By Syed Zafar Mehdi
In a dramatic turn of events, straight out of a rickety thriller, a man believed to have slipped into a “coma” after “severe custodial torture” was caught while fleeing through the sea border.
Hassan Firouzi, 34, was arrested earlier this week near the Persian Gulf island of Qeshm in southern Iran while attempting to exit the country – in a completely sound and healthy state.
As per his own admission, Firouzi was a financial defaulter and owed money to many people, which made him produce a theatrical scenario of arrest, torture, execution, coma, and the escape act.
Aware of the no-holds-barred misinformation campaign against Iran, which has intensified in recent months, he sought to capitalize on it and sell his trumped-up story to anti-Iran propaganda outlets in the West – including Iran International and Voice of America.
The story plot was conceived and choreographed with deeply sinister motives – play the victim card to secure asylum in one of the European countries and run away from those he owed money to.
Contrary to false claims Iran International and other run-of-the-mill propaganda outlets based in the West peddled in recent weeks, Firouzi admitted that he was never detained or tortured in Iran. That is what Iran’s judiciary had already announced.
His story is an archetypal example of how the Western media, the extension of the Western military-industrial complex, has brazenly manipulated and distorted the truth about events unfolding in the country to push the time-worn “regime change” agenda.
It has in recent months ‘reported’ events that never happened, ‘ignored’ incidents that actually took place, ‘killed’ those who are still alive and kicking, and ‘arrested and tortured’ those who roam free.
Firouzi’s story has all the ingredients of a box-office blockbuster. He was, as the Western media insisted, “arrested” during the recent riots in the country, and “tortured” so brutally that he slipped into a coma. Some reports even suggested that he was on the verge of being “executed”.
To back these repugnant claims, Persian-language media outlets mostly based out of Britain even published video and audio files that Firouzi supplied them as part of the phony project.
The bits and pieces of the cock-and-bull story were quickly picked up by the mainstream Western media, with an extra dose of spin-doctoring and dramatization. Even Canadian lawmakers fell for it.
On January 9, Iran Human Rights Monitor (IHRM), a France-based propaganda front for anti-Iran groups in Europe, in a sham report said “the father of a new-born girl” had been arrested from his hometown in south Tehran’s Shahr e Rey neighborhood for “taking part in protests”.
That’s how this story rolled out – on an emotional note. The report stated that Firouzi “faced the death penalty” and had urged the people of Iran to “help him see his daughter one last time”.
“Do something so I can see my daughter once again. Whether I sign or not, they will kill me. I want to see my daughter for the last time. I saw her for only 18 days, and I miss her so much. My only wish is to see her before they do anything to me,” it quoted him as saying.
The 34-year-old man was most probably sitting at his home, with his family members, while writing the script of this nail-biting thriller, which he knew had many credulous takers in the West.
The IHRM report stated that Firouzi’s family was told by prison officials the death sentence against him “awaited implementation”, and they would be informed “a day before the execution”.
The (imaginary) charges against him included “leading protests, propaganda against the state, and disturbing public security”, which constitutes moharebeh that is punishable with death.
In an attempt to stir emotions, the report said he suffered from “internal bleeding” due to “severe torture” and his left kidney had been damaged due to “harsh blows using the chair leg”.
To make him look like a hapless victim, it further noted that he had been “left unattended by prison officials” and placed in solitary confinement “without any care”. That sure sounded callous.
And, when he was finally shifted to a hospital, the intelligence officials of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) “attacked the hospital and kidnapped” Firouzi, the report hastened to add.
Some pictures were also released showing “marks of torture” on his face and body, which obviously revealed one of his hidden talents as a brilliant make-up artist. The marks almost looked real, as slightly blurred images in a Daily Star report showed.
Some reports also referred to “mock execution” – prison officials “putting the noose around his neck” apparently in preparation for his hanging. This element in the script appeared particularly ingenious and at the same time grotesque.
His family and neighbors, apparently without their consent, also made cameo appearances in the diegetic story. Firouzi’s house, the IHRM report stated, was “sealed off by government agents” and his family was “immediately evacuated and told to leave the home”.
His wife, Masoumeh, was quoted as saying that his life was “in danger” and that his family had“stopped hoping for his survival”. His parents “mourned” him at home every day.
This report by the Iran Human Rights Monitor, based on the trailblazing script penned down by the main protagonist sitting at his home, was widely cited by media outlets in the West.
Iran International, a Saudi-funded, UK-based propaganda outlet, in its report on January 22 said Firouzi had “gone into a coma due to severe torture and bleeding”, citing unnamed “activists”.
Firouzi, it remarked, had only one wish – “to see his daughter before his execution” - the same plaintive one-liner quoted by other outlets as well, including the Voice of America (Persian).
A group affiliated with the Albania-based MKO terrorist organization also picked it up on January 24, the day he was caught sailing in the Persian Gulf, saying Firouzi was “in judicial custody”.
“He has lost one of his kidneys due to the severity of the torture he had been subjected to. He was taken to the hospital for treatment on December 14 and despite the doctor’s advice to remain in the hospital and undergo surgery, he was taken to a solitary cell in Evin. He has gone into a coma due to torture and lack of treatment, but he is still kept in prison,” read the report.
Interestingly, when Firouzi was in completely sound physical and mental health, attempting to flee the country, the fabricated story of his arrest and torture was still circulating in the West.
Even a petition was launched on change.org that said the 34-year-old man “had been sentenced to death”, taken to the Evin Prison, “severely tortured and forced into a false confession”.
“He has not been allowed proper legal counsel and was given a sham trial, before being sentenced to execution. He is to be executed once his injuries heal and was only been granted medical attention so that he would "look healthy" for his execution,” the petition stated.
British mainstream media, with a penchant for Iran-related conspiracy theories, also fell for this fake story, using it to launch a fresh tirade against the Islamic Republic.
The Mirror in a January 15 report said, “a dad on death row after a sham trial in Iran has pleaded with officials to let him see his baby daughter before he is hanged”. Other outlets echoed that.
A group of Canadian conservative lawmakers also dished out a statement, sponsoring 14 Iranians “who have been illegally detained” and“now risk torture and execution”.
“Melissa Lantsman, Member of Parliament for Thornhill, is sponsoring Hassan Firouzi, who was detained just 18 days after becoming a new father and has since suffered torture at the hands of the regime,” read the statement, adding that he has been “sentenced to death for his role in the Women Life Freedom protests.”
This is not the first time stories related to recent developments in Iran have been wilfully distorted and misrepresented in the Western media, albeit Firouzi took it to the next level.
There have been multiple reports in Western media whitewashing men accused of day-light murders and vandalism of public property as “peaceful protesters”, including those who were executed.
A barrage of reports also referred to police “torturing” and “murdering” young men and women, who actually died either from suicide or due to natural causes.
This distortion and manipulation went to the extent of portraying an on-campus gathering to celebrate the engagement of two students as an “anti-government protest”.
To invoke Iranian officials, what we have seen unfolding in Iran in recent months is war, a foreign-backed "hybrid war". And as they say, in war, truth is always the first casualty.
Syed Zafar Mehdi is a Tehran-based journalist, political commentator and author. He has reported for more than 13 years from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir and West Asia for leading publications worldwide.
(The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)
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