Top Lawyer Says Charges Inconsistent with Sharia Law

(8 February 2010) The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran today strongly condemned the prosecution of a young student activist, Mohammad Amin Valian, under the charge of Moharebeh, or “enmity against God,” which is punishable by death and called the charges “grossly disproportionate.”

At least nine other protestors have been sentenced to death in similar unfair trials and are at risk of imminent execution. Five other protestors, including Valian, were prosecuted last week and face the death penalty if convicted. The main pieces of evidence used to convict the twenty-year old student are photographs showing him throwing rocks during Ashura protests.

The prosecution of Valian, a student from Damaghan Science University, followed his denunciation in a student newspaper run by pro-government Basiji militias and subsequent arrest. Valian was also convicted of “corruption on earth,” “congregation and mutiny to commit crimes against national security,” “propagation activities against the Islamic regime,” and “insulting top regime officials.”

“The Judiciary, by this grossly disproportionate charge, devalues the life of a promising young student,” stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the Campaign.

“What is more, the charge lowers the standards of the system, which, like any system of law, should protect life, not cheapen it,” he said.

Valian is one of sixteen protesters who have been subjected to a “show trial” for their peaceful political protests, and one of the five convicted of a crime carrying the death penalty.

During his trial, Valian confessed openly to throwing stones on three occasions during the protests, noting that they hit nothing, and asked the court to consider the reasons why he had thus expressed his feelings and frustrations. He also freely admitted to chanting “Death to the Dictator.”

A prominent human rights lawyer in Tehran, Abdolfattah Soltani, told the Campaign that according to Sharia law, the essential condition for applying the charge of Moharebeh to someone is the certainty that the defendant has engaged in armed activity.

“This has been clearly stated in all texts of Fiqh (religious jurisprudence). In articles 86 and 89 of the Islamic Penal Code, several conditions have been elaborated upon and in particular these articles clearly state, that if a group has been formed that engages in armed struggle, and if a person who is a member of such a group or associates with it promotes its goals through armed activity, then that is considered Moharebeh. Therefore, the condition of armed activity is essential in charging someone under Moharebeh and the person must have carried out effective actions. If these conditions are not present then the charge of Moharebeh cannot be applied,” he said.

Asked about the act of throwing stones in the street and if such activity can legitimately result in a charge of Moharebeh, Soltani said: “Absolutely not. If a person is arrested because of association with an armed group then Moharebeh may apply. But if an ordinary person, for whatever reason, such as anger or losing his temper, throws a stone, aimed at the destruction of some property or hurting someone, then there are other legal charges applicable and such actions do not rise to the charge of Moharebeh.”

Peers of Valian told the Campaign that he was one of the most active members of the Central Council of the Islamic Student Association. He had organized a number of political debates, which were also cited as evidence of the crimes for which he was convicted. Valian has been an active supporter of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The Campaign called on the Head of the Iranian Judiciary to intervene in the case, and urged that Valian be released immediately pending an examination of his case by an independent committee of legal experts, which should look into all cases of those charged on the basis of their political protests.