Civil status Married
Education university diploma
Occupation engineering and science professional
Affiliation revolutionary leftist
Date of execution January 25, 1983
Location Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran
Mode of execution shooting
Charges Actively opposing the Islamic Republic; Apostasy; Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; Plotting to overthrow the Islamic Republic; War on God, God's Prophet and the deputy of the Twelfth Imam
About this Case
The execution of Mr. Tolu’i Semnani, along with 21 others, was reported in the Jomhuri Eslami newspaper, which published the official communiqué of the public relations of the Islamic Revolution’s Public Prosecutor’s Office in Tehran on January 27, 1983. The information about his charges and defense was published in the same newspaper on January 10, 1983. Additional information from this case was gathered through interviews (April 18, 2006 and June 2, 2006) with persons familiar with Mr. Tolu’i Semnani’s case, who have asked to remain anonymous.
Mr. Tolu’i Semnani, a father of two, had obtained a masters degree from University of California, Berkley in electrical engineering. During his college years, he became involved with the political organization, Ettehadieh Komonist-ha (The Union of Communists of Iran). He excelled in his studies (writing an article for the scientific journal Electrical) and was known to be a talented political recruiter. Mr. Tolu’i Semanani was an active member of the Ettehadieh and spent time in the early 1970s in the Middle East preparing radio programs that were broadcast in Iran. In the fall of 1978, he returned to Iran with his wife and continued to dedicate himself to full-time political activism.
The Ettehadieh Komonist-ha was created by exiled opponents of the Pahlavi regime who mostly belonged to the Student Confederation. They followed the teachings of Mao Tse-Tung and did not believe in guerilla warfare. The group became marked by ideological divides during the periods preceding and following the 1979 revolution which caused it to split into several factions. One of the most important rifts was triggered by the decision by a number of members to take up arms and take over a city in Iran. The uprising plan, devised in the midst of an active and violent anti-communist campaign by the revolutionary Islamic government, split the Ettehadieh in two factions: one believing in the armed movement and the other opposing it. Mr. Tolu’i Semnani belonged to the latter group.
In the winter of 1982, armed members of the Ettehadieh hid in a forest in the North of Iran (Jangal in Farsi) outside the city of Amol. This group, also known as the Jangal group, was involved in several clashes with the Revolutionary guards and ultimately, on January 26, attacked the city of Amol hoping to generate a general uprising. The attempt to seize Amol failed. It is reported that a number of the group’s members, revolutionary guards, and civilians were killed during the Amol clash. Subsequently, members of the Ettehadieh, including those who opposed the Amol uprising, were arrested and tried for belonging to the organization and for having participated in the Amol clash Mr. Tolu’i’s wife, also an activist in the group, was forced to flee the country with her toddler daughter while pregnant. His son was born after his execution.
Arrest and detention
According to the interviewees, the defendant was arrested in July 1982, along with many other members of the Ettehadieh Komonist-ha at a meeting he had attended for the organization. The last time his family saw him before his arrest was at 9:00 am. The authorities did not inform the family of the place of his detention. It became known that he was held at the Evin Prison, when the authorities returned him to his parents’ house that night to search for incriminating documents against him. The revolutionary guards took family documents and antique pieces from the house that they never returned.
The arrest of Mr. Tolu’i Semnani, along with other members of the Ettehadieh, was announced on the radio in August 1982. The broadcast did not specify the date of his arrest. While his family was not aware of whether he was tortured or not, they were informed that a member of his political group had died under torture.
The defendant was allowed visitation for the first time in November 1982, four months after his arrest. His father was given permission to visit him twice. During one of those visit he warned his father, “Leave the country. We are done for!” The visits were never held privately and all the detainees were kept in one room, separated from their families by a screen.
Based on the available information, 28 or 30 individuals were tried together between January 9 and 15, 1983. The trial was held at an auditorium at the Evin Prison in Tehran. The family was not aware of the intention of the government to try the defendant until the morning of the trial. Mr. Tolu’i Semnani was not given access to an attorney or the file containing the evidence against him, and he was not given the opportunity to procure witnesses. One of the interviewees recalls seeing his picture in the newspapers: “he had lost a bit of hair and had very sad face.”
At the day of his trial, all around the courtroom, were banners reading “Death to Ettehadiyeh Komonist-ha” and “Death to the Corruptors on Earth.” The family of those who were reportedly killed in Amol also chanted these slogans during the proceedings. The parents of the accused were allowed in court on the last day of the proceedings to say “Goodbye.” The Prosecutor’s communiqué also specifies that during the trial the relatives of the “martyrs of Amol” were shouting slogans against communists and hypocrites to divulge their lies.”
According the official communiqué, Mr. Tolu’i Semnani’s charges were read to him at his trial by the prosecutor, Seyed Asadollah Lajevardi. Mr. Tolu’i Semnani’s charges were read as follows: “being a member and the Head of the Central Committee of the Union of Communists of Iran, participating in the organizational conventions of the Union in order to determine the organization’s general policy about methods of fighting against the Islamic Republic of Iran, being a member of the Organization’s Committee in Tehran and having contacts with Tolid Daru Pharmaceutical Company, Meli Shoes Company and Minoo Company, being a member of the Permanent Committee, being in charge of internal communications of the organization; i.e., contacting the messenger- through whom he could contact provinces all over the country, Having contacts with the financial administrator of the organization and delivering 8 million rials from the southern branch of the organization to the financial administrator. It should be mentioned that this amount of money was stolen from the Agriculture Bank in Khuzestan by some mercenaries of this grouplet and was used as a loan for the poor farmers of that region.
The charges also related to the defendant’s political activity in the Ettehadieh and his ideology: “he was also the organization’s representative in the Vahdat Conference whose objective was harmonizing different grouplets known as ‘the Third Line’ to establish a unified communist party for fighting against the Islamic Republic.” According to theProsecutor, “Faramarz Tolu’i Semnani was among the old experienced Marxist cadres who had lived in America for 15 years and had a special role in leading the Iranian youth astray. He was the General Secretary of the Confederation [of the Iranian Students] over a period of time. He returned to Iran after the victory of the revolution and had key responsibilities in the atheist Union of Communists of Iran (Sarbedaran-e Jangal) before he was arrested.” The Prosecutor continued: “Considering his significant active role in that organization, his culpability is out of question to Tehran’s Public Prosecutor Office. Therefore, The Prosecution Office is asking the court to sentence this individual to the maximum penalty possible.”
Evidence of guilt
The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against the defendant.
In his defense, reported in the Jomhuri Eslami daily, Mr. Tolu’i Semnani's denied having participated in the attack of Amol : “I was a member of the Permanent Committee of the Ettehadieh Komonist-ha and in charge of the internal communications of the organization but I was fired from the committee because of objecting to the armed uprising which was at first supposed to be carried out in Tehran and then in Amol…The Ettehadieh Komonist-ha was in favor of the leadership of the Imam but was against the Islamic Revolution…”
Based on one the information available through the interviews, Mr. Tolu’i Semnani had opposed the Jangal operation. He did not believe in guerrilla warfare, and the fact that a group of elite soldiers could lead to a revolution that overthrew the existing government.
The 1st division of the Islamic Revolutionary Public Prosecutor’s Office in Tehran sentenced Mr. Tolu’i Semnani to death. The sentence was carried out at 9 pm.
Human rights violations in this case
The legal context
Read about the courts, the judges, and the procedure.
Special courts, known as the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals, were set up after the February 1979 revolution. Their jurisdiction encompasses a wide array of offences ranging from association with or support of the former regime, promotion of foreign influence, and enmity with the revolution to possession, use or sales of narcotic drugs, murder, and profiteering. In the 1980s, a penal court, presided over by one judge, was created to handle some of the offenses punishable by death, such as theft or adultery. These tribunals’ decisions must be confirmed by a chamber of the Supreme Judicial Council.
Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily jurists. By 1981, the judiciary was purged of judges trained in law schools. They were replaced by seminary graduates and students, as well as by political appointees (an estimated 2000 by 1989). Since by law judges are only required to have a high school diploma and must be faithful to the Islamic Republic’s tenets, new recruits often have little formal training in the law and are chosen because of their political affiliation.
The procedures of these ecclesiastical tribunals fail to meet the minimum guarantees for fair trial as established by international human rights instruments and by sha’ria (the Islamic system of law). In addition to executions ordered by revolutionary tribunals, extra-judicial executions are carried out, targeting dissidents and opposition leaders. In some cases, both inside and outside of Iran, these executions have been traced back to Iranian officials. It is, however, not known if in these particular cases trials are held in absentia.
Sources (Among others): Amnesty International, Law and Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, February 1980; Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, The Justice System of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1992; E/CN.4/1989/26 p.14; UNCHR, Resolution 1984/54 , Abolition of Torture - Iran - 1; 28 November 1984; Report on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Special Representative of the Commission, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, 28 January 1987. Amnesty International, A SHOCKED WORLD WATCHES IN DISBELIEF, VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, 1987-1990. Memoirs of Ayatollah Khalkhali, religious judge and former head of revolutionary tribunals (2001), and Ayatollah Montazeri, dismissed successor to Ayatollah Khomeini (2001). UNCH, E/CN.4/1994/50, Final report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran prepared by the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/62 of 10 March 1993 and Economic and Social Council decision 1993/273. E/CN.4/1994/50, 2 February 1994.
Detentions, interrogations, and trials: 1981-1988
Read about the conditions in which individuals were detained, tried and sentenced.
The accused were held, sometimes without being charged, for months or years in overcrowded prisons. During their detention, prisoners of conscience, and in particular supporters of political opposition groups or members of religious or ethnic minorities, were routinely subject to physical and psychological torture. Interrogators used torture, authorized by the post-revolutionary law of Ta’zir (Discretionary Punishment Law), to obtain confessions of guilt or to induce repentance. The line between trial and interrogation was often blurred by the fact that the same individual would function as prosecutor, interrogator and judge.
Executed detainees may or may not have been tried formally. Prisoners of conscience were often tried through a summary process that might have lasted only a few minutes. When disclosed, charges facing the defendants were often vague or based on coerced confessions. Defendants had no access to attorneys, and they might not have been allowed to defend themselves.
Convicts could not appeal their sentence and were often executed shortly after their conviction. Their execution was not necessarily announced.
Based on the available information, the following human rights have been violated in this case:
The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.
The right not to be punished for any crime on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time it was committed.
UDHR, Article 11.2; ICCPR, Article 15, Article 6.2.
The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest his or her religion or belief.
UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2; Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.
In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.
The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.
UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.
The right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 21.
The right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his or her interests.
UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.
The right to due process
The right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a competent and impartial tribunal in accordance with law.
ICCPR, Article 14.1 and Article 14.2.
Pre-trial detention rights
The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.
UDHR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a
The right to counsel of his or her own choosing or the right to legal aid. The right to communicate with his or her attorney in confidence
ICCPR, Article 14.3.b and Article 14.3.d; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1, Article 2 Article 5, Article 6, Article 8.
The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.b.
The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess to guilt.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.g.
The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.
The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.
ICCPR, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.
The right to defense through an attorney or legal aid. The right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one, and the right to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on one’s behalf under the same conditions as prosecution witnesses.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.d and Article 14.3.e.
The right to have the decision rendered in public.
ICCPR, Article 14.1.
The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.
The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.