False confessions in Iran

Alejandra de la Fuente — August 4, 2009 @ 11:17 AM — Comments (0)

On Sunday, the Criminal Justice blog shared a piece on Iranian false confessions. Inspired by This American Life podcast from July 24, the story focuses on the case of Omid Memarian, an Iranian journalist who was arrested and beat for 3 weeks until he confessed to crimes he didn’t commit. His interrogator made changes to his confession as though he was his editor and after 6 drafts they settled on 2 different versions of varying lengths which were released in newspapers and on the web. They even forced him to write down shameful acts he committed with a non-existent girlfriend, sinful in Iran.

After the release of his written confession, they made him confess on TV.

“And they told me; my interrogator said ‘This is the last part of the game. You should be on TV and then it’s over. Don’t screw us.'”

A rather ironic statement being that Omid was the one being screwed. They put on a show with his interview to make it seem casual and not forced in any way. The room was beautifully decorated with curtains, flowers, and orange juice as if it was an enjoyable place to be, when in fact Omid cried several times during taping. Behind the camera his interrogator yelled cut and made him redo it until it was perfect.

Memarian is not the only victim of a forced confession in Iran. Many confessions are released that all contain similar details and the same style as Omid’s and many others. The false confessions are so often and so similar that Omid and his friends can write down what the confession will include and be taken aback by how right they are. He says it’s because it’s the interrogator’s language and not the person’s. They all use as many foreign names and institutions as possible, make references to historical events, and all include the mention of a “Velvet Revolution” or a “Color Revolution,” as though it’s one huge conspiracy against the state – when in fact it’s the state conspiring against the public.

Omid brought attention to this problem and Iranian government officials were shocked, but the problem is far too large for them to control and it’s still going on.

False confessions and wrongful convictions are not just a problem in the U.S. but all over the world. Take a listen to the podcast and hear the story out of Omid Memarian’s own mouth. (It’s “Act I: Side Effects May Include…” and starts around 6:50 in)

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