In the early days of Iran’s protest movement calling for more freedoms and gender equality, four young men took to the main street of the northwestern city of Qazvin to hand chocolates to by-passers and give “free hugs”.

Two of them were distributing the chocolates and hugs, while the other pair were filming and watching against security forces.

Despite these precautions, 21-year-old Mohammad Nasiri was arrested last month and accused of “waging war against God”, which carries a death penalty, for allegedly wounding a member of the paramilitary Basij force.

“Our job was to give free hugs or chocolates to passers-by. In our opinion, this was the most peaceful way to protest the existing situation,” Vahid, a member of the group, told IranWire.

“We were often encouraged by people and passers-by.”

“On November 12, we were on Khayyam Street for 15 minutes when a motorbike approached us and a person said we should be cautious because he had seen plainclothes officers watching us”.

The four men quickly gathered their stuff and started running away. Nasiri was apprehended by a police officer, while his three friends managed to escape.

“As soon as that policeman reached Mohammad, he hit him with an electric shocker and stopped him. Two or three people started beating him. Then they dragged his half-dead body on the ground and took him with them to the parking lot of the Persian Gulf complex”.

Iranian authorities routinely extract confessions from political prisoners by force, which are then broadcast for propaganda purposes.

That’s what they did with Nasiri. Local state TV broadcast his alleged “confession” in which he says that he attacked a Basij member with a knife to defend himself.

Qazvin TV later broadcast a show in which the host called the hugs “a trick to ignite riots”. It also showed a picture of a man with bandaged legs who claimed to be Nasiri’s victim.

“I was just five meters away. I saw Mohammad until the last moment when they put him in the police car. This claim is completely false”, Vahid said.

Hadi, another friend who managed to escape from the security forces, said, “when Mohammad was taken from the street, there was no injured person there…the Basij forces and plainclothes officers were completely healthy and none of them had been injured”.

A conscript who witnessed Nasiri’s interrogations told his friends he had been beaten so hard on the first day of his transfer to Qazvin’s Chubindar prison that his face was unrecognizable.

The authorities did not allow the student to be represented by the lawyer of his choice.

His family is too scared to talk to the media.

Source » iranwire