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

Hadi Rashedi

About

Age: 40
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: January, 2014
Location: Ramshir, Khuzestan, 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, some or all of 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 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 union 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.

 

UDHR, Article 11.1; 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 legal aid and the right to meet with one’s attorney in confidence

 

ICCPR, 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; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 8

 

·         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 or punishment.

 

UDHR, Article 5; 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 9.3, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

 

·         The right to examine, or have examined the witnesses against one and to obtain the attendance and examination of defense witnesses under the same conditions as witnesses for the prosecution.

 

ICCPR, Article 14.3.e

 

·         The right to have the decision rendered in public.

 

ICCPR, Article 14.1.

 

Judgment rights

 

·         The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

 

ICCPR, Article 6.4.

 

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.

·         The right of a person not to be subjected to the capital punishment for an offence committed before the age of eighteen. The right not to be deprived of life while pregnant.

 

 ICCPR, Article 6.5; Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37.a.

 

About this Case

He was forty, a chemistry teacher who volunteered to teach destitute children

Information about Mr. Hadi Rashedi was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF) with an eye witness, and member of the Al-Hiwar organization and through a report of the Justice for Iran organization (Conversation with Death, February-March 2013); Amnesty International’s Bulletin (December 9, 2013); a Human Rights Watch report (January 24, 2013); the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s Report (January 24, 2013); and from news websites, including HRANA (HRANA, December 30, 2013), as well as from a letter written from inside Karun Prison by Mr. Hashem Sha’baninejad (Mr. Rashedi’s friend, colleague, and co-defendant.)

Mr. Hadi Rashedi was from Ramshir (Khalafieh), a town located to the south of Ahvaz. He was 40 years old, a [high school] chemistry teacher, and an Arab activist of Khuzestan [Province]. He held a Master’s degree in applied chemistry and taught chemistry at Doctor Hessabi High School in the town of Sarbandar. One of his educational activities was to hold free classes for Arab students who were held back due to language differences, [not being Farsi speakers]. Mr. Rashedi was frail and thin and suffered from heart disease. He had, therefore, been exempted from performing [mandatory] military service. 

Mr. Rashedi was also a founder of the Al-Hiwar Scientific and Cultural Organization (“Hiwar” meaning “Dialogue”) in Arabic, which was inspired by former President Khatami’s slogan “Dialogue among Civilizations,”) which had obtained temporary authorization [to operate] from the [offices of the] National Organization for Youth* in 2001-2002. Al-Hiwar held cultural programs in Arabic, as well as cultural and educational classes for the young people of [the town of] Ramshir. It was also active in promoting Arabic language and culture, as well as women’s rights. The activities of the young members of the organization were very well-received by the people of Ramshir. As a result, in the second City Council elections in 2002-2003, all five candidates supported by Al-Hiwar were elected. (ABF’s interview) 

Subsequent to street demonstrations by Iranian Arabs residing in Khuzestan [Province] in 2005-2006, the Al-Hiwar Organization was declared illegal. Mr. Rashedi and other members, however, continued their activities by establishing a library and holding study [groups and] meetings at their homes. Continuing these cultural activities led to the members being summoned and interrogated by the town’s security apparatus. Between 2006 and 2009, Mr. Rashedi and the other members of Al-Hiwar were summoned and interrogated numerous times by the Ministry of Information. (Justice for Iran) The security people accused them of promoting ethnic thinking and demanded an end to their meetings and study sessions. 

A Summary of the Khuzestan Protests 

Subsequent to the publication of a letter dated July 24, 1998, ascribed to then-President Khatami’s Chief of Staff, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, demonstrations protesting the letter broke out on Friday, April 15, 2005, first in [the city of] Ahvaz, and then in other cities, such as Mahshahr and Hamidideh, and continued for several days. The letter emphasized the modification of Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arab population through promotion and encouragement of the migration of non-native populations to the province, [thus] reducing Khuzestan’s Arab population to one third of the total population of the province. Although the government’s spokesperson officially denied [the existence of] this letter on Saturday, April 16, the demonstrations that had been called for by the “Coordination Committee for Popular Protests in Ahvaz” continued extensively in the coming days. In calling for demonstrations, [the organizers] highlighted various factors, including “the central government’s policies in expropriating Arab farmers’ lands for various projects such as sugar cane development,” and “marginalization of, as well as profound discontent among, Khuzestan’s Arab [population], as a result of the regime’s efforts to obliterate Arab identity.”

The demonstrations that had started in Shelangabad (Da’ereh), one of [the city of] Ahvaz’s poor neighborhoods, quickly spread to the center of Ahvaz and to the cities of Mahshahr and Hamidieh. Citing Ahvaz News (a regional news organization) and eyewitnesses at the scene, the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization’s bulletin, dated April 15, 2005, stated, “Around three thousand Arab people of Ahvaz have gathered together and started extensive but peaceful demonstrations in Kordovani Street and Square, along with thousands of others in neighborhoods such as Shelangabad, Malashieh, Ameri, and Kut Abdollah, among others. Security forces are attacking the demonstrators, first with tear gas, and are subsequently firing on them in Da’ereh and Malashieh neighborhoods.” The degree of violence resorted to by security and police forces in quashing the demonstrations was such that it led to the death of a number of protestors. Dozens more were injured. Subsequent to these deaths, the intensity and magnitude of the protests increased. In a number of towns, demonstrators proceeded to cut off roads and to occupy government buildings and police posts. These protests continued for ten days in many Arab regions of Khuzestan. Protestors demanded a government apology to the region’s Arabs. Official government sources, quoting the Islamic Republic’s Defense Minister, announced the death toll as standing at three or four. (ISNA, April 19, 2005) Civil society activists, however, declared the number of people killed during these events to be between 50 and 60. Amnesty International stated the number as 29; Human Rights Watch, 50; and the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization, 160. Dozens of others were injured. The Ahvaz General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest and arraignment of 447 individuals. (IRNA, April 25, 2005) Local sources, however, announced the number as being greater than 1200. A number of intellectuals and ethnic leaders were among those arrested. Although the demonstrations subsided after ten days, widespread arrests, multiple bombings, successive executions, and popular protests continued on various occasions, including the anniversary of the events. 

Arrest and Detention 

Mr. Hadi Rashedi was arrested on February 28, 2011, along with a number of other members of the Al-Hiwar organization from the cities of Ramshir and Ahvaz. He was arrested in the city of Ramshir with his brother and was transferred to one of the Information Administration’s secret detention centers near the Abazar Hospital, in Ahvaz. Sa’id Albughabish, is one of the other members of the organization who were interrogated, along with his friends, at Ministery of  Information detention center in Ahvaz, and endured various forms of torture, including flogging with cables, being hung from the ceiling, sleep deprivation, and mental and psychological pressure, as well as severe [verbal abuse, including] insults and curse words. According to him, he had clearly heard Mr. Rashedi’s screams of pain while under torture. Mr. Rashedi spent 7 months in solitary confinement at the detention center of the Ministry of Information, undergoing severe physical and mental torture. He was transferred to Karun Prison only after he had been forced, under tremendous pressure, to confess on television. (confession aired on Press TV in the winter of 2012). During the time Mr. Rashedi was at the Information Administration’s detention center, his family only visited him once, for 15 minutes, four months after his arrest. ( Justice for Iran, ABF’s interview) 

Mr. Rashedi, along with Hashem Sha’bani, was transferred on two occasions by security agents from Karun Prison [back] to the Ministry of Information detention center. The first time was in July-August 2012, for a period of 10 days, and the second time, in August-September 2013, for several weeks. He was tortured again on each occasion, as reported by Arab activists. (HRANA, September 7, 2013) 

Trial 

The first court session to examine the charges against Mr. Hadi Rashedi and twelve of the other young members of the Al-Hiwar Organization was conducted on May 21, 2012, at the Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 2. Based on Mr. Sha’bani’s letter, there were three closed sessions examining the charges brought against 13 members of the organization. Based on information available to the Boroumand Foundation, the accused or their attorneys were served with court summonses only three days prior to the trial date and in an unusual fashion:  by the Public Information Office of the Ministry of Information. 

According to the eyewitness interviewed by ABF, the first session was the trial for Mr. Rashedi and Mr. Sha’bani.They proceeded to defend their [respective] cases, providing great detail and transparency. Things changed dramatically, however, during the second session: the courtroom was full of masked and armed members of security and police forces, and the families of the accused were not allowed entry into the courtroom. The new prosecutor, a cleric, asked that the court to be more strict. Based on published information, Mr. Rashedi’s family, who had been able to see him before the trial, testified that he had been under tremendous torture and had sustained more physical injuries than the other defendants, while in detention. (Justice for Iran, May 21, 2012) Mr. Rashedi and other defendants who had been transferred from the prison, were in handcuffs and shackles during the entire course of the trial and were not allowed to have them taken off, in spite of their and their attorneys’ protests. (ABF’s interview) 

Charges

Based on reports by Arab activists and human rights institutions, and according to Mr. Rashedi’s family and attorneys, the charges against Mr. Rashedi were:  “Moharebeh” (“waging war against God), “Efsad fel Arz” (“spreading corruption on Earth”), “spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” and “acting against the country’s national security.” 

Evidence of Guilt

The judge considered the defendant’s [incriminating] confession - which had been obtained under torture - to be evidence of the crime(s). In November-December 2011, prior to the trial, the English language government-run television station, Press TV, broadcast a program entitled “Iran e Emrooz” (“Today’s Iran”), in which Mr. Rashedi was introduced by the announcer as a member of the terrorist group “Al-Moghavemat al-Sho’aibieh.” In the interview, Mr. Rashedi stated that, in the company of a group of friends, he had fired shots at the door of two governmental authorities’ homes in the town of Ramshir.

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. State 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 

Based on information received by the Boroumand Foundation, the defendants’ attorneys had limited access to the content of the cases against their clients, as well as to their clients themselves. This access was not, however, free and without interference. In an interview with the Foundation, an eyewitness recounted that, at the trial session of May 21, 2012, Mr. Rashedi had retracted all of his previous confessions and had expressly stated that those confessions had been dictated by security agents, that they were lies, and that he had been coerced into confessing under extreme mental [and emotional] duress and severe physical torture. 

At trial, he talked about being tortured while at Ministery of  Information detention center and about [the resulting] injury to his pelvis, among others. Mr. Rashedi also stated that the authorities did not allow him access to the medications he took for heart disease. At the first trial session, he presented a detailed and transparent defense of his lawful activities and requested that the court summon a number of government authorities to testify, so that it could be proven that all of his activities were legal. The judge, however, paid no attention to this request, nor to his defense.

In its final decision, issued in this case, the Supreme Court admits that all of the defendants, including Mr. Rashedi, had declared their confessions to have been the result of torture, physical and psychological pressure, and threats made by [security and enforcement] agents. 

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Hadi Rashedi’s Legal Proceedings

Although there is no comprehensive, detailed information regarding the late Hadi Rashedi’s case, the little information that does exist clearly indicates that in the process of arrest, adjudication, and issuing of a death sentence, there were serious breaches of law as well as a   disregard for the principles of due process. These breaches are so severe that they undermine any determinations Mr. Rashedi’s innocence or guilt and to show that the death sentence was issued without regard for due process. It seems that judicial authorities have distanced themselves from the principles of law and justice, and sentenced the late Mr. Rashedi to death for political reasons. Detailed analysis of the late Mr. Rashedi’s case and sentence requires access to his file; however, a number of serious breaches of law can be ascertained from publicly existing information. Below, we consider the more important breaches of law and justice in his case.

1. The most important and fundamental defect in the decision is that it was issued without any legal basis. Based on information published by the Boroumand Foundation in this regard, the issuance of the death sentence was based on confessions Mr. Rashedi made in the course of interrogations conducted by agents of the security apparatus and the Prosecutor’s Office. The late Mr. Rashedi retracted his confession at trial in the Revolutionary Court and clearly and expressly stated that they were obtained under duress and torture. The retraction has been incorporated into the Supreme Court Branch Thirty Two’s decision, which states in part: “At trial, all the defendants denied the charges brought against them and further stated that their confessions to law enforcement [police, and/or security] agents were obtained as a result of torture and psychological and mental pressure; confessions to the investigating judge were obtained under duress and by threats and intimidation, in [and due to] the presence of police agents…” In spite of the deceased’s and other defendants’ statements, the court simply ignored this. Pursuant to Iranian law, this in itself can be proof of the illegality of the court’s decision in many respects:

a) Pursuant to Iranian law, inflicting torture on and placing a defendant under duress is illegal and considered a crime. Any admissions and/or confessions obtained under such circumstances are illegal. Principle 38 of the Iranian Constitution, as well as other Iranian laws have so stated clearly and expressly [i] and have gone so far as to criminalize the extraction of confession through torture, and to consider those who carry out such acts as criminals.[ii] Therefore, the court’s reliance on a confession obtained under duress and torture is completely against prevailing laws. The court should have investigated the matter first, and then relied on the confession.

b)      Pursuant to existing Iranian laws, including the Islamic Penal Code and the General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure, admissions and confessions are valid and legal only if made before the judge rendering the decision in the particular case, especially if the crime is a serious one.[iii] In other words, although confessing to someone other than the judge can be considered as evidence, if such a confession is to become the basis for the judge’s decision, the latter must personally hear the confession. Confession before an investigating judge or law enforcement officials, therefore, cannot constitute the basis for the judge’s decision. In the late Mr. Rashedi’s case, it appears from the evidence that his confessions before the investigating judge and at the Information Administration have been the basis for the Revolutionary Court’s decision. This is also evident from the Supreme Court’s decision, portions of which have been published. Stating that the defendants claim their confessions were obtained under torture, Supreme Court Branch Thirty Two further continues: “In spite of this claim, however, first, the defendants and their attorneys have not provided any evidence proving the same…” Closer scrutiny of this sentence shows that the late Mr. Rashedi’s admission and confession must, in fact, have been the basis for the Revolutionary Court’s decision, triggering the defendants and their attorneys’ objection. Reasoning that the claim of torture has not been proven, the Supreme Court Branch has attempted to give the defendants’ confessions legal validity, whereas it has not considered, consciously or mistakenly, [the fact that] the illegality of the decision stems from such confessions not having been made before the adjudicating judge, and not from the lack of evidence of torture. The law considers valid only those confessions made before the adjudicating judge, whether it was obtained under torture or not, especially where serious crimes are concerned. Therefore, even assuming that no torture had taken place, the late Mr. Rashedi and other defendants should have been questioned anew. In summary, based on the Supreme Court decision and other available information, not only did the late Mr. Rashedi not make a confession before the judge, but he denied the charges; the Revolutionary Court and the Supreme Court could not, therefore, rely on a confession that had not been made.

c)      Given the fact that the late Mr. Rashedi was tried and executed for the crimes of Moharebeh and Efsad fel-Arz, it bears mentioning that admission and confession to serious crimes have certain specificities to which the Revolutionary Court has paid no attention. Pursuant to the dictates of Shari’a and the Islamic Penal Code, in the event that a person confesses to a crime which carries the death penalty, and subsequently retracts the confession for any reason, the sentence of death shall be stayed.[iv] Therefore, since the late Mr. Rashedi was tried for the crime of Moharebeh, which carries a death sentence, and the court relied on his confession as the basis of the conviction, which he subsequently retracted and denied the same in court, the court could not have sentenced him to death. Denial of the charges and retraction of the confession constituted, therefore, sufficient grounds for the court to not convict him of the crime of Moharebeh.

d)     The portion of the Supreme Court decision quoted above stated that the defendants and their attorneys had not been able to prove torture. It must be added to what has already been stated in this regard, that, pursuant to Islamic law and an article of the new Islamic Penal Code - which had taken effect at the time of the implementation of the late Mr. Rashedi’s sentence and could have applied in his case - in crimes which carry Hadd punishments, if a defendant asserts that his confession was obtained through torture and duress, such assertion shall be taken at face value without further need to present evidence to that effect, and the confession shall be deemed invalid. Regardless of the points above, , which unequivocally proves the invalidity of the late Mr. Rashedi’s confession, the judicial system should have abided by this law.[v]

2. Given the facts above, and the fact that the late Mr. Rashedi’s admission and confession could not have been used as the basis for the sentence of death, it is necessary to consider the other evidence in the case. There is no eye-witness testimony or any other in the case indicating that he and his friends had committed the crime of Moharebeh and had conducted armed activities. Therefore, the judge could not have issued a sentence based on his own personal knowledge [of the facts], since such knowledge must be based on certainty and existing evidence. It is possible that the late Mr. Rashedi’s file with the Information Ministry might have contained reports of the activities ascribed to him, even activities of an armed nature. Such reports must, however, be documented, and the evidence of any claims must be presented to the judge so that he or she can be certain [of the accuracy of those claims.] These reports are valid only if reliable [and accurate]. In the late Mr. Rashedi’s case, however, it appears the reports were based solely on confessions obtained from him under torture.

3. The late Hadi Rashedi was tried and sentenced to death for Moharebeh and Efsad fel-Arz. Although there are no details of why these charges were brought against him, it can be concluded based on available information that he was arrested and sentenced to death because of his cultural activities within the framework of a cultural institution, and for his protests of the Iranian regime’s discriminatory ethnic policies regarding the region’s Arabs. According to Iranian laws, the crime of Moharabeh requires an individual or group of individuals to take up arms against the regime and/or conduct armed activities in order to jeopardize [people’s safety and] security. In other words, armed action is the main component of the crime of Moharebeh. However, the late Mr. Rashedi’s activities were peaceful. He had conducted Arabic language instruction classes and had participated in demonstrations protesting the Iranian regime’s policies with regard to Arabs. These activities were not illegal for several reasons. First, the institute founded by Mr. Rashedi had operated with a government-issued permit. Second, pursuant to the Iranian Constitution and other laws, cultural activities are not criminal, even if they are contrary to government policies. Further, organizing and participating in demonstrations are legal and considered part of citizens’ rights provided they are not armed and not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.[vi] Although Principle 27 of the Constitution regarding freedom of assembly is somewhat vague, it seems that by “fundamental principles of Islam” it is meant the basic principles of the religion such as [belief in] a single God [Allah] and [the Prophet Mohammad as] his messenger. Furthermore, not only is the instruction of a mother tongue not a crime, but pursuant to Principle 15 of the Constitution, its is allowed in schools and is considered a part of citizens’ rights. A citizens’ right enumerated in the Constitution cannot be considered a crime. However, judicial and security officials found Mr. Rashedi’s and his friends’ cultural activities to be against the law and a crime. The application of the crime of Mohharebeh to Mr. Rashedi directly contradicts the facts of his case and fluies in the face of the rule of law. It has been reported in the media that there were other charges in the case. For instance, it is reported that Mr. Rashedi was charged with acting against national security, but there is no such crime in the laws of Iran, and an individual cannotbe charged and tried for such a thing.4. Based on available information, the manner in which the late Mr. Rashedi’s trial was conducted, as well as the way in which his sentence was carried out, run against the principles of due process. For example, trial sessions were closed. Although in certain cases a judge can declare a trial closed (such as situations where a public trial can jeopardize security), the standard is to conduct trials in public. In Mr. Rashedi’s case is that, a closed trial made no logical sense when his confession, which was obtained under torture, had already been broadcast on state television. Nor does it appear that a public trial would have jeopardized security. A closed trial and a ban on the publication of news related to his case makes it clear that the judicial authorities intended to carry out and continue their illegal conduct in secret and under a complete news blackout. The fact that the authorities did not disclose the date and time of his execution, even to his attorneys, who should have been notified by law, further illustrates the secrecy of their actions. Worse yet, even his burial place was kept a secret and not disclosed to his family.Security agents even prevented his family from consucting mourning rituals. All of this is inhumane and contrary to the principles of human rights and dignity.5. Based on published information, the late Mr. Rashedi and his friends were deprived of legal counsel for months after their arrest, whereas, pursuant to Iranian laws, everyone is entitled to an attorney as soon as he/she is arrested. Although Iranian law limits an attorney’s right to intervene in the preliminary investigatory stage, the accused can, nonetheless, retain a lawyer, who is allowed by law to be present at that stage.6. Numerous other breaches of the late Mr. Rashedi’s and his friends’ rights have been reported. For instance, even though they were allowed by law to have witnesses testify on their behalf regarding the peaceful nature of their activities - as well as about other matters - in order to prove their innocence, the judge ignored Mr. Rashedi’s request to do so. Mr. Rashedi and his friends did not have sufficient time to prepare a defense and get ready for trial. They had been tortured in detention and did not have access to medical treatment of the resulting injuries. The late Mr. Rashedi and his friends had been kept in solitary confinement for extended periods. The rules of interrogation were not observed and they were repeatedly insulted and belittled. Their families were not able to obtain any information about the charges against them and the conditions in which they were being kept. All of these facts violate the principles of fair trial contained in Iranian laws and international instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.

Judgement

On July 7, 2012, the Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 2, sentenced Mr. Rashedi and four other defendants in the case, to death by hanging. The transcript of the decision is not available. On January 9, 2013, however, it was upheld verbatim by the Supreme Court, Branch 32, presided over by three judges. The decision was communicated to the defendants. A passage from the final decision issued by the Supreme Court reads, “All of the defendants denied the charges against them at trial and declared their confessions before [the interrogators] to have been [obtained] as a result of torture as well as physical and psychological pressure. Further, they stated that their confessions before the investigating judge had been given under threats and through coercion by and in the presence of [law] enforcement agents. In spite of this assertion … the defendants and their counsel have not submitted any evidence to prove said claim … .”( Justice for Iran organization) 

In protest of the upholding of the death sentence by the Supreme Court, Mr. Rhasedi and four of the other individuals sentenced to death in this case went on an 18-day hunger strike in Karun Prison, beginning March 2, 2013.

Iranian and international organizations and institutions, as well as a large number of political and international figures, protested the issuance of a death sentence for the defendants in this case, including Mr. Rashedi, based on the fact that the confessions had been obtained under duress. The British Foreign Office, the British Parliament, the Foreign Ministries of Germany and Norway, the U.S. State Department, the European Parliament, the Special Rapporteur on Iran, Mr. Ahmad Shahid, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, all condemned these individuals’ death sentences. The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation and twelve other human rights institutions also asked for the revocation of the death sentence. In December 2013, three members of the European Parliament asked Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to take immediate action [on behalf of and in order to influence] the fate of Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Sha’bani. On December 9, 2013, Amnesty International warned once again of the danger of these two Arab activists’ executions.

The exact date of Mr. Rashedi’s execution is not clear. On December 7, 2013, security agents transferred Mr. Rashedi and Hashem Sh’bani from Karun Prison to an unknown location. Finally, on January 29, 2014, after 53 days of complete silence, agents of the Ministry of Information informed Mr. Rhasedi’s family that he had been executed three or four days earlier. According to their attorney, these prisoners’ request for a new trial had been submitted to judicial authorities and was being examined. No decision had yet been made in this regard. (HRANA, December 30, 2013)  His family was not told of the precise date and time when the sentence was carried out, nor where he had been buried. The authorities refused to surrender the bodies to their families and warned them against holding mourning rituals in mosques or other public places, allowing them only a limited mourning in their homes for 24 hours. 

                      

 * Sazman Melli Javanan (“The Youth Organization”) was established by the Khatami government in 1378 (1999). Its goals included the formation and spreading of NGOs and civil organizations for youth and the licensing and supervising of youth organizations, which were built by the citizens. When Sazman Tarbiat Badani (“The Organization of Physical Education”) merged with Sazman Melli Javanan in the year 1389 (2010), the new organization was named the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

[i] Principle 38 of the Islamic republic of Iran’s Constitution provides: “All forms of torture for the purpose of extracting a confession or acquiring information are forbidden. Compulsion of individuals to testify, confess, or take an oath is not permissible; and any testimony, confession, or oath obtained under duress is devoid of value and credence. Violation of this article is liable to punishment in accordance with the law.”

Similarly, Article 9 of the Law on Respect for Legitimate Freedoms and Protection of Citizens’ Rights of 2004 provides: “All forms of torture of an accused for the purpose of extracting a confession or forcing him/her to do other acts are forbidden and any such confessions shall have no religious and/or legal validity.” Islamic Penal Code of 2013, Article 169 provides: “Any confession obtained under duress, threat of force, torture and/or physical or psychological persecution, shall be devoid of value and credence, and the court is obligated to conduct a de novo investigation of the accused.”

[ii]  Islamic Penal Code (Ta’zirat Section), Article 578 provides: “Any judicial or non-judicial employee or agent of the government who subjects an accused to bodily harm in order to extract a confession, shall, in addition to Qesas or payment of Dieh, be sentenced to six months to three years imprisonment. In the event that a person has issued an order to that effect, only such person shall be sentenced to the aforementioned prison term. In the event that the accused dies due to the inflicted harm, the agent shall incur the punishment due a murderer, and the principal the punishment for murder.”

[iii]  General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure, Article 59, Note 1, provides: “In cases where the defendant’s confession, a witness’ testimony and/or testimony to a witness’ testimony constitute the basis for the court’s decision, the judge making the decision in the case must personally hear [such confession and/or testimony].” Further, the Islamic Penal Code, Article 218, Note 2, provides: “A confession is valid from a Shari’a standpoint only if it is made at trial before the judge.”

[iv] Islamic Penal Code Article 173 provides: “Denial after confession does not prevent punishment from being implemented except where the confession concerns a crime the punishment for which is stoning or the Hadd punishment reserved for murder, in which case the punishment shall be stopped at whatever phase it is in, even at the implementation stage, and, instead, in cases of adultery and sodomy, one hundred lashes, and in all other cases, fifth degree imprisonment shall be meted out.”

[v] Islamic Penal Code Article 218 provides: “In crimes requiring Hadd punishments, when the defendant claims lack of knowledge or intent or one of the bars to criminal responsibility at the time of the commission of the crime, in the event that there is the possibility of truthfulness in what he/she says, and if he/she claims that the confession was extracted through threat and intimidation or torture, such a claim shall be accepted [on its face and] without any need for evidence and oath.”

[vi] Principle 27 of the Iranian Constitution provides” Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”

 [JR1]Farsi text says Sha’bani. Please verify and correct.

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