Fariba Davoodi Mohajer,
The deputy police chief of Iran announced that the second phase of the “anti-criminal and gangster plan” would be executed soon.
Following the passing of the “Social Security Enhancement Act” by the Cultural Revolution Council, the “anti-criminal and gangster” plan was sent to the police for implementation. The judiciary, IRGC, the ministry of intelligence and the Basij resistance forces will assist the police in enforcing this plan.
The first phase called “Chastity and Hijab” was mostly focused on women’s clothing. But the next phases also covered the arrest of drug addicts, criminals and gangsters, and the inspection of boutiques, men hair salons and photo studios.
Undoubtedly, there was a public demand to deal with those who threaten the security of the general public through mugging, terrorizing, robbing and murdering people. However in April 2007, under the guise of dealing with these criminals, masked police forces attacked various places such as coffeehouses or other public places and homes. They violently arrested people, beat them up, and dragged them on the ground in front of other people while journalists and photographers reported these scenes. The Islamic Republic TV showed the treatment of masked police officers with these people, for the first time.
Then the detainees were sent to Kahrizak detention center, where they were tortured and kept under difficult circumstances. Their food and water were rationed, many of them were kept in temporary facilities and containers in very hot temperature before they were convicted or faced trial.
The death of six people in Kahrizak, which did not have the basic standards to house prisoners, resulted in protests by human rights foundations and activists. The Tehran deputy prosecutor confessed that there is no reference to “criminals and gangsters” as an umbrella term in law; and he criticized the police. Gholm Hossein Elham, the administration’s spokesman at the time also said that the administration was opposed to some of the actions that were executed in the plan.
Human rights activist Emadeldin Baghi announced at the time that he could name at least two people who were not known in their neighborhoods as criminals or gangsters but were bloggers who had been detained in the same way.
In his first press conference after the announcement that he was running for president, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is currently under house arrest, stated that the imperious and violent implementation of this security project will not produce any positive results. He insisted that some of these arrests were illegal and were being carried out with sinister intentions.
When another phase of this plan was announced, human rights activists were concerned about repeating the suppressive actions which had occurred in 2007. According to the ILNA news agency, “The police chief of Fars province announced intensifying the crackdown on ‘criminals, gangsters, muggers, fugitives, and murderers’.”
Borna news agency reported from Qom that Mohammad Reza Mir Heydari has also stated that the fourth phase of the plan to elevate security in society was underway with the goal of cracking down on criminals and gangsters. He said, “The police command and the judiciary of the province are committed to decisively cracking down on the people who ignore religious values.”
What is also worrisome is the violation of the rights of these detainees to a fair trial. According to the 35th article of the constitution, defendants have the right to choose an attorney in all courts and if they cannot afford an attorney, the government must hire one for them. But legally, the attorney is not allowed to be present during interrogations and in many cases, the case is not even given to the attorney for review. There are cases where the attorney enters the process too late or sometimes the defendants and their families are threatened not to hire an attorney. The other problem is when the defendant cannot afford an attorney and the judiciary process is not helped by a government appointed attorney. Lastly, the absence of a jury is another obstacle in establishing a fair trial.
Furthermore, these detainees are not granted basic legal rights such as the right to visit their family and make phone calls. This ban from contact with people outside the prison, limits the ability to properly defend them. The defendants do not dare complain about the bad conditions during their arrests or interrogations.
Also Iranian law does not define the umbrella term “criminals and gangsters” and the police can arrest and punish whomever they want. Mass arrests on the streets can become a means of terrorizing and suppressing activists and dissidents, especially when the authorities do not take any responsibility for the lives of people.
It looks like this form of dealing with “criminals and gangsters” is planned to follow a political agenda than cracking down on social deviants and crimes. This interpretation by law enforcement undermines how they deal with the actually crimes that threaten the security of society.
Fariba Davoodi Mohajer,