Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Bahram Ahmadi

About

Age: 20
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Killing: December 27, 2012
Location of Killing: Karaj, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God
Age at time of offense: 17

About this Case

At the time of his arrest, Bahram was only 17. His main activity was to distribute CDs, which drew attention to insulting statements against Sunni beliefs by Shi’a religious figures.

News of the execution of Mr. Bahram Ahmadi was published in Roozonline on December 30, 2012. Additional information about his case was drawn from his recorded audio will, testimonies from his relatives and cellmates, published letters from his cellmates (HRANA April 25, 2014), letters from his parents to authorities (HRANA February 25, 2014), letters from Sunni clergies to authorities (Jaras September 18, 2013 and Tabesh September 26, 2013), Centre for Supporters of Human Rights on May 04, 2014, and several other sources.

Bahram Ahmadi lived in the town of Sanandaj in Kurdistan and was the ninth and last child in his family. He was studying math at Azadegan-e Baharan High School in Sanandaj. His father was a laborer.

According to his father, Mr. Ahmadi’s activities started at school, and in the mosque, in 2006. His goal was to help those who were poor and to raise awareness among people regarding the regime’s injustice. According to a person close to him, Mr. Ahmadi’s main activity was to distribute CDs, which drew attention to insulting statements against Sunni beliefs by Shi’a religious figures, but he didn’t belong to any specific group. Mr. Ahmadi co-defendants state that they are followers of the Shafi’i school of thought in Sunni Islam, and they promoted their beliefs in the region. They also tried to raise awareness so that the population is not exploited in the name of religion. (Centre for Supporters of Human Rights, May 4, 2014)

People close to him remember Mr. Ahmadi as calm, kind, and studious.When a new prisoner came to his ward, he would try to help procure some basic supplies to make the first days of prison less hard. He liked Kurdish ethnic food. Yogurt soup was one of his favorites.

Human rights organizations have protested the death sentences against these Sunni activists and due process violations in their cases. Sunni religious leaders, such as Molavi Abdolhamid, Friday Emam of Zahedan, and Hassan Amini, Director of the Emam Bokhara religious school in Sanandaj, issued open letters to the leaders and heads of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the Islamic Republic of Iran, calling for the annulment of the death penalty for Sunni prisoners. (Al Arabiya, September 19, 2013)

Arrest and detention

Mr. Ahmadi was arrested on September 19, 2009, in his family home in Sanandaj by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, who did not show any arrest warrant. He was seventeen years old. His older brother Shahram had been arrested four months earlier.

Mr. Ahmadi spent seventeen months in solitary confinement at the Intelligence Ministry detention centers in Sanandaj, Hamedan, and Tehran.

During his detention period, Mr. Ahmadi was frequently tortured. He told his cellmates that his interrogators used electric shocks, lashing, food deprivation, and threats against his family, in order to get him to confess to having links to extremist groups whose goal was to overthrow the regime. Interrogators also insulted and demeaned Mr. Ahmadi as a Sunni and attacked his religious beliefs.

Mr. Ahmadi had no access to an attorney or visitation with his family during his interrogation. Except for a few times, they did not allow him to call his family either.

In March 2011, Mr. Ahmadi was transferred to Ward 1 of Raja’i Shahr Prison, where ordinary prisoners, charged with serious offenses, are held. In February 2012, he and other Sunni prisoners were transferred to Ward 4, Room 10, until November 13, 2012 when he was transferred to Qezelhesar Prison.

Trial

Mr. Ahmadi and nine other co-defendants were tried in Branch 28 of the revolutionary court on February 12, 2011. Based on the testimony of four defendants tried along with Mr. Ahmadi, they were not allowed to choose their defense attorneys. They met the attorney assigned to them less than half an hour before the trial to sign his engagement letter. The attorney strongly recommended that the defendants accept the charges against them, with the promise that they would be transferred to their home town, Sanandaj, and eventually released. Mr. Ahmadi and other defendants were taken to court and tried while handcuffed, shackled, and blindfolded. The session lasted 10 minutes, and the judge did not question defendants, nor ask them to make statements in their own defense. In his will, Mr. Ahmadi noted the vulgar and insulting behavior of the judge. (Mr. Ahmadi’s will - ABF research)

Charges

Based on the available information, Mr. Ahmadi and his co-defendants were accused of “waging war against God,” through “links to Salafi mini-groups” and “propaganda against the regime, through participating in ideological and political classes, possessing, selling, and buying books and CDs of speeches related to Sunni beliefs.” (Letter to Ban Ki-moon, September 2012 - ABF research)

The validity of the criminal charges brought against Mr. Ahmadi cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.

Evidence of guilt

Based on the testimony of the defendants, the confessions coerced during interrogations were used as evidence against them.

Mr. Ahmadi had also reported that his interrogators saw the promotion of his religious beliefs as an effort to overthrow the regime. He told a cellmate that his interrogators had told him that they will have him executed and wanted him to acknowledge the intention to overthrow the regime: “You are reviving ideas that we have tried for 35 years to undermine. You are fighting the ideals of the revolution and are at war with God and his Prophet.” (ABF research)

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, broadcast. 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

The defendants note that the authorities did not allow them access to their families or legal counsel until their trial. They point out the fact that the court did not give them the opportunity to defend themselves, either.

Mr. Ahmadi and his co-defendant deny the charge of being linked to any Salafi or other extremist group. They note that the only reason for accepting the charges on their trial day was the false promises of their court-assigned lawyer of transfer to Sanandaj and leniency. They note that, at the time, following months of interrogations and solitary confinement, they were mentally disoriented and weak and gave in with the hope of seeing their family and benefiting from the court’s leniency. (ABF research)

In his will, recorded in prison, Mr. Ahmadi rejects all the charges against him and the co-defendants as lies and insists that their confessions were extracted through torture.

Mr. Ahmadi points to the disrespectful and insulting behavior of the judge during the trial: “He didn’t even allow me to speak.”

In his own defense, Mr. Ahmadi explained that he became active in promoting his religious beliefs “after two clerics, Bijan Daneshmand and Juybari, gravely insulted the mother of believers [Ayesheh] ... and other companions of the prophet and insulted Sunni beliefs and sanctities … . We have been in prison for the past four years and [the authorities] have convicted us, instead of putting those clerics on trial for their insults.”

My [real] charges, Mr. Ahmadi says, are “defending the dignity and honor of the Mother of the faithfuls [Ayesheh], Islam's Khalifs, and the companions of the prophet, defending God's oneness [unity], and opposing anyone who would deny God's oneness.” According to an informed source, Mr. Ahmadi believed that Iran’s leaders are not real Muslims. He thought that by claiming to represent the twelve Imam, the Islamic Republic’s Spiritual Leader is placing himself as an associate of God. The authorities considered his efforts to raise awareness on this issue to be “waging war against God.”

In a letter to President Rouhani, Mr. Ahmadi’s father states that “[his] son’s only crime was to call people to pray and to do good, as God has ordered us to do through the same religion the Iranian regime claims to represent.” (HRANA September 19, 2013)

A Summary of the Legal Defects in the Adjudication of Mr. Bahram Ahmadi’s Case

According to available information, Mr. Bahram Ahmadi was tried and sentenced to death on the charge of Moharebeh (“waging war with God”) and Efsad fel-Arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”) for his activities in promoting Sunni Islam and in protesting the Government’s discriminatory practices based on religion. However, pursuant to Iranian law, the crime of Moharebeh applies to situations where an individual or group takes up arms and engages in armed activities in order to fight the Government or deprive society of security. In other words, armed activities are an essential element of the crime of Moharebeh, whereas Mr. Bahram Ahmadi’s activities were peaceful. According to published information, Mr. Ahmadi’s activities consisted of distributing written materials and CD’s that directed people’s attention to Shiite officials’ insults and affronts to the beliefs of the adherents of the Sunni faith, but he did not belong to any group or organization. Mr. Ahmadi promoted the beliefs of Imam Shafe’i and wanted to prevent people from being abused [and discriminated against] in the name of religion. None of these activities constitutes a crime under Iranian laws.

According to available information, it seems that the death sentence was issued by taking into account the confession he made in the interrogation phase. According to the statements of persons close to Mr. Ahmadi, these admissions, broadcast on Iranian television, were made under torture and duress. In his statements, Mr. Ahmadi said that the interrogating officer humiliated him and insulted him and his beliefs, whereas under Iranian law, torture and duress of the defendant is illegal and considered a crime, and confessions obtained in this manner are without credence and legal value. Principle 38 of the Iranian Constitution, as well as certain domestic laws and international instruments to which Iran is a signatory, specifically so state, and go as far as to consider obtaining a confession through torture a crime and the perpetrators, criminals. Therefore, in addition to the fact that security agents tortured Mr. Bahram Ahmadi in violation of the law, the court citing a confession obtained under torture and duress as a basis of its ruling is in complete contravention of the law. It is also not clear whether or not the defendant in this case accepted and confirmed his admissions before the judge issuing the ruling in the case, because a confession can only be the basis of a ruling if it is made before the [trial] judge pronouncing a sentence in the case.

According to available information, Mr. Bahram Ahmadi was deprived of the right to an attorney during interrogations and at the preliminary investigations stage, and his access to an attorney at trial was [to an attorney] imposed upon him, with serious impediments [in consulting with the attorney]. According to Iranian law, a defendant may have access to the services of an attorney and the attorney can be present at all stages of the adjudication. In this case, however, Mr. Bahram Ahmadi was strictly prohibited from having an attorney during his detention at the Information detention center and in the preliminary investigations stage at the Prosecutor’s Office. Further, in the course of the trial, he was prevented from having an attorney of his own choosing and a court-appointed attorney who did not have an effective defense strategy was imposed on him. This was entirely against the law. Pursuant to the Law on the Rules of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts, Note 1 to Article 186, “If in crimes for which the law has mandated the punishments of Qesas of life, execution, stoning, and life imprisonment, the defendant does not personally introduce an attorney, it is mandatory that a court-appointed attorney be designated for him.” Not taking this provision into account would undoubtedly render the trial and the court’s decision null and void. The court’s action was entirely illegal and rendered the ruling, regardless of its substance, completely defective and without legal validity.

Judgment

Branch 28 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court issued Mr. Ahmadi and other co-defendants’ death sentences the day of their trial on February 12, 2011. The sentence was later approved by the Supreme Court.

Mr. Ahmadi was executed secretly, along with five co-defendants on December 27, 2012, in Qezelhesar Prison, in violation of the protocol in place for executions. The family was not informed, and Mr. Ahmadi was not allowed a last visit with them. His parents heard about his execution from Sanandaj’s Majless deputy.

His body, still in shackles, was shown to the family before being buried by the authorities in a cemetery for executed prisoners in Karaj. (Behesht-e Sakineh)

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