Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Abolqasem Zahra'i


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


Date of Killing: November, 1988
Location of Killing: Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Unspecified execution method
Charges: Counter revolutionary offense

About this Case

Mr. Abolqasem Zahra’i is listed among 3,208 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 mass execution of political prisoners which took place in 1988-89. Additional information regarding this execution was found on both the Bidaran and the Mojahedin websites.

Mr. Zahra’i was born in Borazjan. He was a high school graduate and a sympathizer of the People's Mojahedin of Iran Organization. During the Islamic Revolution, he actively participated in fighting against the previous regime. In 1982, while serving in the military, he was arrested for distributing Mojahedin Organization’s newsletters and press releases. He was released a year later.

Arrest and detention

There is no specific information on the defendant’s arrest and detention. According to the Mojahedin website, Mr. Abolqasem Zahra’i was arrested for second time in 1985. He was detained for three years before he was executed.


No information is available about his trial. Relatives of political prisoners executed in 1988-89 refute the legality of the judicial process that resulted in thousands of executions throughout Iran. In 1988 they wrote an open letter to then- Minister of Justice Dr. Habibi, in which they argued that the official secrecy surrounding these executions is proof of their illegality. They also noted that an overwhelming majority of these prisoners had been already been tried and sentenced to prison terms, which they were either serving or had completed serving at the time when they were retried and sentenced to death.


No charge was publicly leveled against the defendant. In their letters to the Minister of Justice (1988), and to the UN Special Rapporteur visiting Iran (February 2003), the victim’s families refer to the accusations used by the authorities 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 from the Leader of the Islamic Republic, 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 the PMOI's members as "hypocrites" who do not believe in Islam and "wage war against God" and states 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 contains no evidence provided against the defendant.


No information is available about the defendant’s defense. In their open letter, the families of the prisoners note that defendants were not given the opportunity to defend themselves in court. Against the assertion that prisoners were associated with guerrillas operating near the borders, the families refer to the isolation of their relatives during their detention: "Our children lived in most difficult conditions. Visits were limited to 10 minutes behind a glass divider via telephone every two weeks. During the past seven years, we witnessed that they were denied access to anything that would have allowed them to establish contacts outside their prisons' walls." Under such conditions the families reject the authorities’ claim that these prisoners were able to engage with the political groups outside Iran.


No detailed information is available about the defendant’s execution. Mr. Abolqasem Zahra’i was executed in November 1988.

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