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

Bahman Varmazyar

About

Age: 27
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Killing: April 18, 2018
Location of Killing: Hamedan Central Prison (Alvand), Hamedan, Hamedan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Armed robbery
Age at time of offense: 24

About this Case

Was a hair stylist and a trainer at a sports club in Hamedan, and had no criminal record

News of the execution of Mr. Bahman Varmazyar, child of Abbas, was published in Mizan News Agency’s website and by ISNA (Iranian Students News Agency), quoting Hamedan Province Capital’s General and Revolutionary Prosecutor (April 18, 2018), and in Aftab News and Hamshahry newspaper’s websites (April 18, 2018). Additional information about this case was obtained from the following websites: HRANA’s (Human Rights Activists news Agency) (April 16, 2018, and May 12, 2018), Iran Human Right Organization (April 16, 2018), ISNA and IRNA’s (Islamic Republic News Agency) (April 17, 2018), Rokna, Hamshahri newspaper, and Hamedan Province State Radio and Television News Agency (April 18, 2018).

Mr. Varmazyar was a single man from the city of Hamedan, born on February 18, 1991. He was a hair stylist and a trainer at a sports club in Hamedan.

His case, and the case of three other individuals, is related to an armed robbery from a jewelry store in Hamedan’s Hessar neighborhood on April 30, 2015. 

Arrest and detention

Eighteen days after the armed robbery, Mr. Varmazyar turned himself in to Hamedan’s Criminal Investigations Bureau on May 18, 2015, and returned the stolen goods. (HRANA, May 12, 2018). On the day of the robbery, one of the robbers was caught by the people and turned over to the police. However, Mr. Varmazyar fled the scene with the stolen property. The other two defendants were arrested a few days later.

Mr. Varmazyar spent two years and eleven months at Hamedan’s Alvand Prison. He had regular visitations and his mother and other relatives visited him every Monday.

On Friday, April 13, 2018, Mr. Varmazyar and one of his co-defendants in the case were transferred to solitary confinement cells at Alvand Prison. According to his brother, “Bahman and his co-defendant were transferred to solitary confinement on Friday and were shackled and handcuffed”. (HRANA, April 16, 2018). His last visitation with his family took place on Monday, April 16, 2018. Mr. Varmazyar’s family contacted numerous individuals and governmental organs in order to save their loved one’s life.

Trial

Hamedan Islamic Revolutionary Court tried Mr. Varmazyar and the other defendants in the case. He was represented by counsel. There is no information, however, regarding the trial session(s).

Charges

The charges brought against Mr. Varmazyar were said to have been “Moharebeh (“waging war with God”) through armed robbery, creating fear and apprehension in the city and at the scene of the crime”. According to available information, Mr. Varmazyar and three other individuals robbed a jewelry store. One of the individuals was armed and fired several shots into the air in the course of the robbery.

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.  International human rights organizations have drawn attention to reports indicating that the Islamic Republic authorities have brought trumped-up charges, including drug trafficking, sexual, and other criminal offences, against their opponents (including political, civil society activists, as well as unionists and ethnic and religious minorities). Each year Iranian authorities sentence to death hundreds of alleged common criminals, following judicial processes that fail to meet international standards. The exact number of people convicted and executed based on trumped-up charges is unknown.

Evidence of guilt

The evidence presented against Mr. Varmazyar was stated to be “the confessions of the defendants, the theft of 1.639 kilograms of gold, and the store owner’s complaint”.  Nine months after the robbery, however, the store owner went to the prosecutor’s office and withdrew his complaint. (Hamshahri newspaper, April 18, 2018).

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.

Defense

Mr. Varmazyar had no criminal record and this was the first time he had taken such actions. He was not armed during the robbery. Expressing regret and remorse, he turned himself as well as the stolen property over to the authorities. Furthermore, he did not have a private plaintiff. In response to the prosecutor who had considered Mr. Varmazyar’s actions as creating fear and apprehension in the public, his mother had gathered 300 signatures from the business owners and residents of the neighborhood and none wanted his execution. (HRANA, May 12, 2018). Mr. Varmazyar and the other defendants objected to the sentence. There is no information regarding the defense he and his attorney presented.

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Bahman Varmazyar’s Legal Proceedings

Mr. Bahman Varmazyar was sentenced to death for the crime of Moharabeh in the form of armed robbery, whereas armed robbery does not in and of itself constitute Moharebeh and is not punishable by death. Pursuant to Iranian law, Moharebeh occurs when an individual takes up arms in order to disrupt public safety and create fear and apprehension in the populace; not every armed criminal action can be considered as Moharebeh. Articles 651 and 653 of the Islamic Penal Code provide incarceration as the punishment for armed robbery. The law has therefore defined armed robbery as a separate and independent crime and does not consider it as Moharebeh. Moharebeh takes place if armed robbery is carried in a group and is continuous in such a way as to disrupt the majority of the population’s security and tranquility. However, an individual cannot be considered Mohareb if he has committed the act of armed robbery only once, the use of weapons has not resulted in any deaths, and the majority of the townspeople’s security has not been jeopardized as a result of the robbery. While it is true that the commission of any crime is an instance where society’s security is jeopardized, what is intended by the crime of Moharebeh is that public security be jeopardized in an extensive manner. It is absolutely not acceptable to posit that the security of a large number of citizens has been jeopardized by an armed robbery where one of the robbers has solely fired several shots into the air and a not so considerable amount of gold has been stolen. Therefore, the court’s argument regarding creating fear and apprehension in the public and disrupting security was completely incorrect.

Pursuant to the Note to Article 114 of the Islamic Penal Code, Hadd punishment will not apply to a Mohareb if he/she repents prior to being arrested. Considering that Bahman Varmazyar turned himself in to the police and returned the gold, it is clear that he was remorseful and regretted what he had done, and his actions most certainly constitute repentance. The judges, therefore, had the possibility of not applying the crime of Moharebeh to him because of his repentance, and could have issued a sentence other than death. 

Judgment

On November 26, 2016, Hamedan Islamic Revolutionary Court ruled that Mr. Bahman Varmazyar was “Mohareb” and sentenced him to death. The ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court on January 25, 2017.

On Wednesday April 18, 2018, Mr. Varmazyar was hung from a crane on the Alvand Prison grounds.

One of the other three remaining defendants was sentenced to death and the other two received jail sentences.

News of Mr. Varmazyar’s execution prompted widespread reactions in the media and on the web. He and another defendant were supposed to be executed on April 17, 2018, at 6:30 in the morning. The videos of his family asking people and the authorities for help in staying the execution prompted much reaction from the public. The Varmazyar family got wind of the news that their son’s execution had been stayed on April 16. According to his mother, they had readied themselves for his execution on that day, but one day earlier, a man had called and told them “I have great news: Bahman has been pardoned; he will not be executed”. Prison officials also informed them that he had been returned from quarantine back to the ward. (HRANA, May 12, 2018). At the same time that news of Mr. Varmazyar’s pardon was published in the media and some even claimed that the pardon had been granted by the country’s highest ranking officials, in the final hours of Tuesday, April 17, the Prosecutor announced that the non-implementation of Mr. Varmazyar’s death sentence had some legal issues.

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