Forced Confession of Academic on Death Row in Iran Has No Legitimacy

Islamic Republic Has Long History of Forcing False Confessions in Politically Motivated Cases

December 18, 2017—The forced confession broadcast December 17 on Iranian state TV and used to validate the death sentence against Ahmadreza Djalili is completely illegitimate and in no way validates the unlawful judicial process used to convict the Iranian-born Swedish resident on espionage charges.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) calls for the immediate suspension of Djalili’s death sentence and a judicial review of the case against him that fully incorporates due process.

“The Islamic Republic has been using forced confessions to validate the prosecution of individuals that they have no evidence against for decades,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of CHRI.

“Detainees are held incommunicado in solitary confinement, threatened, abused, denied proper access to counsel, psychologically broken—and then forced to sign patently false ‘confessions,’” Ghaemi said.

Djalali, an emergency medicine specialist and physician, has been in jail in Iran since April 2016. He had travelled to Iran from Sweden, where he lives with his wife and two children, on the invitation of Tehran University to speak on disaster relief. He has been accused of providing information to Israel that was allegedly used in the assassination of several Iranian scientists.

Djalali, held in solitary confinement for three months and denied access to a lawyer for seven months, was sentenced to death by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran in October 2017.

In an undated letter from Evin Prison, Djalali wrote that he was imprisoned for refusing to spy for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry. His wife has stated that her husband was forced to rehearse and read the confession that was broadcast, and that his interrogators threatened that his family and children would be killed if he did not make the taped statement. The young physicist Omid Kokabee was imprisoned in Iran for over five years for similarly refusing to conduct military research for Iran.

The state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has a long history of broadcasting such forced confessions. Typically well-staged productions, they are used to defame dissidents, intellectuals, and other individuals whom the authorities wish to discredit, legitimize their prosecution, and amass public support for their sentences.

“These confessions have no value without access to due process. Iran’s continued use of these forced statements is a travesty of justice that should be forcefully condemned by the international community,” Ghaemi said.

Sweden has condemned the death verdict against Djalali and 175 Nobel prize laureates have petitioned the Iranian authorities to release Djalali.

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