AFP: Human Rights Watch said Monday that secret squads operating under the Iranian judiciary have used torture to force detained Internet journalists and activists to write self-incriminatory "confession letters." AFP

NEW YORK - Human Rights Watch said Monday that secret squads operating under the Iranian judiciary have used torture to force detained Internet journalists and activists to write self-incriminatory "confession letters."

The New York-based group said it had evidence confirming that secret squads of interrogators -- primarily former intelligence officers purged in the late-1990s by President Mohammed Khatami -- forced the detainees to write the letters under extreme pressure as a condition for their release on bail.

"The Iranian government shouldn't think for a minute that anyone will believe in the authenticity of these letters. They're fooling no one," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "With stunts like these, Tehran is rapidly losing its already meager credibility on human rights."

The group believes the Iranian government has resorted to forced confessions to pave the way for the prosecution of reformist politicians and leaders of civil society organizations.

By obtaining self-incriminating confessions, the government is attempting to destroy individuals' reputations, sow discord among activists and ultimately shut down all independent voices and organizations," Human Rights Watch said.

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