Three Retribution Execution Sentences Carried Out in Zahedan

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Three prisoners held at Zahedan Prison were executed in the early morning hours of September 3, 2018 — sooner than expected — allegedly in a vindictive response to recent skirmishes between security forces and Jundullah, an armed opposition group based in the Sistan & Baluchestan province.

Though all three prisoners were already on death row, the carrying out of their sentence so soon after the clash gives reason to read the timing as a retaliatory gesture.

Indeed, on September 1, 2017, one day following the skirmishes, all three were transferred to solitary confinement per protocol for prisoners whose execution is imminent. The executed prisoners were identified as Dormohammad Shahbakhsh, 21, a resident of Zahedan, held in Ward 5; Ismaeil Shahbakhsh (pictured above), known as Beheshti, age 23, held in Ward 4; and Hayatullah Nutizehi (Ayatollah Nikzehi), known as Akbar, age 24, a resident of Pakistan.

Sistan & Baluchestan has a history of politically-motivated executions. At least 16 prisoners were put to death in similar circumstances in October of 2013. At that time, Zahedan Prosecutor Mohammad Marziyeh stated that those executed were “terrorist groups who were enemies of the regime”, adding, “they were executed Saturday morning in response to terrorist activities in Saravan the night before.” He did not reveal the names of the prisoners.

Shahbakhsh, Beheshti, and Nutizehi were sentenced to death by Branch 2 of the Zahedan Revolutionary Court back in November of 2017. Their conviction and sentence were upheld in Iran’s Supreme Court one month later. They stood accused of participating in a firefight with police forces on July 7, 2015, which led to the death of a police officer. Although all three denied having a hand in the officer’s death, they were charged as accessories to murder. At the time of their arrest, Ismaeil Shahbakhsh and Hayatullah Nutizehi had also sustained gunshot wounds.

The three wrote an open letter last autumn detailing mistreatment and torture at the hands of their interrogators. They wrote of having surrendered during the 2015 clash when security forces promised them immunity, only to then arrest, torture, and arrange for the three to be put to death. The letter also details instances of their torture by interrogators, such as having pepper rubbed into their wounds or their genitalia pricked by needles.

News of their execution has yet to be announced by the Iranian authorities.

Prison Authorities Clamp Down on Ramin Hossein Panahi as Execution Draws Near

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Ramin Hossein Panahi, a political prisoner on death row in Rajai Shahr (Gohardasht) Prison, waits shackled hand and foot in a solitary confinement cell.
Hossein Panahi stitched his lips together and went on hunger strike August 27, 2018, to protest his death sentence and the infringement on his basic rights by authorities. A source familiar with his situation told HRANA, “Rajai Shahr officials forcibly pulled the stitches from his lips and transferred him in handcuffs and shackles to solitary confinement in Ward 5, the known destination of prisoners whose execution is imminent.”
Hossein Panahi, who suffers from severe renal problems and other injuries, is unlikely to receive the medical attention he needs in his present state.
Hossein Panahi’s lawyers previously issued a statement announcing their client’s hunger strike and the motivations behind it, and asking judicial authorities to facilitate their client’s access to the legal rights of appeal and request for clemency.
Ramin Hossein Panahi was sentenced to death by Branch One of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj (Iranian Kurdistan) on a charge of “Acting against national security” on January 16, 2018. The sentence was upheld in mid-April by the Supreme Court before being forwarded to the Execution of Sentences Unit.
Hossein Panahi’s lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz reported in June that his request for a retrial had been denied.
Previously held in Sanandaj Prison (300 miles west of Tehran), Hossein Panahi was transferred to an unidentified location on August 13, 2018, before being transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison (30 miles west of Tehran) for reasons unknown.

Rajai Shahr Executions Continue

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

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

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.


[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.

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Prisoner Executed on Murder Charges in Northwestern Iran

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.