Incarcerated Iranian Labor Activist Appeals for Help from the UN Special Rapporteur

October 28th, 2012 – [Kaleme] In an open letter from Rajai Shahr prison, Shahrokh Zamani, a well-known labor activist and  member of The Committee for the Promotion of Free Labor Unions and The Syndicate of Tehran Painters appeals to the public to be his voice to the world at large. As per reports by the Meli Mazhabi [National Religious Coalition] site, Shamrock Zamani, currently serving his 11 year sentence in exile at Rajai Shahr prison, describes the pressures and torture he has endured while behind prison in an open letter of appeal to UN Special Rapporteur to Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.

The full content of the letter is as follows:

I am Shahrokh Zamani, a 30 year resident of Tehran and a member of The Syndicate of Tehran Painters and The Committee for the Promotion of Free Labor Unions. I was unlawfully arrested by agents of the Intelligence Ministry on June 5th, 2011 while visiting with my parents in the city of Tabriz [East Azerbaijan Province] and charged without any evidence what so ever, regarding the nature of my supposed crimes.  Following 40 days of both psychological and physical torture and a 40 day hunger strike protesting this illegal and inhumane treatment, I was transferred to the Central Prison in Tabriz having lost 27 Kg (approximately 60Lbs) without succumbing to a false confession.  Notwithstanding the fact that there was not a shred of evidence against me and although my interrogators had failed to obtain a confession out of me, I was nevertheless maliciously charged with “propaganda against the regime” and “the establishment of socialist groups” and sentenced to a mandatory 11 years behind bars by the Revolutionary Court in Tabriz. It goes without saying that I have always denied all charges filed against me.  When asking the judge presiding over my trial why I was handed such a sever sentence, he only responded: “Who do you think I am sir? I am just an employee following orders in a highly hierarchical system.”

Tabriz prison is one of the most notorious prisons in Iran renowned for its murderous prison guards, infamous for their illegal, inhumane and deadly treatment of inmates. Political prisoners behind bars at Tabriz prison are denied their fundamental rights such as furlough from prison, conditional releases and even access to the prison library that is tightly controlled by prison officials.  Prisoners are subjected to the worse forms of psychological and physical torture, including the unleashing of violent prisoners charged with common crimes on political prisoners who are forced to co-mingle in the same ward.  Given the utter lack of rules, clashes and outbreaks (whether big or small) are a daily occurrence between inmates charged with common crimes and political prisoners living under the same roof.

21 beds have been installed in a room no larger than 20 meters; a  room that houses more than 40 prisoners at a time. On a normal day at least 7 violent, common criminals are placed amongst us with the goal to spy and physically intimidate political prisoners.
Political prisoners are in contact with individuals with AIDS and Hepatitis.  This close proximity along with the mocking and taunting by prison guards is one of the most unnerving forms of psychological torture endured by political prisoners.  In 2011 I was transferred from my cell [heavenly in nature in comparison to my new destination] to section 12 under the management of the Intelligent Ministry for the purpose of being tortured.  Section 12 is a quarantined area dedicated to dangerous criminals.  Many say that most inmates are unable to tolerate its conditions for longer than three days.  I was later transferred to Section 15, known as the Methadone Ward, along with another incarcerated labor activist, Jomhour Azgoch [a member of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)] to a room that housed more than 50 inmates suffering from AIDS and Hepatitis.

In April 2012, despite the fact that I had not committed any crime, the prison officials tampered with documents, falsely claiming that I had requested a transfer and as a result I was moved to the city of Yazd.   After being accused of leaking information regarding the prison conditions in Yazd, I was once again sent back to the Treatment Ward 8 at Tabriz prison, where I collaborated with other political prisoners, sending 14 written letters to the State Prison Organization, highlighting the human rights violations and the harassment of political prisoners at the hands of prison guards and demanding the immediate upholding of our legal rights such as the right to furlough, conditional releases, the use of the exercise facilities and access to technical and professional classes, to name a few.

In retaliation, the prison officials coerced the common prisoners to file a complaint against me and a number of other prisoners, claiming that we had insulted the Supreme Leader, had sworn at common prisoners and cajoled other labor union prisoners to launch a strike.  A case file was submitted to the 11th circuit court and as result I was exiled to Rajai Shahr prison in the city of Karaj.  Interestingly enough, two of the inmates who had filed a complaint against me later expressed regret over their decision.

Mr. Ahmed Shaheed,
In spite of the numerous complaints by my family members to a variety of legal entities such as The Office of the Supreme Leader and the the Supreme Court of Human Rights to name a few, to date we have heard nothing back but intimidation and threats.  As a result of the continued pressure and threats on my family I would like to share with you that my lawyer was told by a Supreme Court expert that in his opinion the charges filed against me were terribly unjust and there was no reason what so ever for the presiding judge to hand down such a harsh sentence. My wife was told by a human rights expert that  nothing can be done about my predicament given that the sentence has been handed down by high ranking officials, recommending that she appeal to international human rights organizations instead.  Apparently the presiding judge was pressured into rendering such a sentence and later stated that he is but a subordinate doing his job and following orders within the current, complex system of hierarchy.

Mr. Shaheed, we political prisoners are left with no other recourse but to turn to human rights organizations. You are our only hope.
In closing I would like to reiterate that my life was threatened both directly and indirectly by the Office of the Ministry of Intelligence. These threats included but were not limited to poisoning, exposure to inmates suffering from AIDS, forcing mentally unstable, violent and dangerous inmates into altercations with me and provocation by intelligence officers disguised as inmates, encouraging me to escape so that I may be shot while escaping.  Thankfully I disassociated myself from these prisoners after they were identified and exposed.   I was warned repeatedly by a number of kind and benevolent prison guards to be careful given the example of Mr. Emani an engineer who was killed when falling into the trap of an assisted escape from prison. As such I would like to warn everyone that if I die while in prison, the responsibility for my death lies with the officials.
While looking forward to a future rich with humanity and void of all discrimination and oppression, I warmly embrace you and sincerely thank you in advance for your support and hard work.

Shahrokh Zamani
Prisoner at Rajia Shahr Prison, Iran
October 20th, 2012


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