Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Hossein Khezri

About

Age: 28
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: January 15, 2011
Location: Orumieh Prison, Orumieh, Azarbaijan-e Gharbi, Iran
Mode of Execution: Hanging

Human rights violations in this case

The Legal Context

The Courts

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 11 February 1979-1994

 

In the immediate aftermath of the 11 February 1979 Revolution, an ad hoc tribunal, initially referred to as the Extraordinary Revolutionary Tribunal, was set up to try the officials of the previous regime, for which no specific procedures were devised. In a decree dated 24 February 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary religious leader, appointed a cleric as Shari’a Judge and instructed him “to issue Shari’a-based rulings,” thereby establishing the foundation of a system of special courts.

 

Initially, the revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction was determined by the religious judge’s interpretation of the Shari’a (Islamic law based on the teachings of the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet, the 12 imams, and the teachings of Shi’a scholars. On 17 June 1979, the Revolutionary Courts and the Prosecutor’s Office Rules of Procedure, which was only selectively observed, established the latter’s jurisdiction and make-up.

 

The Courts’ jurisdiction encompassed a wide array of offenses including moharebeh (“waging war with God”), efsad e fel arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”), crimes against national and international security, economic crimes, murder, profiteering, prostitution, rape, and narcotic drugs-related crimes. The law required that two of the three principal members of the Revolutionary Courts be Shari’a judges.

 

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 1994-2002

 

With the adoption of the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994, and the Code of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts of 19 September 1999, a uniform code of procedure was applied to both revolutionary and general courts. The jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts was limited to 6 categories of offenses:

1. Crimes against national and international security,“moharebeh” (enmity with god) and “efsad e fel arz” (corruption on earth;)

2. defaming Ayatollah Khomeini and the Supreme Leader;

3. plotting against the Islamic Republic of Iran, armed action, terrorism, and sabotage;

4. espionage;

5. smuggling and drug-related crimes; 6. claims under Principle 49 (economic crimes) of the Constitution.

 

These courts continued, however, to try cases falling outside their jurisdiction, such as theft and sexual offenses. Further, the vagueness of laws regarding national security allowed the revolutionary courts to try political and media crimes whenever they wished to do so.

 

The new law eliminated the Prosecutor’s Office and gave the judges inthe Revolutionary Courts the power to perform the duties of the prosecutor, as well as their own, in any case brought before them.

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 2002-Present

 

The Amended Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 2002 reinstated the Prosecutor’s Office in both revolutionary and general courts. In cases involving political and media crimes, revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction overlaps with that of Province Criminal Courts.

 

The Appellate System of Revolutionary Courts, 1979-Present

 

From their inception until 1994, the rulings of the Revolutionary Courts were not subject to appeal. In the early 1980s a court entitled the Supreme Court of Qom was established in the city of Qom and which reviewed cases of execution and confiscation of properties, thereby forming a first tier form of appeal. The exact date of the creation of the court is not clear, but, based on available information, the court became operational in the early 1980s, even though Ayatollah Khomeini's official order for its creation is dated 1985. The court’s procedure was not systematic and did not meet the international standards for a court of appeals; there was no official record of its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of Qom was dissolved in 1989.

 

The Law of 14 June 1994 subjected the Courts’ decisions to appeal. An appellate court was established at each provincial capital, called the Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by the Revolutionary Courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those involving capital punishment.

 

Narcotic drugs-related crimes constitute a significant exception to the appeals process. Governed by the Anti-Narcotic Drugs Law of 1988, as Amended on 8 November 1997 and 31 July 3 2010, these crimes are within the jurisdiction of, and are adjudicated on a regular basis by, Revolutionary Courts whose decisions are final. After being handed down by the judge, death sentences are sent to the Prosecutor General or the Head of the Supreme Court as a matter of administrative approval.

 

General Courts, 1979-1982

 

In cases not falling under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, the system devised under the previous regime continued to function in parallel with new systems devised by laws passed by the Judicial Council, one of which, entitled The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, radically changed the entire structure and categorization of the courts. It divided the courts in three branches: Criminal, Civil, and Peace (a sort of arbitration court dealing with minor financial and other disputes). Specialized courts such as family courts were eliminated.

 

General Courts, 1982-1994

 

The Law of the Amendments to the Rules of Criminal Procedure of 1982 established a new criminal courts system, Criminal Courts I and II. Criminal Court I, established only in provincial capitals, had jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Criminal Court II heard less serious crimes.

 

General Courts, 1994-2002

 

The Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994 established umbrella courts called General Courts, which replaced and dissolved pre-existing civil and criminal courts. The law dissolved the Prosecutor’s offices and tasked a single person with the roles of judge, prosecutor, and investigator.

 

General Courts, 2002-Present

 

In 2002, the 1994 Law was amended, reviving the role of the Prosecutor’s Office in General Courts. The prosecution offices were re-established in a gradual process over several years. The amended law also re-established specialized branches within general courts dealing separately with criminal and civil matters. In addition, this law allocated a number of branches of the Province Court of Appeals to have original jurisdiction over a number of cases including the most serious offenses, as well as political and media crimes. In these cases, the branches are called the Province Criminal Court.

 

The Appellate System of General Courts, 1979-Present

 

The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, abolished appeal of most criminal courts’ decisions. The law of 1982 restricted the appeal possibility even further. According to the Islamic Republic authorities’ interpretation of Islamic Law, a qualified jurist’s decisions were not subject to appeal except under special circumstances, such as when the judge realized his own mistake, or another judge advised him so, or when he did not have jurisdiction over the case. Even in such situations, the case would not go to a higher court but would be subject to review by the same judge or another judge at his level. The judges were even urged to call their verdicts “opinions,” so that the possible change in the verdict would not be “haram” (“sinful,” the highest level of prohibition in Islam, disobedience of which would result in a sin).

 

In October 1988, the Majles (Iranian parliament) passed a law regarding review of court judgments. This law provided for an appeal if the conviction was claimed to be based on invalid documentation or false testimony. The defendant could also base an appeal on a point of law or a procedural violation.

 

The appellate system was expanded in other laws in the late 1980s and in 1993. The Law for the Establishment of Criminal Courts I and II of 11 July 1989 created the Branches of the Supreme Court. Crimes of less importance, tried in Criminal Court II, were subject to review by Criminal Court I.

 

For the most important crimes involving death punishment, which were under the jurisdiction of Criminal Court I, the law allowed limited appeal to the Branches of the Supreme Court. Defendants had the right to petition the Supreme Court for appeal in certain cases involving false testimony or procedural violations, and if granted, the case would be remanded to either another criminal court or the original one.

 

Finally, the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 1994, as amended in 2002, established an appellate court at each provincial capital, called Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by both general and revolutionary courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those carrying the death penalty, as well as decisions made by the Province Criminal Court.

 

Current laws, which were last amended in 2002, reflect and continue the appellate procedure to the Branches of the Supreme Court established by the afore-mentioned law of 11 July 1989

 

Special Courts for the Clergy

 

These courts are rooted in a 1979 decree, issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, which established a committee of religious and noble figures in every region to purge the clergy of anti-revolutionary elements under the supervision of the Revolutionary Courts. Between late 1981 and 1984, a special court in the city of Qom handled, though not systematically, the trial of clerics.

 

On 29 July 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini officially appointed a prosecutor and a member of the clergy as Shari’a judge for Special Courts for the Clergy. On 6 August 1990, a directive was issued regulating the conduct of these courts, the jurisdictional ambiguity of which is such that it effectively extends to “anyone where one of the parties is a cleric” and to “all matters in which the Court is designated as competent by the Supreme Leader.”

 

The court was mandated to try “pseudo clerics, those related to/connected with the clergy, for public and/or anti-revolutionary crimes, and violations of the prestige of the clergy,” and where the principal suspect is a member of the clergy, “any co-conspirator or assistant, whether a cleric or not.”

 

These courts are generally not open to the public and can issue sentences for all acts and omissions punishable under codified Iranian laws or Shari’a or for any other acts or omissions which can bring dishonor to the clergy or to the Islamic Revolution. Further, in certain particular cases – which have not been defined – where no punishment has been devised by either the Penal Code or even the Shari’a, the Court “can rule as it deems fit.”

 

The Appellate System of the Special Court for the Clergy, 1979-Present

 

There is no information on any appeal process for the Special Court for the Clergy prior to the 1990 directive. Article 49 of said directive set up, however, an appeals court called Special Appellate Court for the Clergy, the head of which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, to which the decisions of the lower court can be appealed.

 

Military Courts

 

The military court system, independent from the judiciary under the previous regime, became a part of it on 1 December 1981. The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces, established in 1986, replaced and merged other military courts and tribunals in existence at the time, namely the pre-revolution Judiciary Organization of the Army, the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Army (established on 8 December 1979), and the Revolutionary and General Court for the Revolutionary Guards (established on 15 July 1979.) The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces has its own Criminal Code and follows the country’s general rules of criminal procedure.

 

The Law of the Criminal Procedure of the Armed Forces of 15 May 1985 created Military Courts I and II. Military Court I has jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Military Court II hears less serious crimes.

 

The Appellate System of Military Courts, 1979-Present

 

The law of 8 December 1979, establishing the Revolutionary Military Court, did not provide for any appeals. The Law of 15 May 1985 created a system of appeals through the creation of a two-tier system of courts. The decisions of Military Court II were subject to review by Military Court I. This law also provided that multiple Branches of the Supreme Court be designated as the appellate court to review decisions of Military Court I.

 

The judges

 

1979-1997: Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily law graduates and jurists. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution, a five-member Committee was established to purge the judicial system of undesirable elements, pursuant to the Legal Bill for the Modification of the Judiciary and the Law for Hiring Judges of 8 March 1979. The power of the committee was absolute and its decisions, resulting in a widespread purge of the judiciary, final.

 

The Law for the Conditions of Selection of Judges of 4 May 1981 established the conditions of eligibility for judges. The latter were to be hired among men who were legitimate children and had practical commitment to Islam and allegiance to the Islamic Republic. The law, which led to the hiring of clerics and Islamic legal scholars, also allowed hiring practically anyone as a judge who could “obtain the Judicial High Council’s permission.” Moreover, Note 2 of the Amendments of 4 October 1982 to this law allowed widespread employment of seminary students “who ha[d] general knowledge equivalent to a high school diploma” as judges at prosecutor’s offices in general as well as Revolutionary Courts.  

 

By 1989, the judiciary counted about 2,000 new judges trained in theological seminaries (graduates and students) and political appointees, many having replaced judges trained in law schools.

 

1997-Present: As of this writing (2013) the Law for Hiring Judges and its amendments of 4 October 1982, 7 February 1987, and 9 May 1988 are in full force and form the basis for hiring judges. The Executive Rules of Procedure of 22 December 1997 subjected such hiring to passing an entrance examination and successful completion of an apprenticeship program, the duration of which ranges between one and two years. The law does not limit hiring to men only but does not specify in what capacity women will be functioning, other than an advisory one.

 

Dismissal of Judges: From 1979 to 1989, the judiciary was run by the Supreme Judicial Council which was composed of the head of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General (both of whom were appointed by the Supreme Leader), and three judges elected by the entire body of judges in the country. The Council had the power to hire and dismiss judges in accordance with the law.

 

The constitutional reforms of 1989 substituted the Supreme Judicial Council with one person, the Head of the Judiciary. The Supreme Leader, whose mandate is not subject to popular vote, appoints the Head of the Judiciary for a 5-year term. The latter has significant power to influence the dismissal of judges. Dismissal cases are referred to three types of disciplinary courts, presided over by judges appointed by the Head of the Judiciary, who has veto power over any decisions made by the relevant courts.

 

Two of these courts, established in 1991 and 2011, are charged with examining the judges’ conduct from a religious and ideological standpoint. The process does not necessarily involve the defendant and the final decision, left to the Head of the Judiciary, is not subject to appeal.

 

Human rights violations

Based on the available information, the following human rights may have been violated in this case:

  • The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.

  • The right not to be punished for any crime on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time it was committed.

UDHR, Article 11.2; ICCPR, Article 15, Article 6.2.

  • The right not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation.

UDHR, Article 12, ICCPR, Article 17.1.

  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest one’s religion or belief.

UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2; Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.

In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one’s religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.

  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.

  • The right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 21.

  • The right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of one’s interests.

UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.

  • The right, as a member of a religious or ethnic minority, to enjoy one’s own culture or to profess and practice one’s own religion.

 

UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 27.

  • The right to equality before the law and the right to equal protection of the law.

UDHR, Article 7; ICCPR, Article 26.

The right to due process

  • The right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a competent and impartial tribunal in accordance with law.

ICCPR, Article 14.1 and Article 14.2.

Pre-trial detention rights

  • The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.

UDHR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a

  • The right to counsel of one’s own choosing or the right to legal aid. The right to communicate with one’s attorney in confidence

ICCPR, Article 14.3.b and Article 14.3.d; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1, Article 2, Article 5, Article 6, and Article 8.

  • The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.b.

  • The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess to guilt.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.g.

  • The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.

Trial rights

  • The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.

ICCPR, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

  • The right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one, and the right to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on one’s behalf under the same conditions as prosecution witnesses.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.d and Article 14.3.e.

  • The right to have the decision rendered in public.

ICCPR, Article 14.1.

Judgment rights

  • The right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.

ICCPR, Article 14.5.

  • The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

ICCPR, Article 6.4.

  • The right not to be tried or punished again for an offence for which one has already been

convicted or acquitted.

ICCPR, Article 14.7.

Capital punishment
  • The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.

  • The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.

About this Case

Hossein Khezri had been forced to drop out of school after eighth grade due to poverty, and had started to work in a carpet weaving shop in order to help his family make ends meet. According to his attorney, he lost 70% of his eyesight because of the shop’s unfavorable work conditions. 

News of Mr. Hossein Khezri’s execution was published by numerous sources including IRIB News (January 15, 2011) and HRANA (January 15, 2011). Additional information was obtained from Mr. Khezri’s letter sent from Orumieh Prison (HRANA, January 15, 2011) and other sources.*

Mr. Khezri was single and resided in [the city of] Orumieh. He had been forced to drop out of school after eighth grade due to poverty, and had started to work in a carpet weaving shop in order to help his family make ends meet. According to his attorney, he lost 70% of his eyesight because of the shop’s unfavorable work conditions. (Oliayifar interview, Roj Press, November 20, 2010).

According to this attorney, after fleeing the carpet weaving shop on several occasions and because of his hopeless situation, he joined the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PEJAK) when he was still very young, and started his activities in the Party’s education section.

The Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PEJAK) is a leftist organization, established in December 2003-January 2004, with the goal of [reaching] “a democratic, ecological, society, with equality of the sexes,” in the framework of a democratic and federal Iran with autonomy for ethnic minorities. It had its first congress on April 25, 2004. Headed by Abdorrahman Haji Ahmadi, the Party has close ties to PKK in Turkey and considers “Apo” (Abdollah Ocalan), PKK’s leader, its spiritual leader. PEJAK is mostly influential in the northern regions of Iranian Kurdistan, and is engaged in armed struggle against the Islamic Republic. PEJAK calls Iranian Kurdistan “East of Kurdistan.”

A few years after joining PEJAK, Mr. Khezri decided to get married and go back to a normal life. Since he had not taken any actions against the Islamic Republic, he decided to return to Iran. (Oliayifar interview, Roj Press, November 20, 2010). According to his brother, he was a nice and personable individual and his social conduct was such that it invoked respect by most people. (Jaras, January 15, 2011). His prison mate also considers him a kind, devoted, and talented person who was very interested in learning, and enthusiastically participated in English classes in prison. (Massud Kordpur, Center for the Protection of Victims and Detainees’ Families, December 14, 2011). According to his brother, he was not a violent person at all and one cannot accuse him of being a terrorist. (Jaras, January 15, 2011, Hossein Khezri’s brother). In his letter sent to his family from prison, he stated that, instead of repaying his debt to his family, he had chosen to repay his debt to his compatriots and be the entire society’s son. (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, Roj Press, April 25, 2011).

While attending the Information Administration’s News Headquarters to obtain news of his son, Mr. Khezri’s father had a stroke in front of the Administration building and died at the hospital. (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, HRANA, January 15, 2011).

In his letter sent to his family from prison, he stated that, instead of repaying his debt to his family, he had chosen to repay his debt to his compatriots and be the entire society’s son.

The issuance and the implementation of Mr. Khezri’s death sentence caused widespread reactions and protests in various countries, including Canada, Turkey, Germany, Sweden, and the United States. Amnesty International (April 21, 2010, January 14 and 20, 2011), Human Rights Watch (January 26, 2011), and International Human Rights Campaign (January 16, 2011) issued communiqués and calls to action for immediate action against the sentence. In the final protests, the city of Amed, Turkey’s “Mothers of Reconciliation” group gathered in front of the Iranian Embassy in Ankara. Iranian Kurdish civil society organizations and activists also gathered in Iraqi Kurdistan’s city of Suleimanieh and conducted a protest march. Furthermore, 25 members of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Parliament issued a statement objecting to Mr. Khezri’s execution. (HRANA, January 24, 2011).

Arrest and Detention

Mr. Khezri was arrested by Nabi Akram Corps forces on the morning of Thursday, July 31, 2008, at [the city of] Kermanshah bus terminal. He spent 195 days in solitary confinement at Kermanshah Revolutionary Guards Corps detention centers, Orumieh’s Al-Mahdi Corps detention center and Orumieh Information General Administration detention center. Subsequent to being charged by Orumieh Public Prosecutor’s Office, Branch Six, he was transferred to Orumieh Central Prison on February 15, 2009. (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, HRANA, January 15, 2011). He was deprived of the right to contact his family and his attorney during detention at the Revolutionary Guards and the Information Administration detention centers solitary confinement cells. Four months after his arrest, he was allowed to meet with his family for only five minutes, in the presence of security agents. (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, Roj Press, November 20, 2011).

He had lost consciousness on numerous occasions under torture, and according to his letter, he had twice attempted suicide in solitary confinement because of the psychological pressure

In a letter sent from inside prison, Mr. Khezri has stated that, in order to force him to make confessions, he had undergone tremendous physical and psychological torture during the time he was kept in solitary at Kermanshah and Orumieh Guards Corps and Information Administration’s detention centers. He was being kept in a “tiny dark cell where you couldn’t tell if it was day or night.” According to Mr. Khezri’s letter, the torture included “being kept in solitary confinement for very long periods, threatening to arrest other family members, daily beatings using clubs for long hours, general beatings, injury to the right leg and genitals, three-inch laceration of the right leg caused by kicking carried out by the interrogator, and multiple blows to the entire body using an electric club.” He had lost consciousness on numerous occasions under torture, and according to his letter, he had twice attempted suicide in solitary confinement because of the psychological pressure. (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, HRANA, January 15, 2011).

Trial

On May 18, 2009, Orumieh Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch One, tried Mr. Khezri in a closed session. The Prosecutor’s representative, as well as the [Revolutionary Guards] Corps and the Information [Ministry] representatives were present at trial, along with Mr. Khezri’s attorney. All three representatives made statements and asked for the harshest sentence for Mr. Khezri. According to Mr. Khezri’s letter, the trial was very short and lasted about 10 minutes; the questions the judge had asked him were simply about his identification and personal particulars. The court did not investigate Mr. Khezri’s allegation of torture by his interrogators. (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, HRANA, January 15, 2011). According to Mr. Oliayifar, one of the attorneys of the case, the attorney present at trial was court-appointed. (Oliayifar interview, Roj Press, November 20, 2010).

Charges

According to Mr. Khezri’s letter, he was charged with Moharebeh [“waging war against God”]. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting declared Mr. Khezri’s charge to be membership in PEJAK and participation in the killing of a police officer at Orumieh’s Gole Sheikhan police border post in 2004. (January 15, 2011). The news item does not mention the officer’s name and the date of the incident.

Evidence of Guilt

There is no specific information about evidence presented at trial. According to Mr. Khezri’s letter and his attorney’s interview, however, the basis for the sentence was the defendant’s confession. Prior to trial, he had participated in a videotaped re-enactment of the border post attack using an RPG, and the court accepted his confession pursuant to his interrogators’ request. (HRANA, January 15, 2011, Roj Press, November 20, 2010).

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic use of severe torture and solitary confinement to obtain confessions from detainees and have questioned the authenticity of confessions obtained under duress. In the case of political detainees, these confessions are, at times, televised. The National Television broadcasts confessions during which prisoners plead guilty to vague and false charges, repent and renounce their political beliefs, and/or implicate others. Human rights organizations have also pointed to the pattern of retracted confessions by those prisoners who are freed.

Defense

According to Mr. Khezri, he and his attorney were not given the opportunity to present an effective defense. In his letter from jail, he notes that his trial lasted a mere 10 minutes, and that Information agents had made him understand that he was not to talk about torture and interrogations. Given the presence of the Corps and Information Ministry representatives in court, Mr. Khezri calls his a “show trial” and writes: “At trial, I told the judge that I denied many of the statements I had made during interrogations since I had been forced to accept those statements under physical and psychological torture and that they were, in fact, dictated to me. Nevertheless, the judge paid no attention to what I said and proceeded to pronounce a sentence of death, without investigating my claims of torture.” (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, HRANA, January 15, 2011, and Roj Press, May 15, 2011).

Mr. Khezri vehemently denied all charges, including Moharebeh: “First of all, I was not armed at the time of my arrest because my political activities were civil activities; and secondly, I had not engaged in any type of armed struggle against the Islamic Republic whatsoever.” He considered all his activities to be legal and civil in nature, and since he was certain of the legality of those activities, he felt no need to hide anything, in spite of his friends’ advice. According to Mr. Khezri, the interrogators objective in inflicting physical and psychological torture during 8 months of solitary confinement, was “to force me to accept and make confessions [about matters] I had absolutely no knowledge of … Even when I was unable to move due to severe torture, they would put my fingerprint on interrogation papers the contents of which I am unaware of to this day.” Mr. Khezri explains in his letter that his interrogators had threatened him with charging his family with illegal activities if he refused to give in to them and make a confession. (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, HRANA, January 15, 2011, and Roj Press, May 15, 2011).

“At trial, I told the judge that I denied many of the statements I had made during interrogations since I had been forced to accept those statements under physical and psychological torture and that they were, in fact, dictated to me. Nevertheless, the judge paid no attention to what I said and proceeded to pronounce a sentence of death, without investigating my claims of torture.” 

In addition to denying the charges, Mr.Khezri attempted to prove his innocence using other legal mechanisms, including bringing an action against his interrogators before the Orumieh Military Prosecutor’s Office on July 27, 2009. On December 7, 2009, Mr. Khezri attended the General Investigations Judge’s Office, Branch 8, and provided details of the torture he had undergone. He provided medical evidence of torture and requested to be sent over to the Medical Examiner’s Office, which was denied. On February 2, 2010, the Military Prosecutor’s Office declared itself without jurisdiction over the case and sent the file to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Three days later, Mr. Khezri was taken to the Information Administration detention center and was pressured and threatened to state before the cameras that he had not been tortured or mistreated; in return, he was told by security agents, changes would be made in his sentence. Mr. Kezri resisted and did not heed these requests. (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, HRANA, January 15, 2011).

Mr. Oliyayifar, who had taken on Mr. Khezri’s case subsequent to the issuance of the sentence, announced in an interview that if his client’s case were [duly] adjudicated, he would most definitely be exonerated, since, first, his client had been tortured, and second, he had been deceived by security forces. Noting that the judge had ruled without considering the evidence, and based solely on security forces’ reports, he considered the ruling ideologically-based and “outside judicial norms.” According to him, Mr. Khezri had been recruited by PEJAK in his adolescence and since he was not capable of armed activities due to poor eyesight, he had been doing work in the Party’s education and propaganda section. After a while, since had not committed any crimes, he returned to the country and presented himself to the authorities. According to Mr. Oliyayifar, Mr. Khezri’s arrest coincided with PEJAK’s attacking a police border post, causing security forces to get Mr. Khezri to accept, in phase one, the charge of attacking the post through pressure and torture, and in phase two, to treat him well and get him to participate in the re-enactment of the attack, which he was duped into doing. “Prior to filming, they gave Hossein details of the attack and asked him to hold an RPG at the border station, and say, for instance, that he had approached the station from a particular angle and that he had attacked in a particular way … In the meantime, they identified and arrested Hossein’s fiancée, and promised her they would throw a wedding for them if she corroborated Hossein’s statements … They told Hossein to do the same before the judge.” According to Mr. Oliyayifar, after the issuance of the death sentence, the interrogators claimed there was nothing they could do. Mr. Khezri’s fiancée was sentenced to two years in prison. (Oliayifar interview, Roj Press, November 20, 2010).

Mr. Oliyayifar had filed a complaint against security and information forces with the Police Force Prosecutor’s Office for having duped and deceived Mr. Khezri. Furthermore, arguing that Mr. Khezri had lost 70 percent of his eyesight and could not possibly have carried out a military attack in the middle of the night with an RPG, he considered the sentence to be contrary to religious tenets and asked the Head of the Judiciary to implement Article 18 and send the case back for a re-trial. (International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, January 17, 2011).

In addition to Mr. Khezri and his family, his attorneys were under the security forces’ illegal pressure. Mr. Oliyayifar was questioned repeatedly by security forces for having done several interviews concerning his client’s case, and was ultimately arrested and taken to jail a few weeks before Mr. Khezri’s execution. The other attorney in the case, Seyed Ehsan Mojtabavi, had also told Mr. Khezri’s family that he was being pressured by the security apparatus and had not accepted Mr. Khezri’s request for an interview and the dissemination of news about his case. (HRANA, November 19, 2010).

In a letter to the Head of the Judiciary, Mr. Khezri complained about obstruction of his case by the people in charge and asked that an investigation be made into the case. Prison authorities illegally refused, however, to confirm the accuracy of his fingerprint on the letter. (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, HRANA, January 15, 2011).

According to Mr. Khezri’s brother, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear their request for a re-trial, and the hearing was to be conducted on a specific date. Ten days before said date, however, a delegation was dispatched from Tehran to Orumieh to carry out the sentence prior to the Supreme Court hearing, thereby depriving Mr. Khezri of the opportunity to exercise this legal right. (HRANA, January 14, 2011). In his last visit with his family, Mr. Khezri informed them of Information Ministry agents’ repeated efforts to get him to make false televised confessions. (HRANA, January 15, 2011).

Judgement

On May 19, 2009, the day after the trial, Orumieh Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch One, sentenced Mr. Hossein Khezri to death. Contrary to common legal procedure whereby death sentences are sent to the Supreme Court for further adjudication, Mr. Khezri’s sentence was upheld by Western Azarbaijan Province Court of Appeals, Branch 10, and was sent to the Sentence Implementation Branch on August 8, 2009, and to Mr. Khezri himself on August 9, 2009. Upon the objection of Mr. Khezri’s attorney to this illegal procedure, the case was sent to the Supreme Court Branch 31, which ultimately upheld the decision. (Hossein Khezri’s letter from prison, HRANA, January 15, 2011).

A special team had come from Tehran to Orumieh on January 2, 2011 to implement Mr. Khezri’s death sentence, which was delayed for unknown reasons. On January 5, Mr. Khezri’s family visited him at Orumieh Central Prison, unaware that it would be their last visit. (Jaras, January 15, 2011).

On January 15, 2011, Mr. Khezri was secretly executed in Orumieh Prison, without due process. The authorities did not inform his family of the implementation of the sentence, contrary to the law. Mr. Khezri’s family heard the news of his execution on state television. Security and judicial agents did not turn Mr. Khezri’s body to his family and did not inform them of his place of burial. Noting that, by law, a defendant’s attorney must be notified of the time and place of execution, Mr. Khezri’s attorney, Ehsan Mojtabavi stated: “The manner in which this sentence was carried out is unprecedented in the last ten years.” (HRANA, January 19, 2011).

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*Other sources: Hossein Khezri’s prison mate’s writings (Massud Kordpur, Center for the Protection of Victims and Detainees’ Families, December 14, 2011), interview with Hossein Khezri’s attorney, Mr. Oliyayifar (Roj Press, November 20, 2010), Roj Halat websites (January 30, 2011), Kurdistan Human Rights Organization (November 17, 2010), Kurdish Perspective (November 19, 2010), (JARAS, January 15, 2011), Rooz Online (January 19, 2011), Rava News (January 20, 2011), International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (January 17, 2011), and Forat News (May 22, 2014).

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