Prisoner of Conscience Atena Daemi Rebukes Authorities, Eulogizes Executed Kurds

Posted on: September 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – From the walls of Evin Prison, detained civil rights activist Atena Daemi has written a letter in response to the executions of Ramin Hossein Panahi, Loghman Moradi, and Zanyar Moradi, three Iranian Kurdish political prisoners who were hanged to death in secret on Saturday, September 8th.

The executions of the Moradis and Panahi drew outrcry from human rights institutions internationally. The attorneys representing them called their convictions and executions — the latter which took place without the mandatory notice to, or presence of, their lawyers — legally ambiguous under both Iranian and international law. Caught unawares, none of the families were present during their sons’ final moments, as the executions were carried out at an undisclosed location in Tehran. The Ministry of Intelligence has since issued detention threats to the family members of the deceased men.

Condemning Iranian authorities for their treatment of the three men, and extending her condolences to their families, Atena Daemi’s letter joins the many voices of outrage over the course of the young mens’ fate. Daemi, imprisoned since 2014, is serving a seven-year sentence for “propaganda against the regime,” “assembly and collusion to act against national security,” and “insulting the supreme leader [Ayatollah Khamenei] as well as the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini.”

The text of Atena Daemi’s eulogy, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

They killed our loved ones, and claim with pride that in doing so they have administered justice.

The “justice” they refer to is not the one represented by Lady Justice holding a fair and balanced scale. It is instead a man — a man with a turban on his head [a cleric], whose forehead bears the mark of the clay which grazes his head during prayers. He is blindfolded, not as a sign of impartiality, but of blindness to the truth. In one hand is a rosary. In the other, a scale suspended by a noose.

These scales are so unbalanced that one tray is a speck in the heavens, while the other is laden with dead bodies dragging it deep into the ground. This “justice” they invoke has been neither seen nor heard in *40 years.

In this troubled time – a time of economic turbulence, poverty, and unemployment – what problem was solved by murdering these three beloved men? Has their killing soothed any of the ailments suffered by the Iranian people?

Your majesties– where is this mania taking you? By deceit and without warning, you led our loved ones to the killing fields. Even in the short lives granted them, you wouldn’t offer them peace. While they were still **hungry and thirsty, you cut their lives short. How it must have incensed you to your core to never see them falter. As you, dry-eyed, pitied them in their walk to the gallows to die for the ideals, their heads were held high, their steps steady…

How insolently you watch our loved ones draw their last breaths! It must burn you to hold them hostage from their families and brand them as terrorists, only to see them rise as steadfast symbols of democracy for the rest of us. For nine years, they showed friendship to inmates of different creeds and beliefs; they were endeared to their fellow prisoners, loved by us, and cherished by the Iranian people.

Before the start of religious months of Moharram and Safar(1) each year, you prepare yourself for mourning with a savage display. Drunk and armed with handguns, you launch into a monologue about Imam Hussein, who, lips dry from thirst, was beheaded by Yazid. What a repugnant contradiction–what abhorrent hypocrisy! You mirror Yazid’s troops, and for the past 40 years, you have tightened ropes around resolute throats, pulled the stool from beneath the feet of persistent and patient youth. You instigate sectarian war between Sunni and Shiites. Then, your pockets brimming with billions, you pretend to be mourning Hussain.

I am sure that you know your savage acts only dig you deeper into public contempt. Your path is one of self-annihilation. Today, you only dug your graves deeper. You did not kill Zanyar, Loghman, and Ramin. You have only endeared them in our hearts, inspiring the world into mourning the true martyrs of our time.

You have tarnished Iran’s standing and dignity in the world. They see us as a terrorist country for the cutthroat, blood-thirsty, and rapacious actions of a select and powerful few. How long and how far will you continue on this road? Dream on about imposing war on your people: they will rise to the challenge again and again. Stop your killing machine. Lift your lead boots from the throats of Iran and Kurdistan.

How tightly you cling to your towering throne, oblivious to the fact that you could tumble from your high horses at any moment to the miry earth below. Throughout history, many who rode high thought of themselves as invincible, only to take refuge in sewage tunnels, where they were tracked down and punished for their crimes.

Iran is a pile of live embers cloaked in a thin layer of ash. Lest your actions arouse the flames that lie beneath.

We congratulate the steadfast families of these martyrs.

Atena Daemi – Evin Prison Women Ward
September 8th, 2018

(1) Months in the Islamic lunar calendar commemorated by Shiite Muslims in mourning of Imam Hussein, the 3rd Shiite Imam, who was killed in battle against Yazid (Imam Hussain has come to symbolize the force of Good while Yazid stands for Evil).

* The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded after the Iranian Revolution approximately 40 years ago
** Zanyar and Loghman Moradi and Ramin Hossein Panahi were all reportedly on hunger strike before they were executed.

Prisoner Hanged to Death Without Warning

Posted on: September 11th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Kamal Ahmadnejad, a prisoner held on death row in Miandoab Prison in northwestern Iran, was precipitously executed in the early morning of Monday, September 10th, 2018.

Prison authorities carried out the execution without informing his family or granting them a final visit. Ahmadnejad, originally from Gamishgoli village near Miandoab, was abruptly transferred to Ward 2 of Miandoab Prison two weeks ago.

The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Kurdistan reported that Ahmadnejad was executed in face of lingering questions about the coherence of his case. Arrested along with five others in December of 2015, he was the only defendant in the case to be sentenced to death. His co-defendants Halmat Abdullahi, Milad Abdi, Saeid Siahi, Soleyman Kori, and Mostafa Tahazadeh were each sentenced to fifteen years in prison, according to Maf News, an affiliate of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Kurdistan.

The six were charged with killing Hashem Zeinali, former member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as “membership in a Kurdish opposition party.” Ahmadnejad’s family has alleged that he was forced to confess under the duress of torture.

According to their families, some of the defendants were not at the scene of the crime when the murder allegedly occurred, a discrepancy they said was raised during court proceedings.

The six were originally convicted on September 18, 2016.

Violence against Executed Kurdish Political Prisoners Follows them to the Grave, Continue to Haunt their Families

Posted on: September 10th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – “Loghman’s mother has scratched at her own face so much that she has claw marks across her cheeks,” writes former political prisoner Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, documenting a family’s anguish over the sudden loss of their son Loghman Moradi, who was executed without trial, or any official warning, on Saturday, September 8th. “Her daughter is helping her to stand, and together they are wailing.”

Amouee, a journalist and former political prisoner, writes as a witness to the tightly-controlled visits to the grave sites of Zanyar and Loghman Moradi in Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, where their families were permitted to say final goodbyes on the condition that they refrain from screaming, wailing, or taking any pictures or video.

Pursuant to a dubious legal proceeding that drew outrage from human rights organizations across the world, both Moradi cousins, along with their co-defendant Ramin Hossein Panahi, were hanged to death in an undisclosed location in Tehran Province on Saturday.

Ramin’s brother Amjad reported to HRANA that the victims’ respective families have been threatened with detention by the Ministry of Intelligence. Ramin’s remains will not be handed over to his family for burial, Amjad said, but will instead meet the same fate as that of the Moradis, and of many political prisoners before them: interment by the government in secret location.

In an open letter, Atena Daemi and six other civil activists imprisoned at Evin have expressed condolences to the families of the victims.

Bahman Ahmadi Amouee wrote a report, excerpted above, from his observations of the victims’ grieving families during their final visitation to their graves. The text of Amouee’s letter, sourced from his website, is below, translated to English by HRANA:

“Loghman’s mother has scratched at her own face so much that she has claw marks across her cheeks. Her daughter is helping her to stand, and they are both wailing. She is engulfed in sorrow. I’m in disbelief that this broken girl is Loghman’s little sister. Across the way, her surviving brother hangs his head. They arrived only this morning from Marivan. The family, along with their attorneys, have been treading from room to room in the prosecutor’s office. As if they still cannot believe the news of Loghman and Zanyar’s execution, they say, ‘we won’t believe it until we see the bodies.’ If lore on such matters again proves true, there will be no viewing of the bodies, nor any information released about their burial site. And yet, hope lingers.

At 11 a.m., the family’s attorney Saleh Nikbakht announces that authorities have granted permission for the families to view the bodies in the preparation washroom of the mortuary. I hasten to make my way there. It appears I was faster than everyone else. It is noon, and a few other families are circulating, waiting for their own loved ones’ burials. Sounds of tears and lamentations fill the air. Every few minutes, an intercom pronounces the name of one of the bodies, requesting the family to come forward to identify it.

I asked myself if Zanyar and Loghman would be announced this way. Never would I have imagined coming to find them in a place like this. For two and a half years, we were together day and night. I remember Loghman’s laugh, his wide grin. He was a few years older than Zanyar, and more protective of him than a brother. Each time he would spread out the table cloth for meals, he would call out, ‘Dear Zanyar, come! Let us eat!’

I went to the census bureau of Behesht-e Zahra to see what I could find out. The person behind the computer told me their names weren’t in the system at all. They didn’t figure on the list of those buried in previous days, either. We’re being given the run-around once again, I thought. Distraught, Zanyar’s brother Diyar said, “we got a call from a blocked number–they said we need to go to Behesht-e Zahra.” Loghman and Zanyar’s cellmates are there, too. Everyone we ask says something different. Nikbakht goes into a room. After a few minutes, Diyar goes after him. Four security officers held a meeting with a handful of Behesht-e Zahra administrators; an hour passed. Finally they came out with the news: Zanyar and Loghman’s family members were granted permission to visit their bodies, on the condition that they do not take any pictures or recordings. Oh, and they weren’t going to be allowed to scream or wail when they got there, either.”

Hours go by; Behesht-e Zahra is now closed, all of its employees gone. The large mortuary washroom is so hollow that the slightest sound I’d make would reverberate across the room. I feel empty. I am sitting in a corner, waiting with Zanyar and Loghman’s former cellmates. For a moment, a thought crosses my mind; and if we’re being strung along again…? Loghman’s mother bursts outside, and playing herself on the ground beneath the burning sun. She is cold and racked with trembling, asking over and over to see her dead son.

They summon the immediate family members. We flood through a door. They stop us from advancing further. The windows are cloaked over with banners and cloth.

The families have been standing, choked, over the shrouded bodies of Loghman and Zanyar for half of an hour now. Loghman’s mother was finally able to see her son, covered in a burial cloth. But Zanyar’s mother is not here to do the same. His aunt, uncle, and brother go to see him instead.

A man dressed in a blue suit, his shirt buttoned up to the neck, is ordering people around the room; it seems he’s their boss. Saleh Nikbakht tells him, ‘since they have not been buried yet, won’t you allow us to take them to Loghman’s ancestral village, 25 miles from Marivan? The family has a hard time traveling to Tehran. We ask you to think of them as well.’

The man responds, ‘I have to take it up with the prosecutor. For now, they will stay in the morgue for a few days. If he approves your request, they will be transferred to the location you ask. If not, we will bury them here in Behesht-e Zahra and tell you the location of their grave.’ Wailing and crying burst forth again. The family exits. The summer sun sears into us, and the sounds of crying do not let up. The shrouded bodies are loaded into a pickup truck and taken away. Osman, Loghman’s father, looks defeated. His thin frame is even more haggard than before. He says through sobs, ‘What hurts is that I couldn’t do anything for them.’ Those who had so far been holding back tears are now bawling. Loghman’s sister is clawing at her own face now, howling out tears along with their mother. Their laments shift into Kurdish; all I can understand are the boys’ names.”

Outcry against Secret Executions of Zanyar & Loghman Moradi and Ramin Hossein Panahi

Posted on: September 10th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Three Kurdish political prisoners now lay buried in an undisclosed location after being executed in secret on September 8th on murder charges never proven in Tehran criminal court, sparking outrage from their families, attorneys, and the human rights community at large.

Without notifying their lawyers or loved ones, prison authorities hanged to death Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi, contravening [both Iranian and international law] by seizing and interring their bodies in a location yet unknown to their families, who were put on guard by the Ministry of Intelligence not to speak up about the incident. Hossein Panahi’s brother Amjad confirmed this to HRANA.

While initial reports by Iranian official sources indicated the executions took place in Rajai Shahr (Gohardasht) Prison in Karaj–the capital of Alborz province about 30 miles west of Tehran, where Hossein Panahi and the Moradis were last known to be held–the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office recently indicated in a statement that they were executed “in Tehran,” accusing the deceased men of violent crimes while withholding further details about their deaths or remains.

Hossein Panahi’s lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz stated that the execution of the three young men was not only abrupt– it was also unlawful on several counts.

“Based on an amendment to section 478 of Criminal Procedure Law, once a request for retrial has been submitted on behalf of defendants charged with offenses punishable by death, the execution of the sentence must be stayed. Moreover, once a request for clemency is registered with the Clemency & Forgiveness Commission, the execution must be immediately stayed.”

According to Ahmadiniaz, the transfer of the prisoners from Sanandaj [300 miles west of Tehran] to Karaj [on the western outskirts of Tehran], preventing Hossein Panahi’s legal team from conferencing with him, was enough in itself to establish authorities’ disregard of the law. Ahmadiniaz’s statements are backed by Saleh Nikbakht, the lawyer representing Zanyar and Loghman Moradi, who has published documents (pictured) demonstrating that the judiciary’s investigation into his client’s murder charges was far from complete.

Ahmadiniaz went on, “As Ramin’s Hossein Panahi’s legal team, we declare his innocence, and the unlawful and irreligious nature of the verdict and sentence against him […]. Panahi was subjected to an unfair procedure devoid of due process. He was the victim of a political trial. My heart goes out to Hossein Panahi’s family, and I offer them my condolences. I consider the execution of Ramin Hossein Panahi a firebrand of hatred and calamity, and condemn it in the strongest sense of the word.”

The families of Panahi and the Moradis had been abruptly called in for a visit with their imprisoned loved ones on September 7th, raising the specter of their imminent execution. That night, Nikbakht explains, he went to [Rajai Shahr Prison] where he stood guard from midnight to 6 a.m. alongside Loghman’s father, a number of other Moradi family members, and group of civil activists.

“The agents there first told us that [the prisoners] had been handed to Ministry of Intelligence authorities, and gave us no further information about their fate,” Ahmadiniaz related to HRANA. “We followed up on their indications by heading to the Alborz Intelligence Office, where we were told over an intercom that the Moradis were not there, and that we should go back to [Rajai Shahr]. Finally, a prison official emerged at around 4:30 a.m. to say that the prison isn’t the sentence executioner, and that they were unaware of the prisoners’ whereabouts as of their transfer to the Intelligence Ministry. With confidence, he told us that the execution had not taken place in that prison.”

Nikbakht also bemoaned misinformation being disseminated about his clients’ ordeal. “A news agency announced today [Saturday, September 8th] at 2:51 p.m. that these executions were carried out in the presence of the lawyers. This claim, at least in case of [the Moradis], is fundamentally false. I am their lawyer[…] and neither their families nor I had any knowledge of how or where the execution took place.”

An excerpt of Nikbakht’s defense statement, translated into English by HRANA, is below.

My clients had two cases–one on a charge of Moharebeh (enmity against God), for which a death sentence was handed down and confirmed [by the Supreme Court]. Their lawyer in this case was from Marivan [of Kurdistan Province in western Iran]. The second case involved the assassination of three Salafis in Marivan, which was being investigated in Branch 4 of Tehran Criminal Court. I took over the case in March 2013. In the first day of trial on July 23rd, 2014, I raised objections to the claim that my clients were responsible for the three murders in question. Some of my objections were as follows:

· Lack of a report detailing reconstruction of the crime scene
· Lack of evidence of their involvement in the murder
· Lack of a murder weapon
· Lack of efforts on the part of authorities to locate the murder weapon

In my clients’ case file, they were quoted as saying that they disposed of the murder weapon in Marivan lake. This section of the lake in question is 2 to 5 meters deep, a depth at which even a cursory search would have recovered the murder weapon. The only evidence against my clients was their confession. The defendants have protested the veracity of this confession. Specifically, after they were transferred from solitary confinement in Sanandaj and Evin prisons to Rajai Shahr’s [general ward], they wrote a detailed letter to the Head of the Judiciary explaining how their confessions had been extracted. There was no evidence to prove they had committed the murder. Branch 4 of Tehran Criminal Court (Previously Branch 74) sent the case to Branch 27 of Tehran Criminal Investigation, which, in turn, sent the case to Marivan Court, who were to complete the investigation. Following a few back and forths, I was told that neither new evidence nor the murder weapon had been found, and that they ultimately sent the case back to Tehran without addressing the flaws in the case.

There has been no new hearing since the discovery of flaws in the case during the first court session, and the charge of murdering three Salafis was never substantiated. On the day of the murder, Loghman, who was fingered as an accomplice, was working on a crane on a construction site in Sarvabad, 35 km [20 miles] from Marivan. He only returned to Marivan an hour and half after the murder occurred.

[…] What’s more, the right of the murder victims’ family supersedes that of God (and the state) in religious law. It was unlawful to execute them for “Moharebeh,” a crime against God [and state], before first addressing the death sentence for murder. The documents below are from the Judiciary’s electronic information center, and show the murder charges were still pending investigation and trial.”

International Reaction

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, released a statement in response to the executions of Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi. The full text of his statement is below.

“We are horrified by the news that the Iranian authorities have executed these men, despite widespread condemnation of their death sentences, and calls from UN human rights experts and other bodies to halt their executions.

The trials of all three men were grossly unfair. All were denied access to their lawyers and families after their arrest, and all said they were tortured into making “confessions”. In sentencing them to death despite these massive failings in due process, the Iranian authorities have once again demonstrated their brazen disregard for the right to life. We call on the international community to strongly condemn these executions and urge the Iranian authorities to respect their obligations under international law. The Iranian authorities must take steps to ensure that everyone has a fair trial, that torture and other ill-treatment are absolutely prohibited, and that the practice of forced ‘confessions’ is stopped once and for all. They must also immediately impose an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.”

Political Executions: Zanyar & Loghman Moradi and Ramin Hossein-Panahi Hanged to Death

Posted on: September 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi and Ramin Hossein-Panahi, three Iranian political prisoners, were reportedly executed on the morning of Saturday, September 8th in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison.

Iran’s Fars news agency published a report on September 8th claiming these three men were “thugs who took military and terrorist measures in western Iran and brought insecurity and killed the loved ones of a number of families.”

On September 7th, families of Zanyar and Loghman Moradi had met them in solitary confinement cells, as requested by prison authorities.

Families of Zanyar and Loghman were contacted by authorities of Rajai Shahr on September 5th and asked to go to the prison, Zanyar’s brother told Hrana. “Loghman’s father and I were able to meet with them. Zanyar told us that they were sent to solitary confinement three days ago for unknown reasons…but they had guessed that it was for execution which is why they started a hunger strike that morning.”

Zanyar and Loghman Moradi were sentenced to death after being convicted of murdering the son of Marivan’s Friday prayer leader; a charge they have always denied.

On December 22, 2010, the two Kurdish family friends were sentenced to death by Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Salavati. They were charged with membership in the banned leftist party Komele and murder of the son of Marivan’s Friday prayer leader on July 5, 2009. Both Zanyar and Loghman have repeatedly said their confessions to the crimes were extracted from them under duress.

Zanyar and Loghman had previously written an open letter, published in May 2017, detailing their case and the torture they had experienced.

Ramin Hossein-Panahi, too, was executed today in Rajai Shahr Prison, according to his lawyer, Hossein Ahmadiniaz.

Ramin’s family had not been contacted for a final visit, Ahmadiniaz told HRANA.

The legal team defending Hossein-Panahi had previously written a letter to the head of the Judiciary, asking for the execution order to stop on national security grounds.

Hossein-Panahi published a video on social media about ten days ago, insisting on his innocence and refuting the charges against him.

One Death Row Prisoner Inches Closer to Execution, Another Held in Suspense

Posted on: September 7th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Death Row prisoner Abdolrashid Sandak Zehi was transferred to solitary confinement this morning, September 6, 2018, where he awaits imminent execution.

Sandak waits in General Ward 4 of Zahedan Central Prison, in the provincial capital of Sistan & Baluchestan Province, home to Iran’s Baloch ethnic minority. He had been previously transferred to solitary confinement pending execution on June 18th, 2018, but was able to obtain a three-month reprieve. He was subsequently returned to Ward 4 on June 22nd.

Meanwhile, Zehi’s wardmate Mehdi Sarani, who is also on death row, was sent back to the general ward from solitary confinement after the family of the crime victim did not show up for the scheduled execution.

Numbers published by Amnesty International annual reports indicate that Iran has the highest rate of executions in the world per capita.

Rajai Shahr Executions Continue

Posted on: August 31st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – At least two death row prisoners in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison were executed in the early morning hours of Wednesday, August 29, 2018.

HRANA was able to confirm the identities of the executed prisoners: Mojtaba Asadi, who was detained in Ward 3, and Vahidollah Loghmani, age 54, reportedly from Afghanistan. Asadi was sentenced to death on a charge of murder, and Loghmani for a charge of armed drug trafficking.

HRANA was also able to confirm the identity of two prisoners from a group of at least five who were transferred to solitary confinement on Tuesday, August 28, pending execution: Mojtaba Asadi of Ward 3 and Shamsali Abdollahi of Ward 10.

When the plantiff in Abdollahi’s case permitted his execution to be delayed until further notice, he was returned to his prior Ward.

The fate of the two other prisoners is not yet known. If they were put to death, their executions have not been announced by the state-run media as of the time of this report.

An annual report published by the Center of Statistics at Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) states that more than 60% of executions, called “secret executions,” are not disclosed by authorities. According to registered data from 2,945 reports by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of HRAI, in the past year (from March 21, 2017, to March 18, 2018) at least 322 citizens were executed and 236 others were sentenced to death in Iran. Figuring among these are the execution of four juvenile offenders and 23 public hangings.

Prisoners Taken to Solitary Confinement Facing Imminent Execution

Posted on: August 28th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- At least five death row inmates in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison have been transferred from their respective wards to solitary confinement, raising fear of their imminent execution.

Convicted of murder, the prisoners face the death penalty unless the families of their victims choose to pardon them, a stipulation of the Islamic penal code.

HRANA has been able to confirm the identities of two of the prisoners, Mojtaba Asadi from Ward 2, and Shamsali Abdollahi from Ward 10.

The HRANA Statistics Center has reported that between March 21, 2017, and March 18, 2018, at least 322 persons have been executed and 236 have received the death penalty in Iran. Among those executed, there were four juvenile offenders — under 18 years of age at the time of the offense — and 23 executions carried out in public. More than sixty percent (60%) of the executions have not been publicized, and are considered “secret” executions.

The Tragic Tale of a Juvenile Offender Hanged

Posted on: August 28th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The following feature is sourced from a report given to state-run news agency Ghanoon Daily and translated to English by HRANA.

I. The Boy Who Took the Fall

Clad in black from head to toe, Simin sits silently in her humble home at the end of an alley on the outskirts of Qom, central Iran. In a corner of the room sits her 50-year-old husband, whose hair has turned fully white. Against the far wall sits their son Mohammad.

Their demure is sparsely decorated: an old TV set and a brown wooden cabinet, on which sits a photo of her son Abolfazl Chezani. His picture overlooks a room muted by grief. It has been 38 days since Abolfazl, 18, was hanged for murder.

As is customary among the Shiites, the family is preparing a ceremony in observance of the 40-day mourning period following his death.

Once in a while, a deep sigh from Simin breaks the silence. As she lowers drinking glasses and a pitcher of cold water to the floor, she draws a breath and remembers aloud the events of one day, four years ago, that would change their lives for the worse forever.

“Abolfazl was working in a Sohan[1] baking factory. That afternoon, he came home late from work and asked me to make him a cheese sandwich…”, she said, pointing to a spot on the carpet. “Abolfazl was standing right there in front of me. He was looking at himself in the mirror…then his friend Ali came by on a motorcycle and buzzed the door to ask if Abolfazl would join him. I didn’t know where they were going….he left home, and never came back.”

She recoils in pain, silenced for a moment by grief; her hands wring together, and she bursts into tears, eyes still fixated to the spot on the carpet where she last saw her son. The rest of her words are choked — the lump in her throat lets out halting, unintelligible sounds. Fat tears flow down the wrinkles of her face, rolling down her skirt to the carpet.

Abolfazl’s father and his brother Mohammad pick up where Simin left off: their home was raided by the police that day, they say, who left when they realized Abolfazl wasn’t home and was only a child. Upon his return, Abolfazl’s father stopped him at the threshold of their home, to escort him to the station to turn him in to the police.

His father and brother went off to visit the assault victim: 20-year-old Morteza, who was in critical condition suffering from stabs to the heart. Ali, who was Morteza and Abolfazl’s mutual friend, was also arrested. During Ali and Abolfazl’s detainment, Ali convinced Abolfazl to take the blame because he was the younger one. “In a few days, Morteza will recover, and then they’ll let you go,” Ali told him. So Abolfazl told police that he was the sole one responsible for Morteza’s assault. Ali was released three days later; eleven days after that, Morteza died of his injuries. Abolfazl had confessed to a murder.

II. Lack of Due Process

Abolfazl’s brother Mohammad explains that Ali had fought with Morteza two weeks prior to the stabbing incident. “Ali was in our alley that day, looking for another guy named Hamid to take him to fight Morteza again,” he said. “Since he couldn’t find Hamid, he took Abolfazl.”

Morteza’s family requested to file a complaint against Ali, who they believe instigated the brawl that ended in his murder. Mohammad continues: “during the trial, [the judge] didn’t even permit testimonies from witnesses who saw Ali pick up Abolfazl that day. We went to the court with the neighborhood elders to push the complaint against Ali, but to no avail.”

Simin goes to a drawer and takes out a red shirt. “He bought this to wear at his brother’s wedding”, she said, caressing the shirt as her tears flow. Abolfazl’s father explains that he tried to persuade the family of the victim to pardon Abolfazl[2] by going to their home, but he was ignored. “We sent many people to mediate and convince them to forgive, but they wouldn’t even allow them inside the home. I personally went to their family’s elder and pleaded with him to spare my son’s life. I told them I would give whatever blood money they asked. I would sell my house. I would take up a collection. But they stayed silent. We really wanted to meet with the victim’s family during the trial, but the judge wouldn’t allow it. We asked for help from the prison social worker, who went to Morteza’s family only once.

On the day of Albofazl’s execution, they waited outside the prison. Simin threw a copy of the Quran at their family car, crying and begging them for forgiveness before they entered the prison, but they just sat in their car and stared out at me.”

When confronted after the execution by some of Abolfazl’s relatives, Morteza’s mother said: “My son died. So did hers.”

Mohammad recalls the details of the trial. “My brother’s case had two judges. Months after the case was handed to the second judge, he was executed. We were still in the middle of the second legal process. Had they seen the process through, perhaps we could have found a recourse; maybe the family of the victim would have decided to pardon him. What’s the rush in carrying out the execution? The victim’s father, who pulled the stool out from under Abolfazl’s feet at the hanging, is in an awful emotional state. Taking a life with your own hands isn’t easy to forget, especially my brother’s, who was only 14 at the time of the murder, and when executing a child is forbidden all over the world.”

III. Four Trips to the Gallows

During the four years and six months of his imprisonment, and before finally being executed, Abolfazl Chezani was taken three times to the prison quarantine, where condemned inmates spend the eve of their executions. Those three times, his execution was stalled. “In his childish mind,” Mohammad says, “he didn’t understand that quarantine means he could be executed the next day. He never thought the world could be so cruel as to throw a rope around his neck and take his life.”

IV. A Portrait of Kindness and Optimism

What happened on the night of the murder is unclear. Abolfazl’s conduct and spirit in prison showed no indication that he was capable of such violence. His family collected testimonials from neighbors who noted that Abolfazl had never before engaged in fights or brawls.

He observed Ramadan in prison, fasting until his eyes hurt. He had observed Ashura [3] since childhood and would organize the memorial procession himself. In prison, he took to memorizing the passages of the Quran. He earned a “good behaviour” designation in the Juvenile Rehabilitation and Education Centre.

Simin shares that her son “stopped studying in the seventh grade. He quit school to work, and would give me his salary.”

Mohammad explains how his family’s suffering during the ordeal made Albolfazl feel ashamed. “I’d try to console him, and he would just hang his head without uttering a word. It’s as if we all died on the day he was executed.”

Abolfazl always comforted his family, they say, right down to their last visit. Simin remembers her telling him, with eyes full of hope, “Don’t fret mom, nothing will happen!” To the prison social worker who brought him a copy of the Quran and told him not to be afraid on the eve of his death, he responded with a laugh. “They won’t execute me. I’ll be pardoned.”

Amnesty International had previously issued a statement asking Iranian authorities to stop the execution proceedings of Abolfazl Chezani, who was a minor at the time the offense was committed.

After Abolfazl’s execution, Amnesty International criticized the compliance of Iranian courts, parliamentarians, and doctors in “compliance with assault on the rights of children.” Amnesty referred specifically to a court-affiliated doctor who, by providing “maturity” assessments on convicts with death sentences, “effectively facilitate the execution of those who were children at the time of their crimes.” A report of this kind was used to justify the death sentence of Abolfazl Chezani.

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[1] Sohan is a brittle Iranian sweet made with saffron and rosewater. The city of Qom is known for its Sohans.

[2] Qesas, an “eye-for-an-eye” punishment encoded in Iran’s Islamic penal code, which grants the family of murder victims to either seek the death penalty or accept dieh — “blood money” — in return for sparing the life of the accused.

[3] Ashura is a Shiite ceremony commemorating the death of Hussain, the 3rd Imam and Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, who was killed in a battle in 7th century A.D. Many Iranians and Iraqis observe days of mourning and large processions in remembrance of his death.

Prisoner Executed on Murder Charges in Northwestern Iran

Posted on: August 27th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Prisoner Shahram Mohammadi-Vahed, a prisoner in Ward 1 of Ardabil Central Prison, was executed on the morning of Sunday, August 26, 2018.

Mohammadi-Vahed had been detained on murder charges since 2015. He was reportedly transferred to solitary confinement on the eve of his execution.

According to Amnesty International’s annual report, Iran ranks first in the world in executions per capita.

An annual report published by the Center of Statistics at Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) states that more than 60% of executions in Iran are not reported by the state or the Judiciary. These executions are referred to as “secret executions”.

According to registered data from 2,945 reports by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of HRAI, in the past year (from March 21, 2017, to March 18, 2018) at least 322 citizens were executed and 236 others were sentenced to death in Iran. Among these were the execution of four juvenile offenders and 23 public hangings.