Local student and human-rights activists are concerned about the safety of many other young Iranian students in prison, recently arrested for antigovernment protests.
A leading dissident, a former professor in the University of Tehran who asked that his name not be used, actively supports the student movement. Often, at great personal risk, he shelters politically active students, on the run from the Basij, or the state-sponsored militia, in his apartment in northern Tehran.
He is deeply concerned about one of his students, Saeed Habibi, the former head of a student group called the Daftar-e Tahkim Vahdat, or the Union of Islamic Associations. Habibi was arrested nearly two months ago and is rumored to have tried to commit suicide in prison. Details about his condition have been sketchy, and the former professor is concerned Habibi might meet the same fate as Lotfallahi and Bani-Ameri. Habibi was arrested with others on students' day last year.
"We're not fighting to make a country where there's freedom of speech," the aging professor says, sipping from a cup of green tea in his apartment, "but, in fact, a country where there's freedom after speech."
Since 70 percent of the population is under 32 and society is strongly influenced by the young, he says, muzzling young student voices will backfire badly on the government in the future.
Naser Zarafshan, a prominent defense lawyer who represents several imprisoned students, says there are three kinds of cases he's dealing with in an atmosphere of intimidation: the few students who have been granted bail but are still in detention; those who are still under interrogation and have not been allowed out on bail; and those for whom information is still quite nebulous even weeks after their arrest.
"The judiciary has set bail amounts of 300, 500, and 1,000 million Iranian rials [the equivalent of $33,000, $54,000, and $108,000 respectively]—an amount many of these students just cannot afford to pay," Zarafshan says.
Most of the students are being kept in Evin prison's notorious Section 209, where detainees are held in solitary confinement. Section 209 is solely controlled by Iran's Intelligence Ministry, and even Evin authorities don't have access to this section. Some others are being detained in tiny lockups of the intelligence agency in central Tehran called Daftar-e-Peygiri, or Tracking Office.
Clashes between student groups and the authorities came to a head at the beginning of May 2007 during anti-Ahmedinejad protests. And three fellow students of Zamanian's—Ahmad Ghasaban, Majid Tavakkoli, and Ehsan Mansouri—are currently in prison, accused of writing incendiary articles insulting both Islam and Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in student publications at Amirkabir University last year.
"That's absolutely false," Zamanian says, convinced that the offending articles were planted to remove alleged ringleaders of the anti-Ahmadinejad protests at Amirkabir. "My friends were tortured to make false confessions."
He's convinced the recent crackdown on students is to muzzle any defiance in the run-up to the March presidential elections, in which Ahmadinejad is seeking a second term in office.
(This story was reported with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington.)