(Tabnak, June 7, 2020. The actual title of this Article was “The story of a young man’s flogging and the Friday Prayer Leader’s comments and explanation”.)
Yesterday, the news went around among a number of groups active on the internet in the town of Charam, that following a complaint lodged by the town’s Friday Prayer Imam, a young man’s flogging sentence was carried out! The news resulted in different reactions. Some criticized the Friday Prayer Imam’s actions, following which he put forth a number of arguments.
According to a Tabnak report from Kohgiluyeh and Booyer Ahmad Province, Hojjatol-Eslam val Moslemin (a rank in the hierarchy of Shiite clergy) Seyyed Nurollah Afshar, Charam’s Friday Prayer Imam provided some explanations regarding “being falsely quoted” on the internet, which quote is being disseminated among certain users in the virtual space:
“In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful”
I did not want to respond to what has been published on the internet, but in order to shed light on the matter for the honorable readers, I will provide some remarks in writing so that they can judge for themselves.
The story goes back to a Friday fifteen months ago, when, after publication of the news of the Friday prayers, a young man engaged in leveling multiple insults against the Prayer participants and even brought up in separate messages in one of the more crowded virtual groups, the former Friday Prayer Imam’s personal life. Given that his brother-in-law was an acquaintance of mine, I told him what had happened and that all the young man had to do was issue an apology and the matter would be closed.
I waited for about a month but no such apology was forthcoming. The young man’s brother-in-law therefore said to me ‘do as you deem appropriate’.
Given that he had disseminated lies and falsehoods and unjust accusations, and was not willing to apologize, I brought a complaint against him in order to safeguard the rights of the honorable Prayer participants. Since a long time had passed from the filing, I had no idea what had happened to the case and I thought that it had been closed. Yet the sentence was carried out on Saturday, June 6,without my knowledge, and I found out about the sentence and its implementation through a friend, in the afternoon of Saturday, June 6. I immediately contacted the honorable Prosecutor, Mr. Sadri, and told him ‘I wish you had informed me, I would definitely not have given permission to carry out the sentence’. He said ‘I was not in the loop and the sentence was carried out by the Sentence Implementation Unit’.
There are several issues I must bring up with our dear readers.
First, one friend has written on a website, without asking me [any questions about the matter] that a number of elders had tried to mediate with the Friday Prayer Imam (me) and that I had refused. I wish they had asked me before they published this account so I could tell them that it is not correct.
Second, I ask the honorable reader of this writing: When a brother makes multiple insults in violation of Citizens Rights and the laws of the Islamic Republic, and is not willing to apologize, what is one supposed to do?
Third, I was insistent upon resolving the matter for around one month, and his brother-in-law was our mutual contact, and I insisted that an apology would do and the whole thing would be over; why did he not accept that he had made a mistake, and [the apology] did not happen even after a year and some months?
Fourth, I truly had no idea about the implementation of the sentence, otherwise I would have stopped it and it would have been over with some mediation by elders. It is my strong belief that elders have a high potential for resolving issues.
Fifth, we all believe in Judgment Day and the questions they pose of us on our first night in the grave. Those dear people who have rendered opinions against the sentence issued and against me, without investigating the matter and without asking me about anything, they will be held accountable to God Almighty and will have to answer to Him.
Sixth, I am prevented from bringing up certain matters [for personal reasons] and I must refrain from publishing the messages and lies that this young man [wrote] last year. If this continues, however, I will have no choice but to publish them.
Seven, I apologize for taking up your time.
May God bless us all with a happy and prosperous fate.
Seyyed Nurollah Afshar
Charam Friday Prayer Imam”
According to a Tabnak report from Kohgiluyeh and Booyer Ahmad Province, although this case should not have resulted in the implementation of the flogging sentence, as the Friday Prayer Imam said, it was, however, a wakeup call for those who, without thinking of the consequences of publishing and disseminating whatever they want on the internet, create apprehension and anxiety in the virtual environment! Every day we see false accusations, slander, and dissemination of lies and falsehoods on the internet; now it is clear and for all to see that those whose reputation is sullied and damaged can easily drag the slanderer to court [and have them suffer the consequences of their actions].
(HRANA, June 7, 2020. The actual title of this Article was “Upon a complaint by the Friday Prayer Imam, the implementation of a young man’s sentence of 55 lashes in the town of Charam”.)
On Saturday, June 6, Charam citizen Ruhollah Barzin’s flogging sentence was carried out at the Charam Judiciary’s Sentence Implementation Unit. Mr. Barzin had been sentenced to 55 lashes after a complaint was lodged by Charam County Friday Prayer Imam, Seyyed Nurollah Afshar, against him for comments written by others under a critical piece Mr. Barzin had written.
According to a HRANA News Agency report, the news arm of the Human Rights Activists in Iran, on Saturday, June 6, 2020, Charam citizen Ruhollah Barzin’s flogging sentence was carried out at the Charam Judiciary’s Sentence Implementation Unit.
After a complaint was lodged against Mr. Barzin by Seyyed Nurollah Afshar, Charam County Friday Prayer Imam, he was sentenced last year by Charam County Criminal Court to 55 lashes for comments made by others under a critical piece Mr. Barzin had written.
Citing the comments made by other users, the Court sentenced this citizen to 55 lashes.
This ruling was ultimately upheld verbatim upon appeal to the Kohgiluyeh and Booyer Ahmad Province Court of Appeals.
Another source with knowledge of the case who wished to remain anonymous, provided some details to HRANA: “After the issuance of the flogging sentence, Mr. Afshar would not agree to forgive [Mr. Barzin], in spite of a number of the town elders and trusted notables’ interceding and [attempting to mediate], and kept insisting that the sentence must be carried out. The flogging order was ultimately carried out at the Charam County Judiciary’s Sentence Implementation Unit.”
Ruhollah Barzin bakes bread at a [traditional] bakery in Charam County.
Seyyed Nurollah Afshar, Charam County’s Friday Prayer Imam and head of the Headquarters for “Amr be ma’ruf va nahy-e az munkar” (“Enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong”) had previously demanded during Friday Prayers that a number of the chiefs and directors of the Kohgiluyeh and Buyer Ahmad Province executive organs be flogged as well.
Kohgiluyeh and Booyer Ahmad Province Judiciary
Court Decision Number: [Illegible]
Date Drafted: [Illegible]
Case Number: [Illegible]
Branch Archive Number: [Illegible]
Charam County Criminal Court Two, Branch 101
Case Number 9809987447700505, Charam County Criminal Court Two, Branch 101, Final Court Decision Number 9809977447401128.
Plaintiff: Mr. Seyyed Nurollah Afshar, son of Seyyed Hassel
Defendant: Mr. Ruhollah Barzin Nejad, son of Hamdollah.
Charge: Using Offensive Language
Workflow: Pursuant to indictment Number 98-545, issued by the Charam Prosecutor’s Office, Assistant Prosecutor’s Office Branch One, a [criminal] case was opened against Mr. Ruhollah Barzin Nejad on the charge of using offensive language, which, upon the issuance of the indictment, the case came before this Court. Having invited the parties and heard their statements;
The Court hereby declares the close of the proceedings, and issues its Decision as follows:
Regarding the charge of using offensive language brought against Mr. Ruhollah Barzin Nejad, the subject of a complaint lodged by Seyyed Nurollah Afshar, Charam Friday Prayer Imam,
Having taken into consideration the totality of the papers and documentation contained in the case file; the indictment issued by the Charam General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office; the private Plaintiff’s complaint; the witnesses’ statements; the law enforcement authority’s memorandum [and report];
Finds that the charges have been duly proven beyond a doubt, and pursuant to Article 608 of the Islamic Penal Code of 1996, sentences the Defendant to 55 lashes, said lashes not to hit the head, face and genitals.
This ruling is issued in the presence of the Defendant and can be appealed to the Province Courts of Appeal within 20 days of service hereof.
Seyyed Mostafa Ha’eri
Judge, Charam County Court
Findings of guilt in the Islamic Republic of Iran's Judicial Proceedings
The Islamic Republic of Iran's criminal justice system regularly falls short of the standards for due process necessary for impartiality, fairness, and efficacy. Suspects are often held incommunicado and not told of the reason for their detainment. Defendants are frequently prohibited from examining the evidence used against them. Defendants are sometimes prohibited from having their lawyers present in court. Additionally, confessions, made under duress or torture, are commonly admitted as proof of guilt. Because Iran's courts regularly disregard principles essential to the proper administration of justice, findings of guilt may not be evaluated with certainty.
Corporal Punishment: the Legal context in the Islamic Republic of Iran
The Islamic Republic's criminal code recognizes corporal punishment for a wide range of offenses: consumption of alcohol, theft, adultery, "flouting" of public morals, and mixing of the sexes in public. Judges have the latitude to mete out corporal punishment for those sentenced to death. In such cases, the flogging is carried out before death to maximize the suffering of defendant. Aside from flogging, the Islamic Republic also employs amputations as a punishment for theft. In such cases, the defendant is taken to a hospital and put under anesthesia as his hand or foot is amputated. In some cases the left foot and right hand are cut off, making it difficult for the condemned to walk, even with the assistance of a cane or crutches.
The Islamic Republic's Systematic Violation of its International Obligations under International Law
The use of corporal punishment is contrary to international law and is addressed in several international agreements. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, states that, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Identical language is also used in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran is also a party to. The strongest expression of international disapproval is contained in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). This treaty defines torture as, "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as ... punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed." Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has yet to sign the CAT, the prohibition on torture is now considered jus cogens and, therefore, part of customary international law. Furthermore, even though the norm against corporal punishment is not yet a jus cogens, there is increasing evidence that it is illegal under international human rights law. In Osbourne v. Jamaica, the Committee Against Torture (a body of experts responsible for monitoring compliance with the Convention) held that "corporal punishment constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment contrary to Article 7 of the Convention." The Islamic Republic of Iran's systematic violations of its obligations under international law have been addressed by the UN General Assembly multiple times, most recently in December 2007. In Resolution 62/168, the UN expressed deep concern with Iran's continued flouting of international human rights law, particularly, "confirmed instances of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations."