Former Iranian Prisoner: I Was Tortured Into Making Israeli Spy Confession
An Iranian national now living in Germany has spoken at length to the BBC recalling how he was sentenced to death after being tortured by the authorities into confessing that he was an Israeli spy.
Ironically, a power struggle between two of Iran’s intelligence agencies opened the door for his exoneration and eventual release.
“The interrogators were hitting the soles of my bare feet with a thick electric cable,” 46-year-old Mazyar Ebrahimi told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.
“They broke my foot. The beatings continued for seven months.”
Ebrahimi said that the torture, which took place at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, was so bad he would do anything to make it stop, including making a false confession.
He was one of the 13 suspects who confessed on state television in 2012 to working for Israel to kill four Iranian nuclear scientists between 2010 and 2012.
Despite breaking down and confessing, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (MoI) demanded more information. They coerced Ebrahimi to confess to involvement in a plot to blow up an Iranian missile plant run by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The 2011 explosion took the lives of scores of Iranian missile experts.
When the IRGC wanted to interrogate him, Ebrahimi recalled that a MoI official told him, “Our colleagues from IRGC will ask you a few questions. You only talk about the explosion, you only say what you have been told.”
However, the IRGC interrogator was furious with inconsistencies in Ebrahimi’s confession that had been concocted by the intelligence ministry.
Shortly after his IRGC interrogation, the MoI stopped beating Ebrahimi, and one official even apologized to him. Still, he and others who had been arrested remained jailed for another 26 months. He was finally released in 2015.
Ebrahimi’s case was not unique, according to one expert.
Mehdi Mahdavi Azad, a Bonn-based Iranian nuclear and security expert, explained to the BBC that rival intelligence organizations in Iran concoct false charges and force innocents to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.
Still, Ebrahimi attempted to bring a suit against the intelligence ministry, state television, and several newspapers for falsely accusing him of spying for Israel. He backed off when a judge advised him, “Someone could knife you in the back in a dark street. You are young, don’t take the risk.”
Ebrahimi immigrated to Germany six months ago, where he claimed asylum.
Though free, he says that he suffers from panic attacks and spinal damage from the torture.