Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ahmad Batebi: Kidnapped, jailed, beaten ... over a bloodied T-shirt

For those of my readers who would like to know more about "Ahmad Batebi", whom I wrote about a few days ago, here is a background report on him in UK's Observer, published in April. Batebi was arrested again a few days ago while on medical leave and according to his wife, is on hunger strike:

His handsome face was seen around the world. The photograph, used on the front of the Economist magazine, showed Ahmad Batebi, his hands holding the bloodstained T-shirt of a fellow student beaten by paramilitaries. His look of indignation captured the mood of young Iranians demonstrating for democracy in the summer of 1999.

Just holding that shirt earned Batebi a 15-year prison sentence for endangering national security, served in the notorious Evin prison in north Tehran.

After meeting a visiting United Nations human rights envoy last November during brief leave from prison, Batebi was abducted and subjected to threats, sleep deprivation and other psychological torture before being thrown back into prison.

In the first three months of his imprisonment, Batebi wrote an open letter to the authorities describing how interrogators held his head in a drain full of excrement and beat him on the testicles. His trial lasted for just three minutes, with the Economist cover cited as evidence that he had jeopardised the reputation of the Islamic republic. His case illustrates how Iran's clerical establishment continues to rule through repression and fear. Dozens of other political prisoners languish in jails across the country. Human rights monitors say no one knows precisely how many because some families choose to suffer in silence.