Report 9: Plaintiff Hearings pt. 3

Gohardasht prison in Iran. One of the prisons where many persons were executed in the summer of 1988. Photo: Gohardasht Prison / Ensie & Matthias ( / CC BY-SA 2.0

In our previous report, we provided a summary of the three hearings with plaintiffs that were held last week. The trial continued on Monday this week and proceeded with Plaintiff 2. The plaintiff gave the first part of his testimony to the court in early September but the examination by the defense had to be postponed to this week due to scheduling issues.

The examination of Plaintiff 2 by the defense was then followed by a first hearing with Plaintiff 10 on Monday and Wednesday and with Plaintiff 12 on Thursday.  The hearing with the latter was conducted through the court’s video conference system, as the plaintiff is residing in Canada and was unable to attend the proceedings in person. According to the trial schedule, an audio recording of the Police hearing conducted with Plaintiff 11, who passed away throughout the course of the preliminary investigation, was supposed to be played in the court room this week. However, the court decided that it would instead hear the recording behind closed doors at a later date.

As we were unable to attend the original hearing of Plaintiff 2 in early September and the hearing of Plaintiff 12 held this week, this report will focus on the hearing of plaintiff 10, who was originally scheduled to be heard late August. The hearing was re-scheduled as the hearing with Plaintiff 1 had taken longer than expected to conclude.

To briefly summarize the defense’s hearing with Plaintiff 2, its line of questioning followed a similar pattern to previous hearings, with the defense pointing out discrepancies between the statement given by the plaintiff to the Swedish police and his testimony given in court. Particular focus was given to the fact that the plaintiff had claimed in his statement to the police that the person working at Gohardasht prison and who the prosecution (and plaintiffs) claim is the defendant, always wore sneakers with the heel of the shoe pressed down, which the plaintiff had failed to mention in court. When the subject arose, the plaintiff first exclaimed “I don’t remember what shoes I wore last week, how would I remember what shoes the defendant wore?”. When pressed by the defense, however, the plaintiff stood by the description given in his previous statement to the Swedish police.

Plaintiff 10

As usual, the hearing began with the plaintiff’s counsel, Göran Hjalmarsson, briefly presenting his client and providing a background on the plaintiff’s history and experiences relevant to the case. Plaintiff 10 was the first plaintiff to be heard by the Swedish police. In fact, the plaintiff was heard on the same day that the defendant was arrested upon his arrival in Sweden. The plaintiff had been arrested in Teheran in 1982 for sympathizing with the MEK and was sentenced to seven years in prison after a “so-called trial” lasting no more than five minutes. At the time of his arrest, he was studying to become an architect. Like many other plaintiffs, he was incarcerated in three different prisons: Evin, Ghezel Hesar and Gohardasht. He was transferred from Evin to Gohardasht around six months before the mass executions were initiated and was transferred back to Evin a few months after. The plaintiff encountered the defendant on several occasions prior to, during and after the mass executions. The plaintiff is also responsible for designing some of the drawings of the structure of Gohardasht prison that were later printed in Plaintiff 1’s books and which has been displayed in court on numerous occasions.

Among the encounters with the defendant that the plaintiff recalled, a few took place in the so-called death corridor as the plaintiff waited on his turn to stand before the death committee. The plaintiff recalled seeing and hearing the defendant call out the names of prisoners who were due to see the committee, and of the defendant leading prisoners through the corridor and towards the place of execution. The plaintiff also described his own interrogation with the committee, explaining that he had no qualms about denouncing the MEK to save his own life and that he had declared himself willing to both sign a letter doing so and to participate in a recorded interview. But the plaintiff also underlined that he was unwilling to “sell out” any of his other fellow prisoners and when asked by the committee which other inmates who were still with the MEK he claimed to suffer from migraine and stomach issues and that he did not really know anyone else in the prison.

The plaintiff turned visibly emotional when asked by the prosecution how he had felt when he was waiting to be called to the committee, considering that he had realized by then that executions were taking place. The plaintiff recalled feeling as if he was walking towards his own death, but how he had also felt a great will to live. The plaintiff further recalled thinking of his sister’s husband who had been executed years earlier, asking him in his head for strength, and hoping that if faced with execution, it would be swift. As he spoke about how he was unable to comprehend that all his friends were being executed, and how he to this day could not understand how the defendant and his cohorts could be so coldblooded, the defendant stared at him intensely. “The guys were all innocent; they had done nothing” the plaintiff said and asked rhetorically: “What had we done to deserve this? To exercise in groups? To walk in groups? Is that a crime?”

The line of questioning from the defense was similar to prior hearings. The defense again pointed out discrepancies between the statement given by the plaintiff to the Swedish police the testimony given by the plaintiff to the Iran tribunal in 2012 and his testimony in court. Particular focus was also given to the drawings of Gohardasht prison by the plaintiff, which have been published in Plaintiff 1’s books and have been displayed frequently in court. The defense questioned how the plaintiff, who in his hearing in court had claimed that the room in which the committee was seated may have been located in a different building than the one indicated in his drawings, could have become unsure of this fact only after the case was brought to court. When questioned about this, the plaintiff claimed to have thought of the possibility that his drawings might be incorrect only last week and downplayed any suggestion from the defense that it was something he had discussed with Plaintiff 1, who made similar claims on the drawings in his testimony in court.

Next Report

In our next report, we will provide an overview of the plaintiff hearings due to be held next week.

A translated version of this report in Farsi can be found here.