(30 April 2010) The hasty and secretive confirmation of execution sentences for post-election protestors by Iranian appeals courts is a flagrant violation of international standards of due process and justice, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
Nasim Ghanavi, a lawyer in Tehran, told the Campaign that an appeals court in Tehran upheld a death sentence for her client Jafar Kazemi and another protestor Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaee.
“These sentences were originally issued in kangaroo courts, despite an utter lack of evidence justifying any punishment, let alone capital punishment. Now the appeals judges are disregarding Iran’s own laws and international obligations by rubber stamping these horrifying sentences,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.
Contrary to the fundamental principle of transparency, the prosecutions of post-election protestors have been shrouded in secrecy, particularly for those charged with Moharebeh, or enmity against God, which is punishable by the death penalty. Under Iranian law, Moharebeh can be applied only in cases of armed resistance against the State. Trials at both the lower court and appeals stage have been held in secret. Neither families nor lawyers have had access to defendants prior to and during the prosecution, and in most cases, they have not been officially informed of the sentences by lower courts.
According to Iranian Judiciary officials, at least 11 protestors have been sentenced to death by lower courts, and the appeals courts appear to be confirming the majority of these sentences despite the absence of evidence against defendants.
The Campaign fears that the number of protestors on death row could be higher. In addition to these two recent cases, the Campaign has verified the identities of seven more protestors on death row: Mohammad Amin Valian, a 20 year old student; Abdolreza Ghanbari, a 47 year old teacher; Motahareh Bahrami and Mohsen Daneshpour Moghaddam (husband and wife) and their son, Ahmad Daneshpour, together with two of their close friends, Rayhaneh Haj Ebrahim and Hadi Ghaemi (not related to the Campaign’s executive director of the same name).
Many of the protestors on death row appear to have a family member belonging to the opposition group, Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO). However in none of the cases reviewed by the Campaign does there appear to be sufficient evidence tying the defendants to the group, to the degree that the death penalty could legally be applied, even under Iran’s own laws.
Ghanavi, Jafar Kazemi’s lawyer, told the Campaign that she has had no access to her client and was never informed of the lower court’s ruling.
“I have been unable to visit with my client since his arrest. I couldn’t even see him to sign the power of attorney documents and I had to send them inside the prison for him to sign. My client’s rights have been violated, because according to the law, a suspect is entitled to access to a lawyer and must be allowed to meet with his lawyer freely. My client has lost this right throughout his detention, trial, and appeal process,” Ghanavi told the Campaign.
Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaee were originally tried in Branch 28 of Revolutionary Courts, with Judge Moghiseh presiding, on charges of Moharebeh for contact and cooperation with the MKO and propaganda against the regime. The lower court found both men guilty and sentenced them to death.
Ghanavi said that she and Haj Aghaee’s lawyer both objected to the ruling. “We filed for an appeal and the cases were sent to Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court under Judge Zargar’s review. Unfortunately, I was informed last Wednesday that the appeals court has upheld the initial court’s ruling and the verdict is now final. The ruling is final and as soon as the sentence is forwarded to the Implementation Unit, it may be carried out any moment.”
Regarding the circumstances surrounding the two men’s arrests, Ghanavi said: “They were accused of Moharebeh through contact and cooperation with Mojahedin Khalgh Organization (MKO). They were arrested on 18 September 2010, during a protest gathering. The only thing these men have done is participate in the post-election protests; many others participated in the same protests.”
Regarding her client’s prior activities, Ghanavi said: “Mr. Kazemi formerly served ten years in prison, but since he was released in the early 1990’s, he has led a normal life with his family, working and raising his two children. Mr. Kazemi has not had any activities that could be construed as cooperation with the MKO. Apparently last year, he went on a religious pilgrimage trip to Iraq and to find news about his son at Camp Ashraf (an MKO base in Iraq). Upon his return, he was arrested and was forced to make false confessions in detention. He himself says that other than participating in the protests, he has not had any other activities and the only reason he contacted Camp Ashraf was to find out about the well-being of his son who resides there. He has not been engaged in any activities that could be the basis for the serious charge of Moharebeh, warranting such a heavy sentence. There is no evidence in his file to support this charge.”
The Campaign condemns the utter lack of respect for human life shown by the Iranian Judiciary, as demonstrated by its continuing issuance of death sentences for innocent protestors.
“The Iranian Judiciary cannot claim any semblance of justice. With these prosecutions, it is nothing but an arm of repression, determined to send innocent protestors to the gallows,” Ghaemi said.
The Campaign believes that the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Revolutionary Guard commanders are manipulating the Judiciary to expedite the issuance of death sentences as the anniversary of the 12 June election approaches to intimidate the general public from launching fresh protests, showing it would put their lives at risk.