Saturday, 1 September 2007

Imperial Justice

In May of 1976 Richard Savin with his fiancee was en route for Pakistan where he had a work contract. They crossed the border into Iran by car at Tayebad. At this time The Shah of Iran was ruling the country as a despot with a repressive hand.

Vehicles were being searched, in the bay next to them a Landrover's interior was pulled apart and wrecked, but nothing was found. An official walked around Richard's car three times then asked them to take all their luggage out. "I want to look" he said, but he didn't look, "Doesn't matter" he then said. Looking up to Richard the official said "Mister you have hashish". He walked around the car again kicking each wheel as he went. "It's in this wheel and this wheel and this wheel". The search crew came dragging a large hydraulic jack, a wheel was taken off, the tyre seal broken on one side and lifted clear of the rim so that a hand could be slipped in. The officer then pushed his hand in up to his wrist. "Yes hashish mister". Richard was suddenly looking down the barrel of a gun as he stepped forward to look for himself but was jerked up short as someone snapped on a cuff, so he saw nothing.

A smuggling charge was trumped up, but why? Was it revenge for the run-in he had with a police officer earlier who had stopped them, looking for a handout of money, but got none or the argument he had with some locals for overcharging him for some bread taking advantage as he was a foreigner or something else, he never found out.

In due course Richard was taken to the notorious Vakil Abad jail, but his fiancee was set free. Despite being only five years old amenities in the prison were broken and delapidated. The food was meagre, the place was totally unhygenic and stank, occasionally he was beaten by the guards, all prisoners suffered from lice. Richard was taken ill a few times, once seriously with hepatitus but recovered in the prison hospital despite it only having out of date medicine. But being one of a few europeans he was treated better than the other prisoners, especially the political prisoners who were routinely tortured. He did receive some visits from the British embassy but there efforts were ineffectual.

In August Richard was taken to trial and assumed the boys in prison were exaggerating about court proceedings. The whole process seemed to be carrying on without concern for his presence. The judge started to read out the charge in Persian. In desperation he grabbed at the man next to him who turned out to be the translator. The judge paused, looking irritated and said "What is it?" in perfect English. Richard replied "I'd like to know what is happening here" and then pointed to various officials wanting to know who they were. One was his lawyer. "Well get him over here because he cannot defend me unless he knows what the defence is". His lawyer reluctantly came over to him and was given a transcript of his defence. The judge decided he would conduct the trial in English. "Where is the evidence?" Richard asked firmly but respectfully. The judge frowned "We do not need any evidence" and waved the pink paper I'd signed at gunpoint. "Here is your confesssion.You have signed it". "But you will see from the signature it was signed unread and under force" Richard protested. "Doesn't matter " said the judge. "What about the State's witnesses" the judge looked mildly shocked "Will the State not even prove my presence at Tyebad. "Why should we" objected the judge "it is you who must disprove". The judge left the room to consider the findings. "That was a very good try" the interpreter conceded. "Do I have any chance?". The interpreter laughted, "You cannot win in this court. Everybody is guilty. You will get two years and a fine". The judge returned "You are guilty. Two years plus fine". It was back to Vakil Abad prison.

Then in October 1978 Richard is set free, along with a few others, after two and a half years in prison. No explanation from the prison authorities was given nor did the British embassy have any idea why. For five days they were allowed to do what they liked in the city then Richard was recalled by immigration he was to be deported and therefore locked up in conditions as bad as the jail. On the fourth day of incarceration he was questioned by two secret police about his contact with the political prisoners and their organisation Mashad in Vakil Abad. Getting nowhere with this line of questioning he is punched to the ground by one of the police, they leave. The next day he is released and under escort put on a train going to the border, then handed over to immigration. At the border Richard's passport is inspected, "Where is your car", the official pointing to the place in the passport. "It was confiscated" replied Richard. "Without the car you cannot leave Iran". Through a side door appeared the two secret police, the reason for the charade. "It is an offence to leave a car without paying could get 5 years for this.......who do you know in Mashad?" Richard was exhausted and replied "Beat me up, shoot me, do what you like". Half an hour later one came back, gave him his passport, "Go" and shoved him through a door marked Turkey.

Source: Vakil Abad- A Survivor's Story (R. Savin)

1 comment:

Jamyang Los Masos Study Group said...

Hi there Richard, are you still alive?
Sean Jones here!