Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Nader Jahanbani

About

Age: 50
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Execution: March 13, 1979
Location: Qasr Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Shooting
Charges: War on God, God's Prophet and the deputy of the Twelfth Imam; Unspecified anti-revolutionary offense; Corruption on earth; Association with the Shah's idolatrous regime
Age at time of offense: 50

Human rights violations in this case

The Legal Context

The Courts

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 11 February 1979-1994

 

In the immediate aftermath of the 11 February 1979 Revolution, an ad hoc tribunal, initially referred to as the Extraordinary Revolutionary Tribunal, was set up to try the officials of the previous regime, for which no specific procedures were devised. In a decree dated 24 February 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary religious leader, appointed a cleric as Shari’a Judge and instructed him “to issue Shari’a-based rulings,” thereby establishing the foundation of a system of special courts.

 

Initially, the revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction was determined by the religious judge’s interpretation of the Shari’a (Islamic law based on the teachings of the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet, the 12 imams, and the teachings of Shi’a scholars. On 17 June 1979, the Revolutionary Courts and the Prosecutor’s Office Rules of Procedure, which was only selectively observed, established the latter’s jurisdiction and make-up.

 

The Courts’ jurisdiction encompassed a wide array of offenses including moharebeh (“waging war with God”), efsad e fel arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”), crimes against national and international security, economic crimes, murder, profiteering, prostitution, rape, and narcotic drugs-related crimes. The law required that two of the three principal members of the Revolutionary Courts be Shari’a judges.

 

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 1994-2002

 

With the adoption of the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994, and the Code of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts of 19 September 1999, a uniform code of procedure was applied to both revolutionary and general courts. The jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts was limited to 6 categories of offenses:

1. Crimes against national and international security,“moharebeh” (enmity with god) and “efsad e fel arz” (corruption on earth;)

2. defaming Ayatollah Khomeini and the Supreme Leader;

3. plotting against the Islamic Republic of Iran, armed action, terrorism, and sabotage;

4. espionage;

5. smuggling and drug-related crimes; 6. claims under Principle 49 (economic crimes) of the Constitution.

 6. Furthermore, pursuant to the Law on the Manner of Punishing Individuals Engaged in Unauthorized Audio and Visual Activities, Article 11, the revolutionary courts have jurisdiction over crimes that fall within the purview of said Law, including production and distribution of obscene materials and misuse and abuse thereof.

These courts continued, however, to try cases falling outside their jurisdiction, such as theft and sexual offenses. Further, the vagueness of laws regarding national security allowed the revolutionary courts to try political and media crimes whenever they wished to do so.

 

The new law eliminated the Prosecutor’s Office and gave the judges inthe Revolutionary Courts the power to perform the duties of the prosecutor, as well as their own, in any case brought before them.

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 2002-Present

 

The Amended Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 2002 reinstated the Prosecutor’s Office in both revolutionary and general courts. In cases involving political and media crimes, revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction overlaps with that of Province Criminal Courts.

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014, and its coming into force in June 2015, the jurisdiction of the revolutionary courts remains unchanged, with slight modifications in procedural aspects of adjudication. For instance, the new law provides that for crimes subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, or higher, the revolutionary court shall convene with three judges, whereas, prior to the passage of this law, adjudication of all crimes within the jurisdiction of revolutionary courts took place with only a single judge.

The Appellate System of Revolutionary Courts, 1979-Present

 

From their inception until 1994, the rulings of the Revolutionary Courts were not subject to appeal. In the early 1980s a court entitled the Supreme Court of Qom was established in the city of Qom and which reviewed cases of execution and confiscation of properties, thereby forming a first tier form of appeal. The exact date of the creation of the court is not clear, but, based on available information, the court became operational in the early 1980s, even though Ayatollah Khomeini's official order for its creation is dated 1985. The court’s procedure was not systematic and did not meet the international standards for a court of appeals; there was no official record of its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of Qom was dissolved in 1989.

 

The Law of 14 June 1994 subjected the Courts’ decisions to appeal. An appellate court was established at each provincial capital, called the Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by the Revolutionary Courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those involving capital punishment.

 

Narcotic drugs-related crimes constitute a significant exception to the appeals process. Governed by the Anti-Narcotic Drugs Law of 1988, as Amended on 8 November 1997 and 31 July 3 2010, these crimes are within the jurisdiction of, and are adjudicated on a regular basis by, Revolutionary Courts whose decisions are final. After being handed down by the judge, death sentences are sent to the Prosecutor General or the Head of the Supreme Court as a matter of administrative approval.

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 (and its coming into force in June 2015), however, drug related crimes became subject to appeal as well.

General Courts, 1979-1982

 

In cases not falling under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, the system devised under the previous regime continued to function in parallel with new systems devised by laws passed by the Judicial Council, one of which, entitled The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, radically changed the entire structure and categorization of the courts. It divided the courts in three branches: Criminal, Civil, and Peace (a sort of arbitration court dealing with minor financial and other disputes). Specialized courts such as family courts were eliminated.

 

General Courts, 1982-1994

 

The Law of the Amendments to the Rules of Criminal Procedure of 1982 established a new criminal courts system, Criminal Courts I and II. Criminal Court I, established only in provincial capitals, had jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Criminal Court II heard less serious crimes.

 

General Courts, 1994-2002

 

The Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994 established umbrella courts called General Courts, which replaced and dissolved pre-existing civil and criminal courts. The law dissolved the Prosecutor’s offices and tasked a single person with the roles of judge, prosecutor, and investigator.

 

General Courts, 2002-2015

 

In 2002, the 1994 Law was amended, reviving the role of the Prosecutor’s Office in General Courts. The prosecution offices were re-established in a gradual process over several years. The amended law also re-established specialized branches within general courts dealing separately with criminal and civil matters. In addition, this law allocated a number of branches of the Province Court of Appeals to have original jurisdiction over a number of cases including the most serious offenses, as well as political and media crimes. In these cases, the branches are called the Province Criminal Court.

 

General Courts, 2015 to Today

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, general courts underwent certain changes as well. Criminal courts were divided into Criminal Court One, Criminal Court Two, Military Court, Juvenile Court, and Revolutionary Court. Criminal Court One has jurisdiction over serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, and higher, as well as political and media crimes. Criminal Court Two has jurisdiction over other crimes. Another change consists of the establishment of juvenile courts, which adjudicates crimes committed by individuals less than 18 years of age. In cases where the individuals less than 18 commit serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, however, Criminal Court One will have jurisdiction, observing rules of juvenile criminal procedure.

 

The Appellate System of General Courts, 1979-Present

 

The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, abolished appeal of most criminal courts’ decisions. The law of 1982 restricted the appeal possibility even further. According to the Islamic Republic authorities’ interpretation of Islamic Law, a qualified jurist’s decisions were not subject to appeal except under special circumstances, such as when the judge realized his own mistake, or another judge advised him so, or when he did not have jurisdiction over the case. Even in such situations, the case would not go to a higher court but would be subject to review by the same judge or another judge at his level. The judges were even urged to call their verdicts “opinions,” so that the possible change in the verdict would not be “haram” (“sinful,” the highest level of prohibition in Islam, disobedience of which would result in a sin).

 

In October 1988, the Majles (Iranian parliament) passed a law regarding review of court judgments. This law provided for an appeal if the conviction was claimed to be based on invalid documentation or false testimony. The defendant could also base an appeal on a point of law or a procedural violation.

 

The appellate system was expanded in other laws in the late 1980s and in 1993. The Law for the Establishment of Criminal Courts I and II of 11 July 1989 created the Branches of the Supreme Court. Crimes of less importance, tried in Criminal Court II, were subject to review by Criminal Court I.

 

For the most important crimes involving death punishment, which were under the jurisdiction of Criminal Court I, the law allowed limited appeal to the Branches of the Supreme Court. Defendants had the right to petition the Supreme Court for appeal in certain cases involving false testimony or procedural violations, and if granted, the case would be remanded to either another criminal court or the original one.

 

Finally, the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 1994, as amended in 2002, established an appellate court at each provincial capital, called Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by both general and revolutionary courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those carrying the death penalty, as well as decisions made by the Province Criminal Court.

 

The amended law of 2002, continued the appellate procedure to the Branches of the Supreme Court established by the afore-mentioned law of 11 July 1989

 

The Supreme Court continues to be the competent authority to rule on new trials, which have been provided for in limited circumstances.

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, the Court of Appeals shall be the competent authority to hear appeals from Criminal Court Two decisions, and the Supreme Court shall hear appeals from Criminal Court One decisions.

Special Courts for the Clergy

 

These courts are rooted in a 1979 decree, issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, which established a committee of religious and noble figures in every region to purge the clergy of anti-revolutionary elements under the supervision of the Revolutionary Courts. Between late 1981 and 1984, a special court in the city of Qom handled, though not systematically, the trial of clerics.

 

On 29 July 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini officially appointed a prosecutor and a member of the clergy as Shari’a judge for Special Courts for the Clergy. On 6 August 1990, a directive was issued regulating the conduct of these courts, the jurisdictional ambiguity of which is such that it effectively extends to “anyone where one of the parties is a cleric” and to “all matters in which the Court is designated as competent by the Supreme Leader.”

 

The court, which was not mentioned in the Islamic Republic's constitution, was mandated to try “pseudo clerics, those related to/connected with the clergy, for public and/or anti-revolutionary crimes, and violations of the prestige of the clergy,” and where the principal suspect is a member of the clergy, “any co-conspirator or assistant, whether a cleric or not.”

 

These courts are generally not open to the public and can issue sentences for all acts and omissions punishable under codified Iranian laws or Shari’a or for any other acts or omissions which can bring dishonor to the clergy or to the Islamic Revolution. Further, in certain particular cases – which have not been defined – where no punishment has been devised by either the Penal Code or even the Shari’a, the Court “can rule as it deems fit.” 

 

The Appellate System of the Special Court for the Clergy, 1979-Present

 

There is no information on any appeal process for the Special Court for the Clergy prior to the 1990 directive. Article 49 of said directive set up, however, an appeals court called Special Appellate Court for the Clergy, the head of which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, to which the decisions of the lower court can be appealed.

 

Military Courts

 

The military court system, independent from the judiciary under the previous regime, became a part of it on 1 December 1981. The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces, established in 1986, replaced and merged other military courts and tribunals in existence at the time, namely the pre-revolution Judiciary Organization of the Army, the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Army (established on 8 December 1979), and the Revolutionary and General Court for the Revolutionary Guards (established on 15 July 1979.) The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces has its own Criminal Code and follows the country’s general rules of criminal procedure.

 

The Law of the Criminal Procedure of the Armed Forces of 15 May 1985 created Military Courts I and II. Military Court I has jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Military Court II hears less serious crimes.

 

The Appellate System of Military Courts, 1979-Present

 

The law of 8 December 1979, establishing the Revolutionary Military Court, did not provide for any appeals. The Law of 15 May 1985 created a system of appeals through the creation of a two-tier system of courts. The decisions of Military Court II were subject to review by Military Court I. This law also provided that multiple Branches of the Supreme Court be designated as the appellate court to review decisions of Military Court I.

 

The judges

 

1979-1997: Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily law graduates and jurists. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution, a five-member Committee was established to purge the judicial system of undesirable elements, pursuant to the Legal Bill for the Modification of the Judiciary and the Law for Hiring Judges of 8 March 1979. The power of the committee was absolute and its decisions, resulting in a widespread purge of the judiciary, final.

 

The Law for the Conditions of Selection of Judges of 4 May 1981 established the conditions of eligibility for judges. The latter were to be hired among men who were legitimate children and had practical commitment to Islam and allegiance to the Islamic Republic. The law, which led to the hiring of clerics and Islamic legal scholars, also allowed hiring practically anyone as a judge who could “obtain the Judicial High Council’s permission.” Moreover, Note 2 of the Amendments of 4 October 1982 to this law allowed widespread employment of seminary students “who ha[d] general knowledge equivalent to a high school diploma” as judges at prosecutor’s offices in general as well as Revolutionary Courts.  

 

By 1989, the judiciary counted about 2,000 new judges trained in theological seminaries (graduates and students) and political appointees, many having replaced judges trained in law schools.

 

1997-Present: As of this writing (2013) the Law for Hiring Judges and its amendments of 4 October 1982, 7 February 1987, and 9 May 1988 are in full force and form the basis for hiring judges. The Executive Rules of Procedure of 22 December 1997 subjected such hiring to passing an entrance examination and successful completion of an apprenticeship program, the duration of which ranges between one and two years. The law does not limit hiring to men only but does not specify in what capacity women will be functioning, other than an advisory one.

Currently, judges are selected in accordance with the Guidelines on the Recruitment, Selection, and Internship for Judicial Candidates and the Hiring of Judges.

 

Dismissal of Judges: From 1979 to 1989, the judiciary was run by the Supreme Judicial Council which was composed of the head of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General (both of whom were appointed by the Supreme Leader), and three judges elected by the entire body of judges in the country. The Council had the power to hire and dismiss judges in accordance with the law.

 

The constitutional reforms of 1989 substituted the Supreme Judicial Council with one person, the Head of the Judiciary. The Supreme Leader, whose mandate is not subject to popular vote, appoints the Head of the Judiciary for a 5-year term. The latter has significant power to influence the dismissal of judges. Dismissal cases are referred to three types of disciplinary courts, presided over by judges appointed by the Head of the Judiciary, who has veto power over any decisions made by the relevant courts.

 

Two of these courts, established in 1991 and 2011, are charged with examining the judges’ conduct from a religious and ideological standpoint. The process does not necessarily involve the defendant and the final decision, left to the Head of the Judiciary, is not subject to appeal.

 

Detentions, interrogations, and trials: 1979-1980

Pre-trial detentions

The charges upon which the accused were arraigned were often extremely broad. Defendants generally had no access to legal counsel nor to their file and the evidence against them prior to the trial.

Trials

Witnesses might be called, or the statement of persons with relevant information read into the court’s record. Accusation witnesses could come forward the day of the trial to give evidence against the accused, but in most cases, defense witnesses were not allowed in court. There was no automatic right of a defendant to cross-examine witnesses or to know the source of the evidence against him. The defendant had an opportunity to state his side of the matter and attempt to refute what was said against him, but the final decision was solely up to the discretion of the religious judge.

Appeal processes

The judgments of the Revolutionary Courts were not subject to appeal. The convicts were generally executed within a few hours of the judgment.

Human rights violations

Based on the available information, the following human rights may 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 not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation.

UDHR, Article 12, ICCPR, Article 17.1.

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 one’s own choosing or the right to legal aid. The right to communicate with one’s 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, and 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.

Trial rights

·       The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.

ICCPR, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

·       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.

Judgment rights

·       The right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.

ICCPR, Article 14.5.

·       The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

ICCPR, Article 6.4.

Capital punishment

·       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.

About this Case

was very popular among the officers of Air Force, and there was no evidence against him. Did his popularity earn him a death sentence?

The news regarding the execution of Mr. Nader Jahanbani, son of Helen and Amanollah, was published in Keyhan newspaper on March 13, 1979 and Ettela’at newspaper on March 14, 1979. Information regarding the execution was also obtained through electronic forms and emails sent to Abdorrahman Boroumand Center from Mr. Jahanbani’s son and people who knew him closely on March 7, April 1, and November 17, 2009; January 22, 2010; July 26 and August 7, 8, and 17, 2011; May 17 and August 23, 2012; September 16, 2014; and January 21 and 28, 2019. Many other official and unofficial sources were used for additional information (1). 

Lt. General Nader Jahanbani is one of 438 victims listed in a March 13, 1980 Amnesty International report. The report lists defendants who were convicted by Revolutionary Tribunals in the period from their inception until 12 August 1979. The list of victims and charges is drawn from sources including translations of indictments, reports of trials carried out by local and foreign media and the bulletins of the official Pars News Agency reports.

Mr. Jahanbani, nicknamed the “blue-eyed general”, was born on April 16, 1928 in Tehran. His mother was a Russian immigrant and his father was a commander of the army during the reign of Reza Pahlavi who was appointed to the Ministry during the reign of Reza Pahlavi and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and was a Senator for the last years of his life. Mr. Jahanbani’s military rank was lieutenant general in the Imperial Iranian Air Force.

Mr. Jahanbani was married with two children (Ettela’at newspaper, March 14, 1979; Electronic Form, August 8, 2011).

According to his relatives, Mr. Jahanbani had been interested in flying since childhood (Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013). He graduated from Russia’s piloting university and attended the jet pilot training school in Germany at a US-based training site (Electronic Form, August 8, 2011; Acrojet Film’s YouTube Channel, January 26, 2015).

Mr. Jahanbani had been interested in flying since childhood.

After returning to Iran, Mr. Jahanbani established the Acrojet competitive jet flight team (2) called the “Golden Crown” in the Imperial Army and was the head of the team for some time. The team, which disbanded after the Revolution, had won second place in world championships (Imperial Army website, November 9, 2012). Mr. Jahanbani’s last position was Deputy Commander of the Imperial Army Air Force (Keyhan, March 13, 1979; Rouzegareno magazine, August/September 2002). He was also the last president of the Sports Organization. Some people believe that he managed the organization professionally and scientifically, and under his leadership Iran’s soccer team appeared at the FIFA World Cup for the first time. His efforts to “popularize athletics” have also been notable. There are reports showing his efforts to develop sports facilities in less developed suburbs (Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013; Ferdousi-e Emrouz weekly newspaper, September 12, 2012; Rouzegareno magazine, August/September 2002).

In addition to Mr. Jahanbani’s high level of discipline and professional rigor in dealing with the officers, he paid attention to noncommissioned officers and supported them (Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013; ABC interview, January 21, 2019).

People who were close to Mr. Jahanbani, those who knew him through the Air Force, and people who knew him through athletics, described Mr. Jahanbani as a capable, disciplined, and punctual manager and a brave, patriotic, diligent, and honest person (Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013; Ferdousi-e Emrouz weekly newspaper, September 12, 2012; ABC interview, January 21, 2019).

Mr. Jahanbani was an athlete and devoted most of his leisure time to sports. He knew how to ski, water ski, and play tennis. He was also a skilled horseman and was a champion in national competition. His friends described Mr. Jahanbani as a patient, moral, and educated teacher (Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013; Manoto TV, February 26, 2016; ABC interview, January 21 and 28, 2019).

Mr. Jahanbani’s “courage and composure” during his detention were mentioned by one of the prison’s guards.

Arrest and detention

According to available information, Mr. Jahanbani was arrested on February 11, 1979, between 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM at Doshan Tappeh Airport and transferred to the Refah School. Mr. Jahanbani was held for a month on the second floor of the headquarters of the Islamic Revolutionary Committee, in a hallway where directors, officers, and other influential people related to the Pahlavi dynasty were being held. During his detention, he was denied visiting his family and, like other prisoners at that time, did not have access to a lawyer (Keyhan, March 13, 1979; Email from Mr. Jahanbani’s son, August 16, 2011; Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013).

Mr. Jahanbani’s “courage and composure” during his detention were mentioned by one of the prison’s guards, as well as the reporter who met him at that time (Ferdousi-e Emrouz weekly newspaper, September 12, 2012; Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013).

There were no plaintiffs, witnesses, or attorneys present at any court trials.

Trial

In the middle of February 1979, the first session of the court was held at the Alawi High School No. 2, which was used as a Special Revolutionary Court. During this session, Mr. Jahanbani was tried along with 25 other officers and directors related to the Pahlavi dynasty. There is no detailed information regarding this session.  According to available information, the trial was not completed at this session (Ettela’at, February 16 and 17, 1979; Keyhan, February 20, 1979). On March 12, 1979, Mr. Jahanbani was tried for the second time in a public trial (Electronic Form, September 16, 2014; Keyhan, March 13, 1979; Ettela’at, March 14, 1979). There were no plaintiffs, witnesses, or attorneys present at any court trials.

Charges

Some of Mr. Jahanbani’s administrative posts were listed in the indictment, and his involvement with high-level management positions during the former government was considered to be a crime and the general charges of “acting against [national] security and insurrection to undermine the basis of independence and corruption on earth and moharebeh (war) against God and deputy of Imam” were brought against him. According to the indictment: “Mr. Jahanbani occupied sensitive military positions and recently some sports- related positions and so on, [associated] with a regime that dominated Iran by abolishing the national and legitimate government in an outrageous manner and in accordance with foreigners’ will, and took the country down and destroyed it to protect foreigners’ interests and against Shari’a and against the country’s interests by acting against [national] security and through insurrection to undermine the basis of independence and corruption on earth and moharebeh (war) against God and the deputy of the Imam and the evidence of the charges is the occupation of other positions, which there is no need to describe one by one. In accordance with Shari’a laws and governing law at the time that crimes were committed, it is requested that the General Prosecutor of the Islamic Revolution make a judicial review and issue a death sentence and the confiscation of his personal property and the amount of his property that had been transferred to his children and close relatives with the intention of evading liability” (Ettela’at, March 14, 1979).

Mr. Jahanbani appeared at the last court session with a signboard hanging around his neck on which had been written “Agent of Corruption.”

Mr. Jahanbani appeared at the last court session with a signboard hanging around his neck on which had been written “Agent of Corruption” (Fasli Digar website, May 22, 2012; Rouzegareno magazine, August/September 2002).

A judicial member who served as a judge in the trial and interrogated Mr. Jahanbani, called Mr. Jahanbani’s father a Russian agent and Mr. Jahanbani himself an agent of the CIA and Zionism. He stated that Mr. Jahanbani “was the commander of the operation against Muslim warriors and proponents of the Islamic Republic during the months of revolution” (Rouzegareno magazine, August/September 2002).

The validity of the criminal charges brought against these defendants cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial. International human rights organizations have drawn attention to reports indicating that Islamic Republic authorities have brought trumped-up charges against their political opponents and executed them for alleged drug trafficking, sexual, and other criminal offences. Each year Iranian authorities sentence to death hundreds of alleged common criminals, following judicial processes that fail to meet international standards. The exact number of people convicted based on trumped-up charges is unknown.

Evidence of guilt

At the end of the trial court for the former regime leaders, someone asked one of the judges about Mr. Jahanbani and the reason he was considered “responsible for recent carnage and killings” even though he never held military command. The judge replied: “Look at the stars and the crown on his badge: if he wasn’t a criminal, he would have never become a commander” (Electronic Form, July 26, 2011).

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

“Write it down that Nader Jahanbani is proud of everything he has done so far,” said Mr. Jahanbani to a journalist who had visited him during the first days of his arrest.

Defense

Although Mr. Jahanbani would have been able to leave the country, he rejected some of his family members’ suggestions to do so. He believed: “I am a soldier of this country. I will never leave my homeland” (Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013).

No details are available on Mr. Jahanbani’s defense at the first hearing session. According to available information, at the second hearing session and after the indictment was read he said in court: "I have no particular defense, but I have never done anything against the revolution. At any rate, it’s no longer an important issue, and I’m ready to be executed” (Ettela’at, March 14, 1979; Electronic Form, January 22, 2010). Regarding the charge of espionage brought against his father and himself, Mr. Jahanbani stated: “My father was not a Russian spy, but an Iranian officer who studied in Russia. I have never been an agent for a [foreign] country, but I was the best and most talented Iranian pilot in the United States to fly over the clouds” (Rouzegareno magazine, August/September 2002; Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013).

Mr. Jahanbani had previously told a journalist who had visited him during the first days of his arrest to “Write it down that Nader Jahanbani is proud of everything he has done so far” (Rouzegareno magazine, August/September 2002).

According to individuals who knew Mr. Jahanbani closely, he was very popular among Air Force officers. Mr. Jahanbani’s son stated that his charges were baseless, and believes his popularity in the Air Force was the reason that Mr. Jahanbani was executed (Email from  Mr. Jahanbani’s son, August 16, 2011; ABC interview, January 21, 2019).

The judge: “Look at the stars and the crown on his badge: if he wasn’t a criminal, he would have never become a commander.”

A summary of the defects of Mr. Jahanbani Legal Proceedings

According to available information, Mr. Jahanbani was sentenced to death solely base on the fact that he was a member of the military in the former government. Only general and vague terms were mentioned in the indictment and there is no evidence of any particular “crime” he had committed. This is despite the fact that it is required that in an indictment, the accused person’s alleged crimes and victims of those crimes be identified clearly and in detail. It is also necessary to mention the evidence proving the crime.

On the other hand, Mr. Jahanbani was tried and executed on the charges of “corruption on earth.” While the crimes “moharebeh and corruption on earth” were not mentioned in the governing law of that time, judges issued the sentence based on religious jurisprudence. However, in the religious jurisprudential sources, the aspect and definition of corruption on earth are not completely clear and the definition is subject to interpretation. This is contrary to the principle of “the legality of crime and punishment” and against the Shari’a rule of “no punishment except in accordance with law.”

Another issue worthy of considering is that of judges’ competence. After the revolution and the formation of Revolutionary Courts in Iran, none of the people who served as judges in these courts had the necessary educational and legal background and were not familiar with legal issues. A judgment issued by a person who does not have the required competency is illegal.

“Though innocent, I accept this death with great courage and bravery.”

Judgment

On March 13, 1979, the Special Revolutionary Court sentenced Mr. Nader Jahanbani to death on the charge of “corruption on earth.” Less than two hours later, before 7:00 AM, the sentence was carried out at Qasr Prison as Mr. Jahanbani was executed by firing squad along with 10 others (Keyhan, March 13, 1979; Electronic Form, September 16, 2014).

Mr. Jahanbani was not allowed to visit his family before the execution. His family heard news of his execution on the radio (Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013; Email, August 17, 2011). Mr. Jahanbani’s mother was the only family member who was allowed to be present at his burial. A letter written by Mr. Jahanbani remains. In this letter, Mr. Jahanbani wrote to his family: “Though innocent, I accept this death with great courage and bravery. If it is possible, bury me next to my father’s grave.” However, it was not possible for his family to fulfil this request and bury him in Imamzadeh Abutaleb in Robat Karim where his father was buried (Anush Jahanbani’s YouTube Channel, January 25, 2015; Email, August 17, 2011; Wikipedia page for Amanollah Jahanbani; and the official website of  Behesht-e Zahra (cemetery) in Tehran).

Following the execution of Mr. Jahanbani, all property belonging to him and his son was confiscated. His son and one of his brothers were also detained for some time. Mr. Jahanbani’s son was detained for six months, but was released because there were no complaints against him and also because his staff wrote a statement in his favor (Email from Mr. Jahanbani’s son, August 16, 2011; Deutsche Welle, October 29, 2013).

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(1) The additional sources: Keyhan newspaper, February 16 and 18, 1979; Ettela’at, February 16 and 17, 1979; Rouzegareno magazine, August/September 2002; Ferdousi-e Emrouz weekly newspaper, September 12, 2012; Deutsche Welle Farsi, October 29, 2013; Fasli Digar website, May 22, 2012; Anush Jahanbani’s YouTube Channel, January 25, 2015; Imperial Army website, November 9, 2012; Manoto TV website, Tunnel-e Zaman TV Show, February 26, 2016; Acrojet Film’s YouTube Channel, January 26, 2015; Wikipedia page for Amanollah Jahanbani; and the official website of  Behesht-e Zahra (cemetery) in Tehran.
(2) Acrojet teams are teams of jet aircraft which perform in competitions or ceremonies.

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