As Religious Authorities Insist on Execution as a Remedy, the People Disavow It
While the supreme sources of emulation have attributed the demand for the death penalty for various offences, including economic corruption, to the general public, is it the public that is calling for the enforcement of the death penalty or is it that the demand for the enforcement of the said punishment is solely made on the basis of the “execution therapy” policy of the Islamic Republic?
Will the Islamic Republic set up gallows for those it calls economic corruptors and attributes the high price of foreign currency to?
Criticizing the Government and Judiciary in a speech on Thursday 2nd August, one of the sources of emulation, Grand Ayatollah Nouri-Hamedani said: “People have strong complaints about the judicial system. They are saying: ‘Had they dealt decisively, courageously and swiftly with economic corruptors, these sources of corruption would have been rapidly dismantled.’ The situation will change if they bring 10 to 20 of them to a speedy trial – meaning within a couple of months not years – seize their assets and give them the severest punishment.”
At the same time, Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, known as “Sultan of Sugar” owing to his illicit monopoly on trade in sugar, once again entered the arena with the slogan of “execute them”, calling on the Judiciary to deal with economic corruptors decisively, courageously and swiftly.”
Moreover, in a previous round of calls for executions in relation to the currency crisis, the Sultan of Sugar had, in one his Islamic jurisprudence lectures at Qom’s Grand Mosque on Wednesday 11 April, called on the judicial and security authorities to execute several major currency dealers as a warning to the rest of them.
While the supreme sources of emulation have attributed the demand for the death penalty for various offences, including economic corruption, to the general public, is it the public that is calling for the enforcement of the death penalty or is it that the demand for the enforcement of the said punishment is solely made on the basis of the “execution therapy” policy of the Islamic Republic? A policy favoured by Mohammad Sadeq Givi, known as Sadeq Khalkali, Chief Justice in the early years of the revolution, who handed down death penalties without a trial or in summary trials and within 24 hours.
In a commentary on Asr-e Iran website, entitled “A Return to Khalkhali?!”, Hasan Mohaddeszadeh highlighted remarks by Mohammad Ganji, Friday imam of the city of Jam in Esfahan Province, who had said: “Iran needs another Khalkhali in order to eradicate corruption.” Mohaddeszadeh wrote: “Such a policy will not only fail to deal with corruption, but it will also fail to be of any use to society in all other dimensions of government.”
The commentary continued: “This policy (death penalty) is simply a fleeting fad, which leads to growing lawlessness and chaos… It should not be presumed that anyone must be swiftly hanged in public at [Tehran’s] Istanbul junction merely for having illegally caused disruption in the currency market. Plus the fact that Tehran’s Prosecutor Mr [Abbas] Ja’fari-Dolatabadi, stated recently that owing to existing legislation, even if Mr Khalkhali were present today, he would not have been able to execute a criminal in one day, because a defendant has several rights of appeal and his lawyer must be present during the preliminary investigations.”
Meanwhile, public opinion polls conducted by government agencies have – notwithstanding efforts to promote the death penalty - garnered scant approval from poll participants, not to mention the scarcity of comments endorsing the death penalty as an appropriate and effective punishment.
For instance, on 1st July, Parsine website asked its readers whether they agreed with the execution and imprisonment of currency market disruptors. The readers’ responses demonstrated that the majority favoured dealing with the roots of corruption and problems instead of unilaterally confronting the by-products of a corrupt system.
In response to the Parsine question, one of the readers wrote: “Bringing up execution therapy yet again? The best solution is transparency. It should be clarified where the foreign currency that is given to this or that person ends up and what becomes of it. Moreover, if someone has committed an offence, that person should be dealt with in accordance with the law.
Also, on 23 July, Tasnim news agency, which is close to security organs, covered the same issue in a “popular report” entitled: “Proponents and Opponents of the Death Penalty for Devourers of Public Property”. It wrote: “By evoking Article 286 of the Islamic Penal Code and Article 1 of the Law for Punishment of Disrupters of the Economic System, the people could ask the Judiciary not to hesitate in executing any perpetrators found engaged in widespread disruption of the economic system of the state”.
Shirin Ebadi, UK-based lawyer and Nobel laureate, who has had many years of experience as a lawyer in Iran’s judicial system, said in response to the above report and Radio Zamaneh question on whether the people are actually in favour of the death penalty or that such an appeal is merely attributed to them: “Such is not the case at all. The death penalty is a punishment that is not favoured by the majority of the general public, especially with regards to economic cases; because the people understand and are fully aware that large-scale economic corruption cannot occur without the support of high-ranking government officials.”