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Iran: Leaked justice files reveal forty years of lies

A new leaked file reveals that 860 journalists and citizen journalists were prosecuted, arrested, imprisoned, and in some cases, executed in Iran between the revolution of 1979 and 2009. RSF held a press conference in Paris on 7 February to reveal the existence of this leaked file named the ‘Iranian Justice Data’ file that holds 1.7 million records of judicial procedures. The file is a register of all the arrests, imprisonments and executions carried out by the Iranian authorities over the last 40 years.

The files had been confidential until now, and contain a register of all the arrests, imprisonments, and executions carried out in the last four decades. The file was leaked to RSF by ‘whistleblowers who wanted public opinion and international institutions to be aware of the terrible abuses perpetrated by the judicial authorities in their country.’

RSF’s secretary-general, Christophe Deloire said,

“The very existence of this file and its millions of entries show not only the scale of the Iranian regime’s mendacity for years when claiming that its jails were holding no political prisoners or journalists, but also the relentless machinations it used for 40 years to persecute men and women for their opinions or their reporting,”

Committee for the Observation and Use of Iranian Justice Data

An ad hoc committee was set up to enable the publication of the register and was spearheaded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. Alongside Ebadi, the committee consists of persons who are respected for their knowledge of the human rights situation in Iran. The Committee includes: Monireh Baradarn – human rights defender and author of several books on justice in Iran and a former political prisoner in the 1980s, Iraj Mesdagh – human rights defender, academic, author of several books and a former political prisoner during the 1980s, and Reza Moini, an RSF representative. The members of the Committee were asked to confirm information and the accuracy of data in the file, particularly regarding prisoners who have been released and those who survived the purges of the 1980s and 1990s.

Names and Arrests

Several well-known Iranian figures appear in the register such as: Shirin Ebadi, the human rights lawyer who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was awarded the Sakharov Prize in 2012, Abdolkarim Lahiji, a former president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and women’s rights defender Mansoreh Shojai.

The file also confirms that tens of thousands of citizens were arrested in that period and now account for a total of 6,048 persons arrested for participating in protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009. This figure has previously been difficult to achieve because the Islamic Republic has always denied arresting citizens just for demonstrating.

Information is also provided about 61,940 political prisoners since the 1980s, of whom at least 520 were aged between 15 and 18 at the time of their arrest. Moreover, the publication of this file has allowed many detentions that were previously denied by Iran to come to light.


According to the RSF report of 7 February, there have been a total of 61,924 women listed of whom 218 are journalists.

Some of the women in the file include Jila Bani Yaghoob, Register no. 2225407, a leading women’s rights defender and editor of Kanoon Zanan Irani (The Iranian Women’s Centre) website. Yaghoob was initially arrested at a meeting organised for International Women’s day in 2003 and subsequently spent a week blindfolded in Evin prison. She turned this experience into a book that was published outside Iran. In 2010 she was sentence to a further year in court and a 30-year ban on working as a journalist on charges of “anti-system propaganda” and “insulting the president.” Yaghoob has been registered a number of times on the register, further highlighting the systematic nature of the judicial persecution to which she and many others have been subjected.


RSF state that the file also confirms the execution of at least four professional journalists. Ali Asgar Amirani [No. 588071], Said Soltanpour [No. 280838], Rahman Hatefi-Monfared [No. 569803] and Simon Farzami [No. 390641] were executed by the regime during this period. Dozens of other prisoners of conscience, including bloggers and activists were also executed by the regime.

The killing of Zahra Kazemi, a journalist with Iranian dual nationality was also confirmed in the file. Zahra was arrested while taking photos of the families of detainees outside Evin prison in June 2003. Iranian authorities have consistently denied killing her, but the file now confirms that the authorities in Iran covered up the real circumstances of her death, including changing the date of her arrest.

An RSF spokesperson said,

“RSF is referring these State lies to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet so that Iran can be held to account,”

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