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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 20:42 GMT
Iranian activist sorry for 'confession'
Freed Iranian student leader Ali Afshari
Ali Afshari said his spirit was broken
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By Jim Muir
BBC Teheran correspondent

A student leader in Iran has made an unprecedented apology to the nation for a televised confession in which he admitted trying to overthrow the Islamic regime.

Ali Afshari, a leader of the main student organisation and a reformist activist, said he had been held in solitary confinement for nearly a year before his recent release.

He was subjected to pressures and the confession was forced from him, he said.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Moderates including President Mohammad Khatami are often vilified

But he remains firmer than ever in the beliefs for which he was arrested.

Mr Afshari still has a one-year jail sentence hanging over him on other charges, but his arrest in November 2000 was in connection with a speech he made to students at a Tehran university.

Six months later his followers and relatives were shocked and incredulous when he appeared on state television in a highly-staged confession.

In it, he said he was sorry for being involved in efforts to overthrow the regime by peaceful means.

On Wednesday, Mr Afshari gave a highly unusual glimpse behind the scenes of such confessions.


He said he had been subjected to what he called a forced interrogation, with pressure built up on the subject by a team of interrogators until his resistance was broken.

When that happened, he said, your personality was destroyed, you lost your sense of worth and dignity, you became completely disorientated and the interrogators won control over you.

It was in that condition, Mr Afshari said, that he had been induced to make his filmed confession, which he had been promised would not be televised.

He said he was ashamed of the confession and he apologised to the nation and to the student and reform movements for making it.


He was proud he said, to be standing stronger than ever now in the reformist beliefs for which he was ready again to go to prison.

Mr Afshari also accused hardline opponents of reform of infiltrating the student movement and of becoming a cancerous tumour within it, trying to paralyse it by sowing divisions and discord.

His extraordinary news conference is the latest sign that reformist figures are taking a more assertive and outspoken stand in the face of concerted efforts by hardliners to silence them and to block the process of reform and change.

See also:

29 Dec 01 | Middle East
Iran court cuts reformists' sentences
08 Jun 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Iran's political prisoners
26 Mar 01 | Middle East
Iranian court detains student leader
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