent weeks, there has been a dramatic upsurge in the number of raids carried out against illegal parties and satellite dishes. Islamic militamen have also increased their presence on the streets of Tehran.

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