Beating a Baha’i Prisoner in Semnan Prison

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Translation by Iran Press Watch

More than 90 days have passed since the arrest of Behnam Eskandarian, a 25 year-old Baha’i citizen in Semnan, along with two other young Baha’is, Ardeshir Fanaian, 30, and Yalda Firouzian, 20 years old. They are still being held under temporary custody for no clear reasons or charges.  In the past three months, their families have not been allowed to meet with the interrogator of the case, Hojat al-Islam Ramah, and they have only been able to obtain some news of their children from him in the corridors of the court. The detainees have also been denied access to a lawyer so far.  One official told the families that the detainees do not need a lawyer at this stage and that whenever there is a need for a lawyer, the prosecutor will arrange for one himself.

Behnam Eskandarian was beaten during the first few days of his detention by two other prisoners in the Quarantine Ward of Semnan Prison under false pretext to the point that after 90 days there were still traces of beating on his body, hands and ears.  A recent forensic medical examination report that was made about 10 days ago, which was requested by the inmate himself, documented ear rupture, blood clots, and severe inflammation of the inner ear.  This Baha’i citizen has been transferred from the Intelligence Office to the Semnan prison for more than a month but has been denied weekly visits during this time.  At the request of his family, he has only been allowed to meet them a few times in the office of the warden.  Behnam Eskandarian and Ardeshir Fanaian are held in a separate cell from other prisoners in the Semnan Central Prison.

In a related note, a relative of Behnam Eskandarian told IranWire: “Six days after his arrest, Behnam was suddenly transferred from the Intelligence Office to the quarantine ward of the prison during his interrogation. When Behnam entered the room, there were about seven or eight inmates already there.  One of them vociferously started calling Behnam “Vahid”, and his mother’s killer, and along with another inmate attacked Behnam.  No matter how much Behnam said his name was Behnam not Vahid, and that he was a Baha’i, they ignored him and kept on beating him hard.  None of the inmates in that cell prevented them from beating him.  These two men had access to the prison yard and took Behnam several times to the yard after some beating, and returned him back to the cell for some more beating.  After a few hours, they asked Behnam for money, but since he had no money, he called his family explaining his situation and asked for two million tumans( about $600).  This incident took at least half a day.  Although during this time, prison guards and security guards observed Behnam being beaten and heard his screams from the cell, nevertheless, they did nothing to prevent this barbaric behavior.

His relative said that after several hours, Behnam was taken to the prison’s clinic, and although he was severely bleeding and in pain, he was chained to the bed and pressured to admit that he had attempted to commit suicide, and that the bruises were due to self-harm, and that no one else was involved.

After Behnam’s phone call, the Eskandarian family went to the prosecutor’s office, where they found out that he had been returned to the Intelligence Office. They requested a forensic examination for their son, to which the deputy prosecutor responded that since the inmate is a wise and mature person, only he can request a forensic doctor for himself.  However, according to Article 51 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the authorities are obliged to provide the necessary conditions for the family of the accused to request an investigation into the health of their family member.  According to this Article, after the doctor’s examination, the report must be communicated to the family.

In the event, the officer in charge of the case did not allow Behnam’s family to visit or contact him until his bruises as the result of all the beatings were healed.  However, at the first visit, the Eskandarian family noticed his severe back pain and ear problems.  Right after the beatings, Behnam Eskandarian requested an examination by a forensic doctor, but he was not examined by a doctor until after one week after the incident.  In the preliminary forensic report, there are 13 signs of assault and bruising on the body: these happened in two rounds – at one time 10 bruises, and another time 3 bruises.

These incidents included head fractures, bruising around the eyes, and swelling and bruising of the ear.  The inner ear was not examined due to extreme bruising and swelling. According to the forensic report, any self-harm by the defendant was strongly rejected.

“Behnam’s hands and ears are still in pain,” said a relative of Behnam Eskandarian about his current state of health.  He added, “His right hand is still in pain due to severe blows to it as he used it to block blows to his face during the attack.  He hears a whistling sound in his ear and it is louder in a quiet environment.  The identity and name of one of the attackers has been determined, but the identity of the second attacker is unknown, and the prosecutor insists that there was only one person, not two.”

Behnam Eskandarian, Ardeshir Fanaian, and Yalda Firouzian were arrested on Tuesday, April 30th, by intelligence agents in their own home in Semnan.  Yalda Firouzian was transferred from Intelligence Office to Semnan Prison after about a month, and the two other defendants were transferred after two months.

The secretary of the Office of the Prosecutor has charged the three individuals with “acting against the Islamic Republic through propaganda and organizational activities” and “membership in an illegal group acting against national security.”  So far, Behnam Eskandarian’s lawyer has not been allowed to review the case or the documentation and reasons for the charges against his client.


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