Five Kurds who were arrested in the city of Baneh are still in custody after six months, and security agencies in Iranian Kurdistan continue to block their release on bail.
Behzad Pezeshki, 32, Rafiq Pezeshki, 40, Karim Pezeshki, 50, Saeed Rashidi, 60, and Jamal Morovvati, 46, were arrested on November 11, 2021, during a spate of arrests in the city on Iran's western border. Like others, they were detained without a warrant or a clear, specific charge against them, save for the vague accusation of working with "opposition groups": something they and their families deny.
In total, some 19 residents of Baneh were arrested on November 11 and all were transferred to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in the provincial capital, Sanandaj. Of these, 14 were members of the Pezeshki family. All save for the named five have since been released on bail.
A source close to Pezeshki family told IranWire that Rafiq Pezeshki's arrest had not only been violent, but had left his child in potential danger. “Rafiq was beaten and detained in front of his small child on the Thursday afternoon as he was taking them back home in the car. He was arrested in front of the mosque in the village of Kupich. Security agents left the child by himself in the car and went to raid his home."
At the house, they added, the officers failed to find anything incriminating: “Mr. Pezeshki’s wife protested against their behavior and asked them why they kept arresting her husband arbitrarily, without any evidence.” Rafiq Pezeshki had been taken into custody and interrogated three times before the latest incident.
Of Jamal Morovvati and Behzad Pezeshki, the source said: "Armed security agents surrounded Mr. Morovvati’s home in the Golshahr neighborhood of Baneh, then entered and took him away with them. Behzad Pezeshki was also violently detained on his way home.”
Separate but coordinated units arrested Saeed Rashidi in the nearby village of Chuman, scaling the wall to break into his home without warning. His young son Zanko was also arrested and released 20 days later.
Karim Pezeshki was arrested at his home on the same day in the village of Najneh. He was, the source said, "a few steps" from his front door at the time, but armed officers still broke down the door and smashed the windows with the butts of their rifles in order to search the house. Locals in the village have described this incident and others like it as “horrifying”, while according to the Kurdistan human Rights Network, some other villagers fled their homes after the wave of arrests for fear of the same happening to them.
Another source with knowledge of the Pezeshki, Morovvati and Rashidi families' affairs told IranWire the supposed charges against the remaining five were “cooperation with and membership in parties opposed to the regime”, and “cooperation with the operators of the underground organizations of anti-regime parties inside the country”. No evidence to support them has yet come to light, despite the mass confiscation of their laptops, cameras, mobile phones, books and other personal effects.
"During their long interrogations," one of the sources said, "all five detainees were repeatedly tortured in a bid to make them confess to charges. But they refused. In fact, all those who were arrested in Baneh in November 2021 and have since been released on bail confirm that they were tortured, physically and mentally, in the course of interrogations.”
The remaining five prisoners were transferred to Sanandaj Central Prison on February 9. It was only then that their families were allowed to make in-person visits or speak to them on the phone. But, a source said, the authorities in both Baneh and Sanandaj continue to oppose their release: "During a visit we found out Sanandaj’s Intelligence Bureau, under pressure from Baneh Intelligence Bureau, has blocked their release on bail, claiming the case is still ‘incomplete’.”
The families, they added, have repeatedly pleaded with the judiciary to grant their loved ones bail. “Until now, Branch 1 of Sanandaj Revolutionary Court, under Judge Saeedi, hasn't agreed. But last Monday he confirmed to one of the detainees' relatives that it's the Intelligence Bureau preventing it."