“Blood Money” Frees Imprisoned Ranger Who Killed Poacher In Self-Defense
Gholam-Hossein Khaledi, an Iranian park ranger sentenced to death for killing a poacher in 2010, was released on March 18, 2016 after paying 12 billion rials (about $400,000 USD) diyah (“blood money”) to the victim’s family.
Khaledi argued that he and his colleagues were attacked by the victim, Mohammad Payegozaran, and other hunters, near Mount Dena in southwestern Iran after the rangers issued cease and desist orders following the discovery of an illegal hunt.
Khaledi said he killed Payegozaran on July 15, 2010 in self-defense when he saw the hunter coming at him with a knife, according to an article published in February 2013 by the reformist Shargh newspaper.
Khaledi’s lawyer told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the judges who sentenced his client to death chose not to recognize park rangers as law enforcement agents even though Iran’s Environmental Guards Law permits rangers to carry weapons to protect the environment.
“Civil rights activists and friends of the environment [environmental activists] played an important part in his [Khaledi’s] freedom so he could spend the [Persian] New Year [starting March 20, 2016] with his family,” Khaledi’s lawyer, Faizollah Afshar, told the Campaign.
Khaledi, who was working for the Environmental Protection Organization at the time of the incident, was held for 2 years and 9 months until he was sentenced to death by a three-judge panel in the southwestern city of Yasouj in February 2013.
He had spent more than five years in prison before being pardoned from death row.
The “blood money”—financial compensation provided in cases of murder to the victim’s next of kin—was collected by Khaledi’s relatives and supporters during several months of fundraising, according to Afshar.
The final meeting where Khaledi was pardoned was held on March 18, 2016 at the office of Ayatollah Sharafeddin Malek Hosseini, the supreme leader’s representative in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province and the province’s representative in the Assembly of Experts.
“Three of my children have died. My father is old and sick. My mother is unable to walk. They live a hard life with a thousand problems… my wife is suffering from heart problems… my daughter, Nazanin, is in middle school and I haven’t been able to do anything for her. I have been able to see her only three times, each time for only 10 minutes… I cannot withstand the stress and psychological pressures within these four walls anymore,” wrote Khaledi in a letter from prison to his boss, Masoumeh Ebtekar, the head of the Environmental Protection Organization, in October 2013.
Ebtekar said in a February 2014 interview that “Over the past three decades, 113 park rangers have been murdered by attackers of the country’s natural resources, and over the past eight years seven park rangers have gone to prison for shooting at hunters.”
Environmental activists argue that park rangers suffer the most in working to prevent illegal poaching while receiving insufficient legal support.
“Park rangers should either be allowed to carry guns or they shouldn’t,” activist Mehrdad Mossabebi told the semi-official Mehr News Agency on October 8, 2011.
“They are allowed guns; they should be allowed to use them to shoot, or they shouldn’t,” he said. “If they are allowed to shoot, the law should protect them. If not, then the poor rangers should be given shovels and sticks instead.”
Earlier this month another park ranger, As’ad Taghizadeh, was pardoned after paying an unknown amount in “blood money” after spending eight years in prison in Yasouj for killing a hunter, also in the Mount Dena region.
“Everything has changed, except for Mount Dena, which lives forever,” said Taghizadeh after walking out of prison, according to an article published in Etemad newspaper on March 8, 2016.