Police officers and members of a paramilitary group arrested 87 at a May 10 party. As many as 17 men are still in custody. Amnesty International fears for their wellbeing.
AI Index: MDE 13/057/2007
Possible prisoners of conscience / Fear of torture or ill-treatment
21 May 2007
Up to 17 men
Up to 17 men remain in detention after being arrested at a private party in Esfahan province, central Iran on 10 May. They may have been tortured or ill-treated and remain at risk of such abuse.
The men were among 87 people reportedly arrested at the party; the others have been released, apparently on bail, and are likely to face prosecution in the future. Those still detained are believed to have been wearing clothes generally associated with women at the time of their arrest. They are not believed to have had access to lawyers or family members, and a judge has reportedly said that those still detained will be charged with consumption of alcohol, and “homosexual conduct” (hamjensgarai). Amnesty International is not aware of any evidence that the men attending the party identify themselves as gay or were engaging in same-sex sexual relations. Their arrests were made at a time when the Iranian authorities have been mounting a security operation to enforce dress codes in Iran.
Eyewitnesses to the arrest have reportedly described how those attending the party were dragged into the street by police and members of the Basij force (volunteer paramilitary units attached to the Revolutionary Guards Corps), who beat them severely, causing bruising and, in some cases, broken bones. It is not known if those detained have been allowed access to medical treatment.
Amnesty International recognizes that consumption of alcohol is a criminal offence in Iran, although the organization has no information as to whether any of those detained had consumed alcohol. However, the organization is concerned that the men may be held because of what they were wearing at the time of their arrest, in light of the fact that the others arrested have since been released. If this is the case, then they are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
The arrests have come in the context of an annual crackdown on “immoral behaviour” in Iran, which began in April. Police are reported to have stopped thousands of people in the street, and to have required many of them to sign statements committing themselves to observe the official dress code in Iran, which prescribes what is regarded as acceptable attire for men and for women. More than 130 people are reportedly facing prosecution either for refusing to comply with the police demands or for breaching the official dress code.
Men convicted of homosexual sex face the death penalty or flogging, depending on the particular act. Women convicted of lesbian sex face flogging or, after conviction for a fourth time, the death penalty.
Consumption of alcohol in Iran carries a penalty of one hundred lashes, or, after conviction for a third time, the death penalty.
Amnesty International opposes the criminalisation of consensual adult sexual relations conducted in private and urges the Iranian authorities to urgently review law and practice to ensure that no one can be prosecuted for such reasons. Amnesty International is also opposed to the use of flogging and other judicial corporal punishments which constitute torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, and is unconditionally opposed to the use of the death penalty.