Imprisoned Iranian Cleric Says Under Pressure To Confess To Crimes He Didn’t Commit

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Mohammad Taghi Akbarnejad

In a rare phone call from Qom prison, Mohammad Taghi Akbarnejad, an Iranian cleric and seminary professor known for his outspoken criticism of Supreme Leader Ali Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies, said he has been pressured to make false confessions and faces constant attempts by the authorities to discredit him.

Akbarnejad, who has been a vocal opponent of the Islamic republic’s leadership, was arrested on February 17 by agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ intelligence service.

During the call, Akbarnejad revealed he spent 14 days in solitary confinement at security detention centers where officers pressured him to confess.

“They pressured me to make false confessions for release without trial. They wanted me to appear on camera and express regret for my words and actions,” he said, adding that he was being pressured to confess to crimes he did not commit.

When he refused, he said officials began fabricating cases against him and then pressuring needy families to file complaints against him claiming he misled them as a representative of the leadership.

Akbarnejad’s criticism has not been limited to the current leadership. He has also targeted the foundational rhetoric and strategies of the Islamic republic, including those of its founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In a widely shared social media video, he accused Khomeini of misunderstanding the world and leading the country astray, notably referring to the eight-year Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s as an example of misguided leadership.

The cleric has also critiqued the establishment’s shift in rhetoric pre-and post-revolution, suggesting their current claims would not gain significant public support if put to a referendum.

Akbarnejad’s situation appears to be part of a pattern of repression against clerics critical of Iran’s supreme leadership.

In a related case, the Special Clerical Court of Shiraz recently sentenced Shahabeddin Haeri Shirazi to three years in prison, highlighting tensions within the clerical community and the authorities’ efforts to suppress dissent.

Criticism of Khamenei, who has the last say on almost every decision in Iran, is considered a red line in Iran, and his critics often land in prison, where political prisoners are routinely held in solitary confinement and subjected to various forms of torture.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda

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