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

Ebrahim Hajati

About

Age: 20
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Killing: April 20, 2014
Location of Killing: Central Prison (Vakilabad Prison), Mashhad, Khorasan\Khorasan-e Razavi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder
Age at time of offense: 16

About this Case

Mr. Hajati was a calm and smart high school student from a small village in Khorasan Razavi Province. 

News of the execution of Mr. Ebrahim Hajati was published on the website of the Imam Ali’s Popular Students Society (IAPSS) on April 20, 2014 and in the Khorasan newspaper on April 21, 2014, along with another person.

According to the existing information, Mr. Hajati was single and a high school student from the Bardskan Village near Kashmar in the Khorasan-e Razavi province. His case is related to a murder that took place in 2010 when he was only 16 years old. An ongoing family feud triggered by the miserable life of his sister married to a drug addict husband and the distribution of a private video of his sister and her husband among the residents of the Bardskan village were reported as the trigger of a verbal confrontation that ended up in a murder. According to the residents of the village including his teacher, Mr. Hajati was a calm individual, and a smart and good student in his class. (IAPSS)

International laws have strictly prohibited capital punishment against those who were under the age of 18 at the time of committing the crime. As a party to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran has the obligation to avoid capital punishment for an offence committed before the age of eighteen.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Hajati turned himself in to the police custody a few days after his brother-in-law’s brother was found dead in a garden near his village in 2010. The death occurred after a confrontation between Mr. Hajati during which Mr. Hajati hit his brother in law's brother on the head with a dry wood stick.

Mr. Hajati was transferred to Mashhad Vakilabad Prison from the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center before he turned 18 years old. 

Mr. Hajati was first detained at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center and transferred to Mashhad Vakilabad Prison before he turned 18 years old. He was detained for four years. His last visitation with his family took place at the Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad the day before his execution. (IAPSS)

Trial

No information is available on Mr. Hajati’s trial.

Charges

The charge brought against Mr. Hajati was announced as “murder.”

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 of guilt

The report of this execution did not provide any specific information on the evidence presented against Mr. Hajati, but Mr. Hajati surrendered himself to the authorities

Defense

No information is available on Mr. Hajati’s defense.

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Hajati’s Legal Proceedings

Based on news published in the national media, including Khorasan newspaper, Ebrahim Hajati killed his sister’s ex-husband’s brother in a family brawl in 2010 in a village of [the town of] Kashmar, subsequent to the publication of a private video of his sister. The killing was reported to have been caused by blunt force to the victim’s head through the use of a piece of wood. Based on available reports, Ebrahim had no prior record of violent [behavior] or criminal acts and had killed solely in the heat of the moment. More importantly, Ebrahim was only 16 years old at the time of the commission of the crime. No information is available about the trial and the sentencing, and whether the principles of fair trial were observed. Ultimately, a death sentence of Qesas (“retribution”) was implemented in the Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad on April 20, 2014 when Mr. Hajati was 20 years old.

The most important legal issue in this case is Ebrahim’s age, and the modification of the Islamic Penal Code during the adjudication process or at least before implementation of the sentence. Pursuant to the previous Islamic Penal Code which was in force at the time of the commission of the crime, the punishment for young adults, that is, boys who have reached the age of 15, was no different than the one for adults. Ebrahim, who had committed murder at the age of 16 was certainly tried under this law. The Islamic Penal Code was changed, however, on April 21, 2013, and prescribed different rules for crimes committed by individuals under the age of 18. It is not clear whether Ebrahim partially benefited from a retrial based under the current law, which is retroactive in cases of death penalty, or whether the final sentence was issued under the old law. It is, however, very clear that Ebrahim was put to death one year after the passage and coming into force of the current Penal Code.

Under the old Islamic Penal Code, the punishment for murder for adults [those who have reached puberty, i.e., the age of 15 for boys] was Qesas; the new Code, however, displaying more flexibility, provides for the possibility of dispensing with Qesas for criminals under the age of 18. Although the new Code provides that, if the individual under the age of 18 is not aware of the nature of the crime, and there is doubt as to his maturity at the time of the murder, the judge can drop the death penalty and issue a prison sentence. Pursuant to Islamic Penal Code Article 91 “In crimes requiring Hadd or Qesas, if the individuals under the age of 18 who have attained puberty cannot comprehend the nature of the crime or the prohibition thereof, or if there is doubt as to their mental development [and capacity] and maturity, they will be sentenced to the punishments prescribed in this chapter on a case by case basis. Note: In order to ascertain mental development and maturity, the court may obtain the medical examiner’s opinion, or utilize any other method it deems appropriate.” This provision opened the door for exemption from the death penalty for criminals under 18. Since most killings committed by individuals under the age of 18 are heat of the moment murders, and usually at that age, an individual has not reached the level of maturity to comprehend the nature of his actions, this provision in a way dispenses with the death penalty for criminals under 18 who have attained puberty.

Subsequent to the passage of this provision, there were discussions as to whether or not it applied to criminals under 18 who have attained puberty, whose sentences are final, and are awaiting execution. According to an [established] legal principle, in the event that the subsequent law is more lenient to an accused or a convicted criminal than the prior law, the subsequent law will be applied even though a final judgment has been rendered. On that basis, the new law must apply to individuals under the age of 18 who have attained puberty and have been tried and sentenced to death while the previous law was still in force, and such individuals must be able to take action under Article 91 in order to avoid the death penalty.

The 2013 amendment to the Islamic Penal Code, provides for the possibility of dispensing with Qesas for criminals under the age of 18.

In practice too, courts viewed Article 91 as applying to those having a final death sentence. In fact, in December 2014, the Supreme Court General Council issued a Uniform Procedure Decision regarding the manner of Article 91’s applicability to individuals under the age of 18 who have attained puberty. The decision provides: “Whereas Article 10(b) of the Islamic Penal Code of April 21, 2013 provides for exemption from crimes requiring Hadd and Qesas punishments in said Article’s opening provision, and whereas the powers prescribed for the sentence implementation judge in amending a sentence and/or the convicted individual’s right to ask the court for a reduced sentence as provided for in said paragraph is not in conflict with the Law on General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure Article 272, Paragraph 7 and does not nullify the same, therefore, in the event that individuals sentenced to Qesas who were under the age of 18 at the time of the commission of the crime, and the final sentences in their cases were issued prior to the Islamic Penal Code of April 21, 2013 coming into force, claim the applicability of Article 91, since the modification and reduction of the sentence as provided for in said article ultimately constitutes a reduced sentence and a more favorable punishment, they may ask for de novo adjudication pursuant to Article 272(7) of the aforementioned Rules of Procedure. Accordingly, Supreme Court Branch 35’s holding is hereby upheld by a majority, so far as it is consistent with the present Decision. This Decision is binding in similar cases on Supreme Court branches and courts, pursuant to the Law on General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure Article 270.” (Uniform Procedure Decision number 737, December 2, 2014, Supreme Court General Council). 

Although this Uniform Procedure Decision was issued a few months after Ebrahim Hajati’s execution, courts regarded Article 91 as applying to individuals under 18 sentenced to death prior to its issuance as well; the difference of opinion was [a procedural one and] dealing with the manner of adjudication. One year prior to Ebrahim Hajati’s execution, the Islamic Penal Code had been revised and more favorable regulations put in place. The article could easily have been applied to Ebrahim and he could have escaped the death penalty. It is clear, however, that judicial authorities paid no attention and did not consider Ebrahim’s case for renewed adjudication based on Article 91. In other words, it was incumbent upon judicial authorities to take the necessary action in this regard. Ebrahim was executed while the law had provided for the possibility of saving his life; a significant number of convicts under the age of 18 were able to avoid the death penalty by resorting to this Article at the same time that Ebrahim was put to death. It is not clear what the reason for this dereliction on the part of judicial authorities was and why this young man was hastily executed. If judicial authorities did not take the necessary action under Article 91, however, they have certainly committed an illegal act and Ebrahim was therefore executed in an illegal manner.

Judgment

It is not clear whether Mr. Hajati partially benefited from a retrial based under the current law, which is retroactive in cases of death penalty.

Mr. Ebrahim Hajati was condemned to death and the Supreme Court confirmed the ruling. He was hanged in the presence of both families and officials at the Vakilabad Prison yard in Mashhad on April 20, 2014. His body was given to his family after the forensics confirmed the death. 

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