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

Makwan Moludzadeh

About

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

Case

Date of Killing: December 4, 2007
Location of Killing: Kermanshah, Kermanshah Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Homosexual rape
Age at time of offense: 13

About this Case

In October 2007, a dazed young man on donkeyback was paraded around the streets of Paveh, his head shaved against his will. His disgrace was only beginning.

The news of the trial, sentencing, and execution of Makwan Moludzadeh was reported on the websites of the E’temad newspaper (Sep. 28, Nov. 16, 2007; Jan. 4 2008), the web-blog of the journalist of this newspaper (Oct 29, Dec. 5 and 13), the newsletter of Amirkabir University in Tehran (AUT News, Oct. 29 and Dec. 15), the Fars News Agency (Dec. 12), Amnesty International (Oct. 26, Dec. 6 and 16), and Human Rights Watch (Dec. 5) of year 2007.

Reports from various sources reflect numerous violations of both Iranian and international laws concerning interrogation, investigation, trial, issuing of the verdict and execution of the ruling. Consequently, this case has been widely reported by various human rights organizations, which demanded that the Iranian government and judiciary halt the execution of Mr. Moludzadeh.

After the ruling, the defendant’s father went to Tehran several times and unsuccessfully attempted to visit the head of the judiciary. Later, in a letter to Ayatollah Shahrudi, he stated: “Makwan’s mother and I beg you to help us save his life. Our twenty-year old son has been condemned to death in contradiction with religious rules and Islamic law. After the arrest of our son in [Sep. 23 – Oct. 22, 2006], we did not even know his charge. I implore you, in my helplessness, to order the review of Makwan’s case.”

In November 2007, due to Makwan’s attorney’s struggles, and those of human rights organizations, Ayatollah Shahrudi, the Head of the Judiciary, ordered a temporary stay of execution. In his rationale, Mr. Shahrudi referred to the Ayatollah Khamene’i’s edict, which states that anal sex must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The Head of the Judiciary ordered the Office for the Implementation of Sentences to reinvestigate the case and send its findings to the criminal court of Kermanshah for the review. When this order was received by this Office, Makwan’s attorney was told that it would take at least two months to reinvestigate the case. However, a few days later, the verdict was hastily resent to Tehran, returned to Kermanshah, and the sentence was carried out.

In a press release issued after the execution, the Public Prosecution office of Kermanshah Province rejected the protests regarding the accusations that religious and legal principles had been violated in the case as baseless and stressed that “there is no doubt of the fact that the hideous act of homosexual rape must be punished with execution in Islamic law.”

AUT News, quoting from the web-blog of Kuhyar Gudarz, referred to hostility between the prosecutor and the Moludzadeh family: “It appears that Makwan, who had a short temper, once drove his car recklessly in front of the city prosecutor, after which there were several clashes between them. Once the prosecutor told him: ‘Makwan, I’ll finally kill you.’” The reasons for the non-implementation of Shahrudi’s order of stay, as well as whether or not the violators were prosecuted, are not known.

Before the execution, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released statements appealing to the Iranian regime to prevent the execution of Makwan Moludzadeh. These statements pointed out that the accused was 13 at the time of the alleged crime, and the execution sentence is in violation of international and national Iranian law. International law strictly prohibits the execution of those convicted of crimes committed under the age of 18. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran is bound by international obligation not to execute minors.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Makwan Moludzadeh was arrested on October 1, 2006, by the order of the prosecutor of Paveh in Kermanshah province. According to E’temad Melli, he was arrested as he was smoking in the garden at the back of their house. His parents were under the impression that he had been arrested because of smoking during the fasting month. A few days later, still unaware of Makwan’s charge, his family found out that Makwan’s head had been shaved and he was forced to sit on a donkey and tour the city in order to be humiliated. The newspaper quote Makwan’s father saying: “That day, I saw that they put him on a donkey and let everyone see him. People would ask us with what charge they forced him to ride a donkey, but we didn’t know what to say. Makwan had done nothing to deserve such humiliation.”

According to Amnesty International (Nov. 26, 2007), Makwan was ill-treated during his interrogations in Paveh. As a protest to such ill-treatment, it was reported that Makwan had a food strike for ten days.

Trial

Mr. Moludzadeh was tried at Branch One of the Criminal Court of Kermanshah. Some trial sessions took place in his home town Paveh.

His attorney pointed out numerous flaws in the proceedings: “At the trial, required by law to carefully examine all evidence in its entirety, three of the plaintiffs were present, who testified several times that their accusation has been false and that Makwan had not committed such an act. They explicitly stated that their [prior] complaints were not true. However, the judges delivered their verdict without sending the plaintiffs for forensic investigation.” The court argued that since several years have passed since the alleged crime, the forensic team would not be able to detect the evidence. By doing so, the court accepted that the act had taken place year ago when the defendant was a minor. However, insisting on the legality of the verdict, the court argued elsewhere that the act started to take place years ago and continued to take place to date. According to the media reports, Makwan maintained that he was innocent throughout his trial (e.g. E’temad Melli).

Charges

Mr. Makwan Moludzadeh was charged with “rape at the age of 13.”

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’s authorities have brought trumped-up charges against their political opponents and executed them for drug trafficking, sexual, and other criminal offences. The exact number of people convicted based on trumped-up charges is unknown.

Evidence of guilt

The reports of his execution refer to the complaint of Makwan’s cousin and three other youth, who claimed to have been molested when Makwan was 13. Makwan’s “confession” that he had had a sexual relationship with a boy in year 2000 was also used as evidence against him. The validity of evidence was questioned at the trial. According to the web-blog of the E’temad Melli journalist, Makwan’s cousin had filed the complaint ten days after Makwan’s arrest (for more details see the Defense section).

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

According to available information, Makwan denied his alleged charge. His attorney pointed out the lack of credibility of the “confession” and said: “The letter of the law requires four confessions in the presence of the judge. However, Makwan has confessed only once and at the police station. Moreover, according to the law, if the defendant retracts his confession, the judge should disregard the confession, especially if the confession has occurred only once in the absence of the judge.”

Another report stated that Mr. Moludzadeh had told his father that, when this confession was extracted, his hands were cuffed behind him and a gun was pointed at his head in order to force him to confess. Further, based on available reports, the defendant had not admitted to guilt and had repeatedly stressed his innocence during trial.

With regard to the interrogation, the defendant’s attorney stressed that the arrest and interrogation of the defendant was illegal since in cases of sexual offences, sodomy in particular, the law specifically states that the prosecutor and the security forces should not intervene in any stage of the process including the investigation or the arrest of the accused. In this case, the prosecutor had broken the law by initiating the investigation and providing the court with an indictment that depicted Makwan as a “seditious and dangerous” individual. He stressed that no evidence of “sedition” or criminal record was ever produced in court.

The available information points to the fact that the testimonies of the plaintiffs were false. According to AUT News, the prosecutor had arrested the individuals who allegedly were involved in sodomy and pressured them to confess. In the absence of any private plaintiff, these confessions would have then been submitted to the court. According to Amnesty International, the plaintiffs had subsequently withdrawn their accusations during trial held in Kermanshah and Paveh and “that they had reportedly stated they had either lied previously or had been forced to ‘confess.’” With regard to the plaintiffs, Mr. Moluzadeh’s attorney stated that the defendant’s cousin, who had personal enmity with him and had submitted the first letter of accusation to the investigation office, had also withdrawn his complaint. He had stated that the accusations were unfounded and that he had taken the information for that letter from the case of another individual. The judge, however, did not accept the retraction of plaintiffs’ complaints. Based on the available information, the plaintiffs had not been medically examined because the alleged act took place many years ago, during their childhood. At the same time, the judge had alleged that the crime had argued that the act had been repeated more recently. No evidence was provided, however, to support this allegation.

Finally, another irregularity regarding the process leading to the sentencing of the defendant was the lack of clarity regarding the time the crime supposedly took place. Makwan's attorney noted that the Judge did not elucidate when the alleged act was committed and whether or not it happened when the defendant was a child, was below 15 [age of maturity for boys] or 18 or just before his arrest.

In its statement regarding Mr. Moludzadeh’s case, Amnesty International noted that the “trial was grossly flawed.” It referred to the Iranian Penal Code according to which “those who have not yet reached maturity (puberty) as defined by Islamic Law – are exempted from criminal responsibility.” By law (Article 1210 of the Civil Code), boys reach maturity at the age 15 lunar years, before which they could be sentenced to a maximum of 74 lashes if convicted of anal sex. It further noted that the judge had tried Makwan as an adult “in the absence of medical evidence testifying to his state of maturity at the time of the crime.”

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Makwan Moludzadeh’s Legal Proceedings 

The information contained in Makan Moludzadeh’s case – which is mostly based on his attorney’s interviews with the media – shows that the entire process of adjudication was wrought with illegality and injustice: from investigating the charges against the late Mr. Moludzadeh, to issuance of the order and implementation thereof. All available information indicates that judicial authorities, acting in a strange and unbelievable fashion, sentenced Moludzadeh to death without a shred of evidence or documentation.

1- According to information published by the late Mr. Moludzadeh’s attorney, he was accused of having committed sodomy by force at the age of 13. Regardless of the veracity of the story, even assuming that such an event had occurred, the judges could not have issued a death sentence since, pursuant to religious and legal regulations, the age of criminal responsibility for boys is 15. Therefore, an individual who commits a crime prior to reaching the age of 15 cannot be held criminally responsible and punished accordingly. One wonders why the adjudicating judges did not pay attention to such a clear and obvious point. At the time of commission of the alleged crime, Makan was under 15, and this in itself is sufficient to void and blemish the sentences issued in condemning Moludzadeh. The former Islamic Penal Code Article 49 expressly holds children, that is, individuals who have not reached the age of majority pursuant to religious tenets, not criminally responsible. 

2- According to Iranian law, crimes related to public morals are directly adjudicated in court; law enforcement officials and the prosecutor’s office cannot conduct preliminary investigations in such cases. Since sodomy is also considered a crime against public morals [a lewd act], the case should have been brought under the court’s direct supervision, and investigations conducted therein, whereas available information in Moludzadeh’s case indicates that he was interrogated under the prosecutor’s supervision after his arrest, and a confession obtained in the Criminal Investigations Office. This is in direct conflict with existing laws, and therefore constitutes possible grounds for voiding the issued sentences. Pursuant to the General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure, Note to Article 43, investigation of crimes against public morals is prohibited, and in the event there is a private plaintiff, the adjudicating judge alone has the authority to investigate. The prohibition against referring crimes against public morals, including sodomy [to unauthorized bodies], has also been expressly stated in the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts, Article 3, Note 3. The lack of attention to this issue is serious cause for consternation. 

3- According to published information, Makan was forced to confess at the Criminal Investigations Office. First, it must be noted that, as stated previously, referring the case [to that Office] was completely against the law. Second, a confession made before anyone other than the adjudicating judge cannot be a basis for the issuance of a sentence. Pursuant to existing Iranian law, including the Islamic Penal Code and the General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure, admissions and confessions, especially in cases of crimes that carry Hadd punishments, are valid and carry legal weight when they are done before the adjudicating judge. Therefore, confessions made before the investigating judge or law enforcement officials cannot form the basis of issuance of the judge’s ruling.  The General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure, Note to Article 59 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].” Therefore, even assuming that the late Mr. Moludzadeh had confessed to the crime to law enforcement officials, since he was accused of a crime that carried Hadd punishment, it was absolutely imperative that the court question him de novo, ascertain the validity of the confession, and obtained the defendant’s confession under legal circumstances. Inattention to this issue renders without validity all decisions issued in Makan’s case. 

Furthermore, available information indicates that Makan had been forced to make a confession at the Criminal Investigations Office and was under duress, whereas under Iranian, putting a defendant under duress and torture are illegal and considered a crime. Any admission and/or confession thus obtained is also illegal and without any validity. Principle 38 of the Iranian Constitution as well as other Iranian laws and international documents to which Iran is a signatory, have expressly alluded to that rule, going so far as to define obtaining an admission through torture as a crime, and people who perpetrate the same as criminals. Therefore, not only was the law enforcement officials’ exertion of pressure on the late Mr. Moludzadeh against the law, but so was the court’s reliance on the admission obtained under duress.  

4- Subsequent to the sentence being upheld by the Supreme Court, the attorney in the case presented the matter to the Head of the Judiciary. The latter considered the sentence contrary to the dictates of Shari’a and even invoked a Fatwa issued by the Supreme Leader. The case was remanded to the [city of] Kermanshah Judiciary. In a vague and unclear act, however, and contrary to judicial practice, the Head of the Judiciary’s determination was overlooked, and the death sentence was carried out very quickly. This irregular action indicates that Kermanshah judicial authorities were adamant about executing Moludzadeh, so much so that they overlooked judicial custom. Not informing Moludzadeh’s family and attorney is further proof [of the insistence on carrying out the death sentence.] 

5- The plaintiffs in the case, who had claimed to have been sodomized by Makan, dropped their charges and declared that their previous statements had been lies. Regardless of the reasons for this event, it was necessary from a legal standpoint, given that event and given the prohibition against investigation in crimes against public morals, that the case be closed and Makan be freed. 

6- The judges who issued the sentence, based their ruling on the judge’s knowledge, without clarifying how such knowledge was obtained, whereas the judge’s knowledge must be based on evidence, and such evidence must be presented and stated. No evidence [or testimony] exists in the file, the plaintiffs have said their statements were lies, there is no medical examiner report or opinion, there is no audio or video of the [alleged] event, and the defendant himself had stated that the one admission he made was under duress and was utterly untrue. All of which begs the question: How did the judges acquire their knowledge?

7- According to the law on the manner of carrying out death sentences, the defendant’s family and attorney must be informed of the time and place of the execution; the judicial authorities implemented the death sentence suddenly and in complete secrecy.

Judgment

The judge sentenced Mr. Makwan Moludzadeh to death based on his own “knowledge” on June 7, 2007. The sentence required Makwan to be hanged in the Shahid Kazemi Park in the town of Paveh. The sentence was approved by the Supreme Court on July 9. However, Makwan was hanged in Kermanshah prison’s courtyard on December 4, 2007. His attorney and his family learned of his execution one hour after it took place.

By law, the family of the convict and the attorney must be informed of the time and place of the execution. But in this case, the authorities informed the family by phone and asked them to come and take possession of the body. It was reported that the security in Paveh was heightened after the execution of Makwan. Paveh residents participated in the funeral in great number and brought the city to a standstill.

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