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Sepideh Rashno’s Case: Attorney Helps Retouching The Face of Torture

In the early hours of yesterday, state media announced the temporary release of Sepideh Rashno (Rashnou) for 800 million Toman as bail.

But 800 million was not the only cost that Sepideh Rashno had to pay for temporary freedom. The day before, ISNA quoting Naeem-Reza Nezami-Chaharmahali, Sepideh’s attorney, wrote: “The first hearing of my client’s charges was held, and her temporary arrest order was canceled and turned into a bail order.” On the same day, the Judiciary media published a vague report of the first session of the Sepideh Rashno’s court in Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. In this report, information from Sepideh’s statement was included, which had nothing to do with the questions and accusations raised by the prosecutor’s representative. The report describes the court proceedings like this:

Judge Afshari orders the representative of the prosecutor to read the indictment. The prosecutor’s representative reads the charges. He claims that Sepideh filmed herself in public without a hijab and sent it to TV channels outside Iran and they published the video. He accuses Sepideh of first taking off her hijab on the bus on Saturday morning, July 16, filming the “hijab commander” (Rayeheh Rabiei) and then throwing her out of the bus.

In this statement, two contradictory points immediately becomes obvious: 1- As it is clear in the released video of this conflict, the person who threw Rabiei out of the bus was not Sepideh. The one whose wrist was injured, with the help of other passengers who were present at the scene and who were also attacked and insulted by Rayeheh Rabiei, expelled “the hijab commander” from the bus; There was no pushing her out. Rayeheh Rabiei called all the passengers “bastards” when leaving.

2- The person whose wrist was injured by Rayeheh Rabiei, in a clip that was published by the security media titled “Explanation of an incident and a mischievous media lie” on July 27, 202, explained that Rayeheh Rabiei and Sepideh Rashno both got on the BRT bus together on the day of the incident. “After passing a stop, a woman with hijab and a woman without a headscarf boarded the BRT.” The same narration is confirmed by Rayeheh Rabiei in the continuation of that clip: “I saw a woman with no covering at all. That means no scarf on her head or even around her neck.” According to the testimony of these people, Sepideh did not have any kind of covering, whether it was a shawl or a scarf, to “remove hijab” on the bus. Therefore, either the prosecutor’s representative is lying or Rayeheh Rabiei has given false testimony.

At the end of this section, the prosecutor representative claims that Sepideh “sent the video of the Saturday morning bus to Masih Alinejad”. This claim is also completely baseless. The videos sent by citizens to Masih Alinejad are all decorated with her logo and watermark. Saturday morning bus video had none of that.

After the prosecutor representative’s statements, Judge Afshari once again lists the accusations of Sepideh Rashno and reminds that Sepideh’s accusation is not only limited to the incident that happened on the bus on Saturday morning. Then, Sepideh Rashno is called into the “defendant’s box”. Judge Afshari asks her to explain “in the context of the tweet published on social media and public roads and streets on July 16”.

Mizan’s report, however, ignoring the question raised by Judge Afshari, suddenly decides to change the topic, beat around the bush and write from Sepideh’s words that have nothing to do with the judge’s question: “They wrote many lies against me. They said that I was taken to Taleghani Hospital after being tortured. The next day I called my family and denied this. They wrote a lot of lies against me during my stay in the detention center.”

Sepideh Rashno was arrested in the early morning of July 17, 2022, at her home. In the evening of July 30, Channel 2 of Islamic Republic Radio & TV (IRIB) aired a short clip entitled “Fighting over hijab; Confrontation of people against people” with Ameneh-Sadat Zabihpour narrating. Sepideh Rashno’s face, which was shown only for 30 seconds, was blurred. But that same night, the “Bisimchi” Telegram channel, which is managed by the IRGC’s cyber intelligence agents, published a version of the same film, in which the tortured face of Sepideh was seen without censorship and unedited. The torturers had their own uncensored file and published it.

36 days after her arrest (July 17, 2022), 31 days after she was transferred to Taleghani Hospital due to internal bleeding (July 21, 2022) and 22 days after her tortured face was shown in the video of Ameneh-Sadat Zabihpour (July 30, 2022), produced and published by the Islamic Republic Radio & TV, Sepideh Rashno’s attorney introduced himself on social networks: Naeem-Reza Nezami-Chaharmahali.

Naeem Nezami presents himself as a supporter of regime figures known as “reformists” on social media. His writings tell of his deep hatred towards Masih Alinejad and her activities in women’s rights and freedom. He had once said that a woman “feeling free” when she does not wear a hijab, “is an inner feeling that a person feels more comfortable in a situation, but the use of the word freedom in this situation has no place.” And before he became Sepideh Rashno’s attorney, when her tortured face was widely published on social networks, thinking that the uncensored image was published by regime’s Radio & TV – he did not know that the IRGC had published Sepideh Rashno’s unblurred face – revealed a theory behind the conspiracies. He posted on his Instagram: “The issue of Ms. Sepideh Rashno seems to be campaigning from the inside, and this young lady is a victim of the team which chose her for their campaign! The fact that the commander intentionally invites the accused to confess on television without removing the effects of coercion is a clear sign for the opposition, and I believe that Masih Alinejad has been an insider from the beginning and one of the most effective figures in the insider’s campaign creations.” The lawyer here admits that in the case of Sepideh Rashno, the torture is visible and undeniable. His surprise is more why the “commander” did not “fix” the torture marks. Unaware that the commander had fixed it, the torturer had preferred the “unfixed” version. In this “super conspiracy theory”, the lawyer considers torture in the prisons of the Islamic Republic as unlikely.

He considers it his duty to defend the regime against the accusations of his tortured clients by citing Article 38 of the Constitution. He entered the Sepideh Rashno’s case with the same mission, to exonerate the regime from the accusation of torture. This is not the first time that a “reformist” lawyer tries to hide the reality of torture in the Islamic Republic. Two years ago, again in August/September, Navid Afkari’s lawyer, Hasan Younesi, as well as Emadeddin Baghi, were both working hard to retouch the inhumane face of torture.

Three days ago, Ansieh Khazali, Raisi’s Vice-President of Women’s Affairs, in response to a question about Sepideh Rashno’s arrest, said: “I will not interfere in this matter, and this issue is the responsibility of the police, and it is supposed to be resolved at the lowest cost.” Khazali puts the responsibility of the matter not on the Judiciary, instead unintentionally but correctly, on the police force.

Revealing torture had become a “liability” for the regime. No lawyer could be more suitable than Naeem Nezami to solve this liability. Cancellation of temporary arrest order and turning it into a bail order in exchange for “Sepideh’s confession in court about not being tortured and not being sent to the hospital” was the deal struck between the lawyer and the torture commander. The Revolutionary Court will never agree to accept a prisoner’s request and give her something without receiving something in return.


Translation of this post by Sahar.

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