London, 6 Feb - Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani claimed that there are no political prisoners in Iran, during a meeting with Judiciary officials in Tehran on Monday.
Iran plans to pardon 50,000 prisoners to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, but the Regime has faced growing calls to free political prisoners, so Larijani claimed that there were none.
Larijani said: “Some people talk about releasing political prisoners or dissidents to marginalize this great measure. We do not have any criminals categorized as political prisoners…The judiciary has never prosecuted anyone only for criticism... We say explicitly that criticism is not at all a crime in the Islamic Republic.”
All of this comes at a time when even parliament members have been summoned before the courts for critical comments and Amnesty International reports that at least 7,000 people were arrested for political activism in 2018.
How to hide political prisoners
Iranians hit back on social media and explained that the Regime actually uses the term "security prisoners" for “political prisoners", which shouldn’t be surprising because the Regime often charges them with national security crimes. (Interestingly, Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that the pardon does not cover "security prisoners".)
International human rights groups observed that most political prisoners in Iran are charged with security crimes to avoid international criticism over political prisoners.
This prompted Larijani to try and pretend that the Regime actually makes a distinction between those who pose a risk to the security of Iran and those simply organising a protest for women’s rights.
He said: “Unfortunately some people who have positions in executive bodies have said that the amnesty incorporates critics (of the regime). It seems that they are indicating that there are people in prison only for criticizing (the regime). What a big lie this is. Is there anyone in prison today for criticizing (the state)? …If someone acted against national security, this is an independent criminal offence that has to be addressed. Political crimes have been defined in the law and seeing to these crimes has its own legal procedures.”
Larijani is far from the only Iranian official to claims that they don’t have political prisoners. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif once said that "no one is imprisoned in Iran for his or her beliefs."