Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Mehrdad Ashtari

About

Age: 28
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Unknown

Case

Date of Killing: August 6, 1988
Location: Gohardasht Prison, Karaj, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; War on God, God's Prophet and the deputy of the Twelfth Imam

About this Case

Information regarding Mr. Ashtari’s arrest, trial and execution was drawn from two electronic forms sent to the Boroumand Foundation by his relatives. Mr. Mehrdad Ashtari is among 3208 members and sympathizers of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran Organization (PMIO) whose execution was reported by the organization in a book entitled Crime Against Humanity. This book documents the 1988-89 mass execution of political prisoners. Information about the mass executions has been gathered by the Boroumand Foundation from the memoir of Ayatollah Montazeri, reports of human rights organizations, interviews with victims’ families, and witnesses’ memoirs.

Mr. Ashtari is also one of 1000 people listed in a UN Human Rights Commission’s Special Representative’s Report, “Names and particulars of persons allegedly executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran during the period July-December 1988,” published on January 26, 1989. The report specifies that although 1000 names are mentioned, “in all probability” there were several thousand victims. The report further notes that: “most of the alleged victims were members of the Mojahedin. However, members of the Tudeh Party, People’s Fedaiyan Organization, Rahe Kargar, and Komala Organization and 11 mollahs were also said to be among the alleged victims.”

Mr. Ashtari was sentenced to ten years in prison, but he was executed almost 8 years after arrest.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Ashtari was reportedly arrested after the Revolutionary Guards learned about his political activities through a friend who had been arrested a day earlier. He was arrested by the Revolutionary Guards at Narmak in Tehran on October 5, 1980 at 2 p.m. The Guards had no arrest warrant; he was first taken to Evin Prison and later transferred to the Gohardasht Prison.

He was denied access to an attorney. He was allowed monthly visits with his family, after his first year of detention. He was reportedly tortured during interrogations and his feet were beaten so severely that the prison doctors had to perform surgery on them.

Trial

Mr. Ashtari was tried once around April 1981 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The circumstances of this trial are mostly unknown. The defendant had disclosed to others that he had a 5-minute trial, without the presence of a legal representative or access to his files prior to the trial. He was also not given an appeal date.

Specific details on the circumstances of the trials that led to the execution of Mr. Ashtari and thousands of other individuals in 1988 are not known. According to existing information, there was no official trial with the presence of an attorney and prosecutor. Those who were executed in 1988 were sent to a three-man committee consisting of a religious judge, a representative from the Intelligence Ministry, and a Public Prosecutor of Tehran. This committee asked the leftist prisoners some questions about their beliefs and whether or not they believed in God.

The relatives of political prisoners executed in 1988 refute the legality of the judicial process that resulted in thousands of executions throughout Iran. In their 1988 open letter to then Minister of Justice Dr. Habibi, they argue that the official secrecy surrounding these executions is proof of their illegality. They note that an overwhelming majority of these prisoners had been tried and sentenced to prison terms, which they were either serving or had already completed serving when they were retried and sentenced to death.

Charges

No charge has been publicly leveled against the victims of the 1988 mass executions. In their letters to the Minister of Justice (1988), and to the UN Special Rapporteur visiting Iran (February 2003), the families of the victims refer to the authorities accusations against the prisoners – accusations that may have led to their execution. These accusations include being “counter-revolutionary, anti-religion, and anti-Islam,” as well as being “associated with military action or with various [opposition] groups based near the borders.”

An edict of the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, reproduced in the memoirs of Ayatollah Montazeri, his designated successor, corroborates the reported claims regarding the charges against the executed prisoners. In this edict, Ayatollah Khomeini refers to members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization as “hypocrites” who do not believe in Islam and “wage war against God” and decrees that prisoners who still approve of the positions taken by this organization are also “waging war against God” and should be sentenced to death.

Evidence of guilt

The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against the defendant.

Defense

No information is available on Mr. Ashtari’s defense. In their open letter, the families of the prisoners noted that defendants were not given the opportunity to defend themselves in court. The same letter, rebutting the accusation that these prisoners (from inside the prison) had collaborated with armed members of the Mojahedin Organization in clashes with armed forces of the Islamic Republic, states that such claims “are false considering the circumstances in prisons; for our children faced most difficult conditions [in prison, with] visitation rights of once every 15 days, each visitation lasting ten minutes through a telephone from behind the glass window, and were deprived of any connection with the outside world. We faced such conditions for seven years, which proves the truth of our claim.”

Judgment

No execution sentence was issued publicly. According to the form, Mr. Ashtari was hanged at the Gohardasht Prison on June 8, 1988. The prison authorities did not disclose the location of his burial to his family. They later found out that he was buried in a mass grave at the Khavaran cemetery.

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