By Tracie Aylmer
It has come to my notice that a man who fled Iran for Australia and ended up on Manus Island had been in Sepidar prison in Iran for several months. This man took a deal from Australian authorities to return to Iran several years ago, but decided his best course of action was to highlight the human rights crisis on Manus for the world to see.
He made sure that the public found out about what happened inside one of Australia’s detention centres. He did nothing but talk incessantly and vocally for the human rights of the men inside.
He has recently shown a glimpse of what happens in Iranian prisons.
What are the charges that many people are brought in for?
Most people are addicts and drug smugglers. After that, murderers, those that have killed, are in Sepidar. Another group is charged for street fighting and tribal conflicts.Yet another group is that of thieves and burglars.
How long do the prisoners usually stay?
It depends on the crime and accusation. The person was in custody for nine months until the judge was convinced that he had not committed a crime. He is still on bail until the review judges consider the case.
Another person has been in prison for around 23 to 24 years. He is about 60 plus years old now. He does not have the money to pay the victim’s family. He will be in prison until he either finds the money or the victim’s family forgives him. Those charges appear to be in relation to street fighting, where a death occurred.
For street fighting and tribal conflicts, it’s the responsibility of the victim’s family, and not the government, on the length of imprisonment. This is part of the “eye for an eye” law that exists in Iran. Blood money can be paid to the victim’s family, and after some imprisonment the person can then go back into the community.
How long between the court cases and their execution date?
There are about 40 in the one room, and 10 of those were awaiting execution. Those awaiting executions included people convicted for street fighting and tribal fighting. Most cases happened in an ethnic Arab community and the Ahvaz community.
Execution depends on whether the family has forgiven him. A man who was imprisoned for 3 years did not have the victim’s family forgive him, and so he was executed. He was given an individual room with water and food for perhaps 1 or 2 days. The victim’s family must be there, and they are the ones that pull the handle for the hanging to occur.
Before execution, the person will be given a chance. He will offer the victim’s family an amount and ask for forgiveness. He will be placed in a general room for a month until the next time he is given a chance. In total, he will receive 3 chances before execution occurs.
Some families forgive easily, and others refuse to forgive. It is entirely up to the family. Some people can be imprisoned for up to 10 years before it is known that they will never receive forgiveness and will therefore be executed.
In a 9 month period, 6 people were executed – 5 men and 1 woman.
If a public official is killed or there is a reason of national security, there is no forgiveness and execution will occur. It typically takes around 2 to 3 years, or less than that, depending on the judge.
A man killed 2 police officers, and he was executed as the family had not forgiven him, and government was involved.
How many people per room?
There are between 40 to 45 in the one room, and 10 of those were awaiting execution. The prison has 11 blocks. Ten blocks are for men and 1 block is for women.
One block has 9 rooms, and within the room are between 40 and 45 prisoners.
Breathing is very difficult, especially in summer as it is very hot. The block the person was in was called Green Block. Drugs are so easily found in the prison. There are meth, opium, heroin without problems. If you had money, you could get what you needed.
In Green Block, some could take drugs but it wasn’t as easily available in that particular block in prison.
What are the amenities like there?
The conditions are really unhygienic. It’s unbelievable that people are kept in these conditions when it is always claimed that people are treated well in Iran.
For 14 days, the prison officials needed to be convinced to give proper medication, and medical support is not readily available. Skin diseases are spread throughout the whole prison. Infections occur regularly.
Food is ‘shit’ but they have to eat it anyway. Most days they made their own food. They had to buy from the store and make the food themselves. Each block had a store for which food was bought.
For water, there was a water filter for drinking water. The prisoners bought a water filtering machine but in other blocks, water had to be bought. Otherwise, the water is undrinkable.
Sleeping facilities at least half of the people in the room slept on the floor with 2 blankets. Mostly those who had long term sentences had their beds but others had to sleep on the floor. Skin diseases, bed bugs and infections were prolific.
Conditions are absolutely inhumane for the whole prison. All prisoners that have been there for more than a year are mentally sick.
Were there any political prisoners in Sepidar?
No, as there are special prisons for the political prisoners, and they are tried differently, with the IRGC (Islamic Revolution Guard’s Court). The conditions were better in these facilities, rather than Sepidar. The conditions are not comparable.
Protesters were kept in Sepidar, though, as protesters were arrested in many areas of Iran. People who converted their religion were kept in a special block in the Central Prison near Ahvaz.
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It is harrowing to see so many given the death penalty. This snapshot shows that the conditions in Iran are not what Iran wants the world to believe.
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