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

Ja'far Savari

About

Age: 23
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Killing: September 11, 2007
Location: Karun Prison, Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Acting against state's security

About this Case

Mr. Savari was a building electrician and was preparing to continue his education at the college level. One of his dreams was to have a car.

News of Mr. Ja’far Savari’s execution was published in numerous sources, including Amnesty International (September 13, 2007), Ahvaz Human Rights Organization (September 14, 2007), and Radio Farda (September 13, 2007). Quoting the Ahvaz prosecutor, the IRNA and ISNA news agencies published news of the execution of three individuals (September 13, 2007), without mention of their names.

Additional information regarding this case was obtained from an interview by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation with a person close to Mr. Savari and with two other individuals accused in the Ahvaz unrests, including a prison mate (“ABF Interview”) and from other sources.*

Jafar Savari was a 23-year-old high school graduate, who resided in the city of Ahvaz. He was a Sunni Arab from Dashte Azadegan who grew up in a poor, war-torn family under very difficult conditions. He was an independent young man, funny, kind, and studious. He was a humanitarian and had many friends.

Mr. Savari was a building electrician and was preparing to continue his education at the college level. One of his dreams was to have a car. (ABF Interview).

Mr. Savari and his brother, Mohammad Ali Savari, along with Abdolreza Navaseri, were the fifth group of Khuzestan Province ethnic Arabs who were executed in Ahvaz, in connection with the 2005 bombings and unrest. The sentence and execution issued for this group of individuals prompted numerous reactions from the attorneys in the case, the Association for the Protection of Prisoners’ Rights, as well as international organizations such as Amnesty International (May 17 and June 29, 2006) and Human Rights Watch (June 26 and November 11, 2006). In a resolution issued on December 19, 2006, the UN General Assembly expressed grave concern about widespread human rights abuses, the use of torture and execution in Iran, and, more particularly, regarding discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities. The open publication of seven of the Ahvaz bombing defendants’ attorneys resulted in their prosecution on the charge of endangering national security in Ahvaz. (ILNA, October 7, 2006). The attorneys’ trial was supported by the UN Special Rapporteurs’ objections. (UN website, January 10, 2007).

Historical Background of the Ahvaz Bombing

Subsequent to the publication of a letter ascribed to a government official concerning systematic modification of the fabric of Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arab population, demonstrations broke out on Friday, April 15, 2005, in [the city of] Ahvaz, and then in [the town of] Hamidideh. In quashing the demonstrations, security and police forces resorted to violence, which led to the death and injury of dozens of protestors and resulted in the protests and the unrest spreading to a number of other Khuzestan cities, continuing for at least 10 days.**These protests were the beginning of a series of incidents, including widespread arrests, multiple bombings, and successive executions in Ahvaz. For instance, a series of bombings followed on June 12 and October 15, 2005, and on January 24 and February 27, 2006, in various regions of Ahvaz, Abadan, and Dezful. These bombings were carried out in front of government buildings and in public places and left in their wake more than 20 dead and dozens injured.***According to government sources, other bombings (targeting oil pipelines and non-residential regions around Ahvaz) occurred at the end of summer and in the fall of 2005, which did not leave any casualties.

In response to the Ahvaz bombings, security forces arrested dozens of the region’s ethnic Arab individuals, charging them with participation in the bombings. They were then kept in solitary confinement cells, for months, at the Information Ministry’s Detention Center. People being held were subjected to torture, in order to confess having taken part in the bombings. According to the Ahvaz Prosecutor, ultimately a total of four cases were opened at the Revolutionary Court, Special Branch, and at least 45 individuals were charged. Dozens of these individuals were tried in closed sessions and were sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court. At least 20 of these sentences were carried out. Dozens of other Arab citizens were given long-term sentences.

Government officials never accepted that these bombings had internal reasons which had arisen following the Khuzestan incidents. In multiple, and sometimes contradictory, statements, political and judicial authorities imputed responsibility to groups opposing [the Islamic Republic], including, “Those loyal to the previous regime and residing in England;” “Fugitive SAVAK (the Shah’s security and intelligence apparatus) members, and family members of the destroyed Monafeqin (MKO);” “Wahabis;” “secessionists;” and/or to groups affiliated with the UK and other foreign countries. The Iranian government officially accused the UK of involvement in the bombings and declared that the bombers had been trained in Iraq, in regions under British army control, where they had acquired their arms and explosives. In one such statement, then-President Mahmud Ahmadinejad spoke of the clear and obvious footprint of Iraq’s occupiers in the Khuzestan incidents. (ISNA, January 25, 2006). The British government officially denied these accusations and expressed its concern regarding such statements made by Iranian officials. (BBC, November 1, 2005).

The televised confessions of a number of those arrested were broadcast several times on local TV and on Iran’s English language, Press TV. In one of these programs, broadcast on local TV on November 13, 2006, 10 of these individuals declared themselves to be members of “Katibeh Shohadaye Mohiuddin Al Nasser,” (“Mohiuddin Al Nasser Martyrs Brigade,”) or (the military wing of the Al-Nazal movement). No group officially accepted responsibility for the Ahvaz bombings. However, a video recording was distributed in the name of Katibeh Shohadaye Mohiuddin Al Nasser and “Harakat Al-Nazal Al-Arabi Le-Tahrir Al-Ahvaz (“Ahvaz Arabic Liberation Movement”), showing some of the bombings, including the explosion in front of the Natural Resources Organization building and oil pipeline explosions. At a later time, Harakat Al-Nazal officially accepted responsibility for some of the oil pipeline explosions.

Arrest and Detention

Mr. Savari was arrested by Information Administration agents on September 1, 2005. (ABF Interview). According to a person close to him, he was kept in solitary confinement at the Ahvaz Information Administration’s secret detention center. During that time, he constantly underwent physical and psychological torture. Information agents had also arrested his brothers Mohammad Ali and Hamzeh.

According to a person close to Mr. Savari, during a visitation with his family (in Karun Prison), he recounted that he had been repeatedly tortured while in the Ahvaz Information Administration detention center, in order to make false confessions. When placed in front of the camera, however, instead of the confessions he had been taught to give by the interrogators, he would state his own opinions every time. This caused him to be even more severely tortured. On one occasion, he had scratched his own face with a prayer stone prior to taping so that he wouldn’t be placed in front of the camera. (ABF Interview).

During the ten months he spent at the Information Administration detention center, he was only allowed one visitation with his family. In June-July 2006, he was transferred to the Ahvaz’ Karun Prison Ward 6, along with a number of other defendants in the case. Pressure from the Information Administration interrogators continued, even after judgment was rendered in his case and he was transferred to Karun Prison. He was returned to the Information Administration detention center many times for questioning, with various excuses and for whatever incident that had occurred in prison. One of these transfers was prompted by Mr. Savari and a number of other prisoners’ celebration of the Jordanian national football team’s victory over Iran. (ABF Interview).

Trial

On May 30, 2006, the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, Branch Three, tried Mr. Savari and a number of the other individuals accused in this case; the session took a single day, was closed [to the public], and there were no witnesses. (ABF Interview).****

Defense attorneys had not been able to meet with their clients prior to trial, nor had they been able to thoroughly read the case file. (Defense attorneys’ letter to the Court). Until the court session, itself, was held, Mr. Savari had no knowledge of the trial; the session had taken place without the other defendants in the presence of the Ministry of Information representative. (ABF Interview).

According to the head of the Association for the Protection of Prisoners’ Rights, attorneys for the defense had not seen their clients until the day of the trial, having to ask that they identify themselves to make sure that they were, indeed, their clients. (Radio Farda, June 21, 2006). Mr. Baqi has reported that a number of the defense attorneys were court appointed. (BBC, June 21, 2006).

Charges

According to Mr. Saleh Nikbakht, attorney for some of the defendants in the case, the charge against Mr. Ja’far Savari was “Moharebeh” (“waging war against God”). (Human Rights Watch, June 26, 2006). He had been accused by the Court of interfering [and participating] in bombing oil pipelines in Ahvaz. (Emad Baqi’s letter to the Head of the Judiciary, June 8, 2006). Previously, Khuzestan Province Deputy Governor had stated in a news conference that these individuals had Wahabi and Salafi tendencies and that their objective was to intensify ethnic differences and to jeopardize national unity. (IRNA, March 1, 2006). According to the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization, promoting Wahabism was one of the charges brought against these individuals. (Ahvaz Human Rights Organization, September 14, 2006).

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

Evidence

There is no precise information regarding evidence presented at trial. However, according to official judicial and security authorities, the defendants’ confessions constituted the basis for the court’s judgment. On March 10, 2006, Khuzestan Province’s state television network broadcast the confessions of seven of the individuals accused of the Ahvaz bombings. This video-recording had many jumps, and the statements appeared to have been severely tampered with and edited. Mr. Savari proceeds to introduce himself, and the charges brought against him, for a few seconds in a sequence of this film. According to one of the attorneys, evidence was presented in Court, whereby the defendants had purchased certain bombs and had hidden them. (Saleh Nikbakht in an interview with Human Rights Watch, June 26, 2006).

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 state television broadcast 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

There is no information about Mr. Savari’s defense. According to available information, however, Mr. Savari was not given the opportunity for an effective defense. One of Mr. Savari’s prison mates recounts, quoting Mr. Savari himself, that he had not been notified of the trial date and that - in a so-called court session - none of the official and legal formalities [of a trial] were observed. Mr. Savari considered the session the interrogators’ show to put further pressure on him and had not taken it seriously. (ABF Interview). According to Mr. Nikbakht, one of the defense attorneys in the case, the Savari brothers had no direct involvement in any of the armed operations, and the prosecutor had not presented any evidence to the Court that these defendants had resorted to violent action. (Human Rights Watch, June 26, 2006).

In May-June 2006, seven defense attorneys in the case objected to the course of the proceedings in an open letter to the head of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, Branch Three. They had been apprised of the trial date only one or two days prior to such date, at most, whereas the law requires that they be so informed at least five days in advance. They further stated that they had not had the time to read, study, and take notes of 800 pages of case files in such a short period. Further, that in spite of repeated written and oral requests, the court had not authorized them to meet privately with their clients and that trial sessions had been conducted individually, without the other defendants and their attorneys present, which was against the law. The defense attorneys declared that, “… in the event that their legal requests are not granted, they would leave the courtroom in protest of the unethical and non-judicial manner of adjudication.” (Attorneys, letter).

In a letter to the chief of the Judiciary, the head of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights objected to the sentences issued for ten of the defendants, including Mr. Savari: “These defendants were tried (mostly in other cities) after they had spent 10-11 months in solitary confinement… . Based on [our] information, some of them had no connection to any explosion. Apparently they were enticed by an individual who had delivered audio bombs to them and had tempted, encouraged, and instigated them to carry out the explosion; some of the defendants were not even aware of what was going on at all. Those defendants who had received delivery of the explosives had changed their minds [in implementing the bombings] and had either left or hidden the explosives in other locations. What is amazing is that the individual about whom nine people have confessed and was the principle person in instigating [the defendants] and delivering the bombs [to them], is now living in the city of Ahvaz in the open, but those he misled and deceived have been condemned to death.” (Emadeddin Baqi, June 15, 2006). In an interview with the Boroumand Foundation, one of the defendants in the case provided information regarding an individual who had proposed and delivered sonic explosives to some of the defendants, who had not yet been prosecuted. According to numerous local sources, usage, purchase, and sale of these types of sonic explosives is recurrent and customary in the region for fishing purposes. (ABF Interview).

In an interview with the BBC, the head of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights pointed to letters in the prisoners’ own handwritings, stamped by the prison, in which they have declared that they were forced to confess under duress. (Morning Show, June 26, 2006). In another interview, with ILNA, Mr. Baqi objected to the fact that a 28- or 30–year-old judge, without sufficient [and proper] education [and experience] was given the power to decide whether the defendants lived or died. He emphasized that, even applying accepted legal and religious norms of the Islamic Republic itself, such death sentences should not have been issued. (ILNA, June 25, 2006).

Three U.N. Special Rapporteurs sent two letters to the Islamic Republic officials in August and November 2006, demanding clarifications regarding the Ahvaz bombing defendants’ claims of torture and unfair trial. The government did not, however, reply to these letters. (U.N. Human Rights website, January 10, 2007).

Three of the individuals accused in the Ahvaz bombing case testified, in an interview with the Boroumand Foundation, that the prison guards in bombing cases applied severe physical and psychological torture in order to elicit incriminating confessions about themselves and the other accused individuals. According to them, a team had come from Tehran for the purpose of making videotaped confessions and that the defendants had been subjected to pressure and beatings for several nights in order to show their “confessions” on film. (ABF Interview).

Desicion

On June 8, 2006, The Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, Branch Three, sentenced Mr. Jafar Savari to death, and the sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in July-August. (Human Rights Watch, November 11, 2006). Previously, in March 2006, the Khuzestan Province Deputy Governor had announced that Mr. Jafar Savari had been sentenced to two years imprisonment or more. (IRNA, March 1, 2006).

On September 11, 2007, Mr. Savari was hanged in Karun Prison, along with his brother, Mohammad Ali Savari, and Abdolreza Navaseri. One week before the sentence was carried out, prison authorities told his family to come out for a last visitation. Informed of the news, a large crowd gathered outside Karun Prison, demanding the sentence not be carried out. Ultimately, a prison official appeared before the crowd and informed them that Mr. Savari’s death sentence had been abrogated. One week later, when the family went to prison for weekly visitations, prison officials told them that their son had been executed the night before. (ABF Interview).

Mr. Savari’s body was not turned over to his family. Mourning rituals continued for a week, until the body was relinquished to the family. Ultimately, on September 17, Mr. Savari’s body was interred in Mollasani Cemetery in the Veiss region, far from the city of Ahvaz, and in the presence of his brother and security agents. Subsequent to the burial, security agents did not allow Mr. Savari’s family to hold an official wake for him.

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*Sources
IRNA (March 1, 2006 and September 13, 2007), ISNA (September 13, 2007), ILNA (June 25, July 25, October 7, and November 18, 2006), Radio France (February 15, 2007), Radio Farda (June 15 and 21, 2006), BBC Parsian (June 21 and 26, 2006 and September 13, 2007), Padmaz (April 12, 2014), Amnesty International (May 17, June 29, November 13, and December 24, 2006), Amnesty International (January 10, January 15, and September 13, 2007), U.N. Human Rights website (January 10, 2007), Human Rights Watch (June 26 and November 11, 2006, and February 15, 2007), Rooz Online (November 20, 2006), Ahwaz News Agency (February 13 and September 14, 2007), Emadoddin Baqi Website (June 15, 18, 21, 23 and 26, 2006), Iran Newspaper (March 2, 2007), and the Kayhan Newspaper(July 30, 2006).

** A Summary of the Khuzestan Protests on April 2005
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 Kui-e Alavi (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.

***Ahvaz Bombings in 2005 and 2006:
June 12, 2005:  Four explosions occurred in front of the Governor’s building, the Planning and Budget Organization building, the Housing and Urban Development Organization building, and in a residential neighborhood, leaving at least 8 dead and 98 injured.
September 1, 2005:  The bombing of oil installations and two pipelines in the Zargan region of Ahvaz.
October 15, 2005:  Two explosions occurred prior to Iftar, in the month of Ramadan, at two locations on Salman Farsi (Naderi) Street, leaving at least 6 dead and 100 injured.
January 24, 2006:  Bombings at Saman Bank --  in the Kianpars neighborhood of Ahvaz and at the Khuzestan Province Natural Resources General Administration building --  left at least 6 dead and 45 injured (certain reports indicating 8 or 9 dead).
February 27, 2006:  Bombings at the Governor’s buildings in the cities of Dezful and Abadan left 4 injured.

****Human Rights Watch has declared the trial date to have been June 7, 2006 (Human Rights Watch, June 26, 2006).

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