Shirin Ebadi: People Don't Want the Death Penalty / Corruption Stems from the Supreme Leader
Tasnim News Agency, an entity close to the security apparatus in Iran, published a “popular report” on Monday, July 23, 2018 entitled: “Those in favor of and those against executing ‘those who consume what belongs to the people [i.e. embezzlers]’”. Jurist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, reacted to this report and said that the majority of the people are opposed to the death penalty, and that the duty of combating corruption in the Islamic Republic lies with its Supreme Leader.
The Tasnim News Agency report states, however, that the people have the power to cite Islamic Penal Code Article 286 as well as Article 1 of the Law for the Punishment of Disruptors of the Economic System, and demand that in the event the Judiciary discovers “widespread disruption of the country’s economic system”, that it not hesitate even a for moment in executing those responsible for it.
"The death penalty is a punishment that a majority of the people do not approve of, especially for economic crimes, because the people know and are well aware that massive financial corruption is not possible without the support of people at the highest echelons of government”
Furthermore, the report quotes the Head of the Judiciary Branch, Sadeq Amoli Larijani, as saying that in the event that a sentence of death is pronounced for “these people”, the judicial apparatus is prepared to implement the same without any hesitation or excuse whatsoever.
In response to questions posed by the Tasnim reporter, however, people being interviewed [said] that they did not want the death penalty for the so-called “economically or financially corrupt”, and some even believed that those who were at the root of the corruption [and actually commit economic crimes] will never be handed such sentences.
In the video version of this report, people did not readily submit to conversing with the Tasnim reporter to begin with, and when they did, they generally did not provide responses satisfactory to the interviewer, who appeared to show a desire for the answer to his question to entail a demand for the death penalty. This despite the fact that the Islamic Republic considers “the people” as the backbone of the death penalty and declares the setting up of gallows and the hanging [of criminals] to be the will of the people.
In light of the report by Tasnim, we posed this question: Does a majority of the people truly want the death penalty as a form of punishment?
Shirin Ebadi, jurist and Nobel Peace Prize winner based in Britain who was an attorney in the Iranian legal system for many years, provided the following answer to Radio Zamaneh’s question: “Absolutely not. The death penalty is a punishment that a majority of the people do not approve of, especially for economic crimes, because the people know and are well aware that massive financial corruption is not possible without the support of people at the highest echelons of government.”
The former Iranian attorney stressed: “The people were very angry because one person had been executed whereas the people behind the scenes who had the real influence [and were pulling the strings] remained immune from punishment. As for Mohsen Rafighdust’s brother, he was pardoned by the Supreme Leader after a few years and was released from prison; so much for life imprisonment. In other words, the killing of [Khodadad] was effectively a ploy to cover the truth.”
Corruption upon corruption
Another case alluded to in the conversation with Shirin Ebadi was the case of Mahafarid Amir Khosravi (Amir Mansur Arya) who was executed suddenly and precipitously by the Judiciary Branch after his attorney announced that he had written a letter to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic.
"These assets keep changing hands and end up with the big shots behind the scene. These funds have never come back to the treasury, and killing one or more individuals doesn’t do anything for society"
A report published by the Kalemeh website on May 24, 2014, after the implementation of the death sentence, read: “Why was Mahafarid Khosravi suddenly hanged, without even informing his attorney or his family, without prior notice, and without due process? Who were the high-level [potential] defendants, to whom the Judiciary was trying to block access by quickly executing him? What had [Khosravi] said in his letter to the Supreme Leader, and what did he say in the final court sessions that prompted a complete blockage – as if hitting a wall – of news and access to the case and to the court?”
Shirin Ebadi said: “Mahafarid Khosravi was executed very quickly because, according to available information, he had written a letter and had divulged the secrets behind the three thousand-billion-Tuman embezzlement case, which is said to be the biggest embezzlement case in Iranian history.”
In any event, according to Ebadi, what is important regarding massive embezzlements and thefts, to which people pay close attention, is that the money, assets, and properties be returned to the country’s coffers: “Currently, however, these assets keep changing hands and end up with the big shots behind the scene. These funds have never come back to the treasury, and killing one or more individuals doesn’t do anything for society. The people have always opposed the death penalty.”
From Tasnim News Agency to regular people, everyone is looking for the big shots
Who are the big shots and the people behind the scenes that everyone, from the top of the regime to the bottom, are looking for and that no one can find?
"When there is such widespread corruption as there is in Iran, then we have to be aware that there is no will at the top to fight this corruption”
Shirin Ebadi provided this answer: “We have a saying ‘a fish goes bad from the head not from the tail’. When there is such widespread corruption as there is in Iran, then we have to be aware that there is no will at the top to fight this corruption.”
In discussing the matter, She posed a series of questions: “The question is: how is it that when people throw a birthday party in their home, the security police are able to find out about everything that is going on in the house, in every nook and cranny, just to keep a boy and a girl from getting together, but [when it comes to discovering financial crimes] billions upon billions of Tumans cannot be found? The answer is that there is no reason for this [and no other explanation] except that the agents are not supposed to look into it. Why are they not supposed to look into it? Because they have been ordered not to look into it. Why have they been ordered not to look into it? Because the hierarchy doesn’t like it...”
According to Ms Ebadi, “If we want to approach this issue from a logical and legal standpoint, we need to look at the Constitution and figure out with whom ultimate power rests in the country; and then it becomes obvious where the problem is.”
Pursuant to the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, the Supreme Leader wields absolute power; he sits at the top of the three branches of government. He is the one who directly appoints the head of the Judiciary Branch, and what happens in the other two branches is directly or indirectly under his control.
"The Supreme Leader is granted great powers under the law, but his responsibility is just as great”
On that basis, Shirin Ebadi told Zamaneh: “Therefore, if there are any deficiencies or shortcomings in the Judiciary Branch, for instance, especially if these deficiencies have persisted for years, then certainly not only is he head of the Judiciary responsible for any deficiencies, but so is the person who appointed him. Or when we learn through the media that the Minister of Information must always be appointed by the Supreme Leader [as opposed to the President] and the Supreme Leader must unquestionably approve four ministers, then when a problem arises within the security apparatus, in addition to the President, the Supreme Leader is also responsible [for those problems]. Or when we talk of financial corruption within the Revolutionary Guards Corps, in addition to the head of the Corps, the Supreme Leader is also responsible since he is the one who has appointed him. Consequently, the Supreme Leader is granted great powers under the law, but his responsibility is just as great.”
According to Ms. Ebadi, the most important person with the ability to prevent corruption in Iran is the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, and the continuation of systematic corruption indicates that there has been no will to stop it, and the responsibility naturally lies with the Supreme Leader.