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

Mika'il Shahbazi

About

Age: 38
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: May 24, 2016
Location of Killing: Central Prison (Nedamatgah), Karaj, Alborz Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Drug possession
Age at time of alleged offense: 34

About this Case

News of the execution of Mr. Mika’il Shahbazi, son of Ruhollah, was taken from the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation research based on the case documents and interviews with several informed sources on May 24, 2016.

Mr. Shahbazi was born in Khalkhal, Ardebil, in 1977. He resided in Alborz province for years and lived in Fardis, Karaj where he married. He was raised in a crowded family and was an independent individual who had worked since adolescence. Mr. Shahbazi was a high school graduate. He owned a butcher shop, and was married with a nine-year-old daughter. According to people close to him, he was an independent, kind, and supportive individual.

The case of Mr. Shahbazi was related to narcotics. According to people close to him, he always worked for his living and had no tendency towards narcotics. However, due to economic problems he accepted a friend’s offer to produce narcotics.   

Arrest and detention

Mr. Shahbazi was arrested, along with another person, by agents of the Drug Control and Intelligence Ministry Office in Alborz Province in an aviary, allegedly a lab to produce methamphetamine, on February 14, 2013. Authorities did not inform his family and only acknowledged his detention several days after the family’s repeated visits. He was first detained and interrogated in the Intelligence Prison in Raja’ishahr. Then, after about a month, he was transferred to the Karaj (Nedamatgah) Prison where he was detained for more than 3 years in Section 2 of this prison. According to the existing information, he was able to visit his wife after a month. After that, he had a monthly visitation in cabin and a visitation in person with his wife and daughter every three months.

Trial

Branch Four of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Karaj, with judge Farajollahi presiding, tried Mr. Shahbazi. His family introduced an attorney shortly before the court session began. This attorney went once to the Karaj Prison to visit his client and get the power of attorney. In July of 2013, attorneys of both defendants participated in the court session that took only 30 minutes. According to an informed source, Mr. Shahbazi’s attorney was not allowed to explain the case and defend his client verbally.

Based on the court ruling, the arresting agents reported that Mika’il Shahbazi and the other defendant had been arrested while producing methamphetamine. The aviary in which they were arrested had been rented by the other defendant. No information is available about the interrogation style during the preliminary investigation at the Public Prosecutor’s Office. After the indictment was issued, the case was referred to the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Karaj.  

Charges

The charges brought against Mr. Shahbazi were “production and possession of 6 kilograms and 150 grams of methamphetamine.”  

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). Thousands of alleged drug traffickers have been sentenced to death following judicial processes that fail to meet international standards. Scores of them were executed based on a 1989 law imposing mandatory death sentences on drug traffickers found in possession of specified amounts of proscribed narcotics (5 kg of hashish or opium, and more than 30 grams of heroin, codeine or methadone). The exact number of people convicted based on trumped-up charges is unknown.

Evidence of guilt

According to the verdict against Mr. Shahbazi and another person, the arresting agents “recovered and confiscated methamphetamine and production tools.” In addition, it is stated that the defendants made “several confessions” during interrogation in the Intelligence Office.

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

In his defense during the trial, Mr. Shahbazi claimed that the recovered narcotics did not belong to him and rejected the charges. According to the indictment regarding the recovered narcotics, “each defendant claims that the narcotics belong to the other one.” According to an informed source, the recovered narcotics were not offered to be sold and Mr. Shahbazi had made no income out of it. He also had no criminal record.

Brief Legal Objections Regarding Mr. Shahbazi’s Trial

1-According to the court ruling issued by Branch Four of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Karaj, Mr. Mika’il Shahbazi only confessed to producing methamphetamine during the interrogation; however, he had denied making methamphetamine in the court and at the Public Prosecutor’s Office. He had referred to others as responsible for the crime. In his ruling, judge Farajollahi pointed out this fact and stated that those other individuals were not arrested. Therefore, it was necessary for judicial authorities to investigate such claims and interrogate those individuals. In other words, if the defendants claimed that the discovered narcotics belonged to others, the others should have been summoned and interrogated. But the judicial authorities did not do their jobs. If those individuals were summoned and interrogated, it is possible that other aspects of the case would be clarified. This caused the investigation to be incomplete in this case. Judicial authorities are obligated to do their best to find the truth and do a thorough investigation.

2- According to the existing laws in Iran, including the Islamic Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure for the Revolutionary and Public Courts, a confession can only be considered for a court ruling when it is made in the presence of the judge. Therefore, confessions made only in the presence of an inspector or law enforcement officials could not be referred for ruling. According to note 59 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for the Revolutionary and Public Courts, “in cases in which the confession of a defendant or a testimony of a witness, or testimony to testimony of a witness is used for the court ruling, it must be heard by the judge who issues the ruling.” According to note 2 of Article 218 of the Islamic Penal Code, a “confession has validity only when it’s made in front of the judge in court.”

In the verdict issued by the Islamic Revolutionary Court, it emphasized that Mr. Shahbazi made no confession during the trial and in front of the judge. His confession took place in front of the law enforcement officials. In the verdict, Judge Farajollahi pointed out that the defendants’ confessions took place at the Intelligence Office during the interrogation. He added that the denial of such confessions is a trick performed by drug traffickers due to their contact with criminals during the detention period. Therefore, one can conclude that the judge based his ruling on the confession of the defendant at the Intelligence Office during the interrogation. For this, it seems that the court ruling was issued illegally.

3- According to the existing information, Mr. Shahbazi did not benefit from an attorney during trial procedure. His family could only choose an attorney for him a short time before his trial, whereas, according to the laws, the presence of an attorney in cases such as this with a potential death sentence, is necessary. Based on Article 186 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for the Revolutionary and Public Courts, “in crimes punishable by death, stoning, and life imprisonment, if the defendant cannot introduce an attorney, assignment of a public defender is necessary.” Even though the presence of an attorney in judicial procedure is limited to the trial and judges, misinterpreting the law, consider the presence of an attorney to be necessary only in court;,  according to a rational interpretation of this article, the defendant should have access to an attorney throughout the process including the preliminary and interrogation periods. Mr. Shahbazi was interrogated without knowing his rights. He was denied access to an attorney during an important phase. Denying Mr. Shahbazi an attorney or a public defender during the bulk of the investigation prevented him from defending himself. This is so important that it could have nullified all of the preliminary investigation and the court ruling.      

Judgment

On July 8, 2013, Branch Four of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Karaj condemned Mr. Mika’il Shahbazi and the other defendant in this case to death and confiscation of properties earned by the committed crime of production and possession of 6 kilograms and 150 grams of methamphetamine based on Section 6 of Article 8 of the Drug Law. The Supreme Court confirmed the ruling and the General Public Prosecutor’s Office validated it in October of 2013.

Mr. Shahbazi and his attorney did not object to the court ruling based on its illegality due to a number of reasons including misguided advice from some individuals and judicial authorities. The family's efforts to commute his sentence were unsuccessful. The prison authorities promised Mr. Shahbazi a sentence reduction if he performed religious activities such as memorizing the Quran. His case was twice sent to the Pardon Commission; however, his pardon request was rejected.  

Mr. Shahbazi was transferred, along with three others, to solitary confinement for capital punishment inmates on May 21, 2016. His last visitation with his wife and daughter took place on the last day for ten minutes. He was hanged in the Karaj Prison on May 24, 2016. His body was buried at the Beheshte-Sakineh cemetery.  

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