The Meaning of Coerced Confessions in the Tehran Show Trials

Ladan Boroumand in Dissent:

206-ladan In a clumsy remake of an old-time Stalinist show trial, a pale and underfed individual with a distraught gaze recites more or less convincingly a story whose plot is ever the same: A self-told tale of (highly improbable) contacts with American or Israeli agents is put forward as “evidence” of the hapless defendant’s nefarious desire to topple the Islamic Republic.

This treatment is not reserved for oppositionists alone. On the contrary, prosecutors have administered it liberally over the years to former mid- or even high-ranking regime cadres who made the mistake of daring to question some higher-up’s wisdom or claim to command. On April 23, 1982, for instance, the confession of former IRI foreign minister and broadcasting chief Sadeq Ghotbzadeh aired on Iranian state television. He accused himself of plotting a military coup against Ayatollah Khomeini, an alleged crime for which he would be shot that September. A few days later, the highest-ranking Shi’a ayatollah, Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari, was given a text to read on television “proving” his connivance with Ghotbzadeh. Shariatmadari’s real “crime” was his disapproval of political rule by the clergy, but the trumped-up confession gave the IRI the legal fig leaf that it needed to silence the ayatollah and keep him under house arrest until his death in 1986.

More here.