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GLOBAL OUTRAGE OVER PRESS TV TORTURE CONFESSIONS

Chebeishat "confesses" in Ahwaz Revolutionary Court:
No defence lawyer is present, but Press TV is allowed to film
Outrage is building over Iran's Press TV's broadcast yesterday of "confessions" by Ahwazi Arab torture victims. Human rights activists have condemned the broadcast of the documentary, which is just the latest in a series showing political prisoners ritually humiliated on Iran's global television channel.

The English language propaganda station showed Ali Chebeishat (47), Sayed Yassin Mousavi (35) and Salman Chayan (32) admitting responsibility for attacking pipelines, following months of imprisonment and brutal interrogation by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. Prior to their "confessions", the men were tortured so badly they were treated on several occasions at Fatima-alzahra hospital in Ahwaz city. They had also held hunger strikes in protest at the conditions of their incarceration.

Chebeishat was forced to claim
he was trained and funded from Dubai
Televised confessions are used by the Iranian regime to humiliate peaceful opponents and justify execution to the Iranian public and the wider world. In a mockery of any standards of justice, Press TV filmed the "confessions" in June or July before the trial in September, in which they were sentenced to death; the documentary wrongly states they were "initially sentenced to long life terms" but adds that their cases are "now under revision".

False confessions

Death row prisoner Sayyed Yassin Mousavi
praises the security services for catching him
All three men were members of the Youth of Shush Cultural Institute when they were arrested. Chebeishat, a well-known poet from the village of Khalaf Kaab Imsallam near Shush, was subjected to barbaric physical and psychological torture, which led to him sustaining broken ribs by his interrogators. Some of the torture was carried out in front of his sons.

In the documentary, Chebeishat was forced to claim that he had received training in bomb-making in Dubai and received thousands of dirhams to fund bombing operations from the National Resistance of Al-Ahwaz. Chebeishat and Mousavi are shown "confessing" in front of family members, some of whom were arrested and beaten in custody for days by the intelligence services in Dezful.

Mousavi claimed he was coaxed into joining with Chebeishat to film explosions with the promise of 'big money' from abroad. Chayan stated that he later joined the two because he needed money after a decline in onion prices affected his farm income. Both Chebeishat and Chayan are shown appearing in Ahwaz Revolutionary Court giving their confessions in front of a judge. No defence counsel or prosecutor can be seen in the court room.

Chebeishat humiliated into "confessing" to foreign assistance
in front of family members
They "confessed" to the bomb attack on a gas pipeline on 23 October 2012 and a train transporting oil near Haftapeh station on 16 September, which destroyed the train and the railtrack. Neither attack led to any loss of life. Until the announcement of the revolutionary court's verdict in September, the gas pipeline explosion was described by the government as the result of an accidental leak and not sabotage.

The men claimed in the film to have carried out at least 20 operations, although no details were given on what these entailed. In the documentary, Hamid Barvard, CEO of the National Iranian South Oil Company, claimed that the group polluted water supplies in their bomb attacks, although the province's water supply is notoriously bad.

The documentary focuses on the National Resistance leader Habib Nabgan, who Press TV claims is an international terrorist wanted by Interpol and living in Denmark. No warrant for his arrest has been lodged with Interpol.

Condemnation of televised confessions

Family members are shown supporting the charges
London-based Ahwazi human rights activist Jamal Obeidi, who was illegally refouled from Syria and forced to confess on television following torture in prison, told Ahwaz News Agency: "These are fabricated confessions directed by the Iranian intelligence service. A political prisoner in 'IRI' suffers a fiendish situation, starting from arrest and physical and psychological torture to grievous solitary confinement for months or years in many cases. These treatments by the Iranian security forced on political prisoners constitute outrageous intimidation - based on honour, ethnicity and religion that no human can possibly imagine.

"This inhuman, non-Islamic, hateful and spiteful treatment that Ahwazi political prisoners experience for months and years, turns him into a spiritually, psychologically and physically fragile person in prison. This leads the security officer to be able to dictate the prisoner his wishes which most of the time led to humiliating his dignity without being able to do anything.

"These confessions are actually being extracted in this way, and their hoped-aim has political implications inside and outside the country."

"Confessions" retracted

His statement is backed up by previous claims by Iranians who have "confessed" following torture. They include Ahwazi Arabs who have later retracted their "confessions", claiming they were tortured. Four Ahwazi Arabs - brothers Taha Heidarian (28), Abbas Heidarian (25), Abdul-Rahman Heidarian (23) and Ali Naami Sharifi - recorded a secret statement claiming they were tortured into making false confessions before they were executed in June 2012.

The men were sentenced to death following convictions for "enmity with god" and "sowing corruption on the earth" in connection with the alleged murder of a policeman. Ahead of their trials in a secret revolutionary court, Taha Heidarian made televised confessions with other detained Ahwazi Arabs in which he said he was part of a terrorist group called "Khalq-e Arab" (Arab people) - a broad term used by the regime to refer to all Ahwazi opposition groups, including those who have renounced violence. The "confessions" followed months of solitary confinement and torture and were broadcast by Press TV, Iran's international English language television station.

A total of 18 "confessions" were shown in two broadcasts by Press TV, a subsidiary of state-owned broadcaster IRIB. The “confessions” included alleged “mind termination” techniques used by Western powers, Israel and Ahwazi opposition groups to turn “simple people with simple minds” into killers and other far-fetched and unproven claims.

Call for strengthening of sanctions

Iranian human rights lawyer and head of Justice for Iran Shadi Sadr also expressed her disgust over the Press TV documentary. She said: "Press TV is not a television channel, but it is a tool of human rights violations. That is why, its managers, Ezatullah Zarghani, Mohammed Sarafraz and Mohammed-reza Emadi are targeted by EU human rights sanctions and Press TV is banned in many countries such as Germany and Spain.

"Despite the continuation of broadcasting political prisoners forces confessions, which is justification for more executions in the international arena, in the last few weeks some EU diplomats have tried hard to take these these people's names off the ban list to show goodwill to Iran in the Geneva talks.

"Fortunately, these attempts have failed following appeals by human rights organisations. However, Iranian government is still putting pressure on the EU to cancel the human rights sanctions on these people, despite the fact that there is no sign they will stop taking confessions under torture and broadcasting them to international audiences."

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) is campaigning for Press TV personnel to be banned from the European Union and for Arab and European governments to intervene to prevent the Iranian regime from broadcasting on Nilesat, Intelsat, Eutelsat, Arabsat and other satellite broadcasters. It is also pushing for sanctions to be extended to include production staff.

BAFS Chair Daniel Brett said: "Everyone involved in and profiting from Press TV's broadcasts is complicit in the Iranian regime's human rights atrocities, so long as these 'confession' documentaries are aired and opposition activists are humiliated in this way.

"Press TV is an intrinsic part of the Iranian regime's war of terror against the Iranian people and any who stand against it. These broadcasts are intended to silence dissent and vilify a legitimate expression of grievances by the persecuted and oppressed, such as the Ahwazi Arabs.

"From the cameraman to the editor to the scheduler to the satellite owner is responsible for the televised confessions, following lengthy periods of torture, that are used as evidence to condemn men to death. All involved should be targeted by the most punitive sanctions."