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

Hossein Vahdat-e Haq

About

Age: 56
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Execution: February 28, 1982
Location: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Shooting
Charges: Religious offense

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: 1981-1988

Pre-trial detentions

The accused were held, sometimes without being charged, for months or years in overcrowded prisons. During their detention, prisoners of conscience, and in particular supporters of political opposition groups or members of religious or ethnic minorities, were routinely subject to physical and psychological torture. Interrogators used torture, authorized by the post-revolutionary law of Ta’zir (Discretionary Punishment Law), to obtain confessions of guilt or to induce repentance. The line between trial and interrogation was often blurred by the fact that the same individual would function as prosecutor, interrogator and judge.

Trials

Executed detainees may or may not have been tried formally. Prisoners of conscience were often tried through a summary process that might have lasted only a few minutes. When disclosed, charges facing the defendants were often vague or based on coerced confessions. Defendants had no access to attorneys, and they might not have been allowed to defend themselves.

Appeal processes

Convicts could not appeal their sentence and were often executed shortly after their conviction. Their execution was not necessarily announced.

Human rights violations

Based on the available information, the following human rights 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 to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest his or her religion or belief.

    UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2; Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.

    In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to “have or to adopt” a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one’s religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.

  • The right, as a member of a religious or ethnic minority, to enjoy his or her own culture or to profess and practice his or her own religion.

    UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 27.

  • The right to equality before the law and the right to equal protection of the law.

    UDHR, Article 7; ICCPR, Article 26.

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 his or her own choosing or the right to legal aid. The right to communicate with his or her 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, 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 and Article 14.3.c.

  • The right to defense through an attorney or legal aid. The right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one and 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

A masterful electrical engineer, educated in several countries, Mr. Vahdat-e Haq helped Baha’is fired from their jobs after the revolution to re-tool for new trades, himself becoming C.E.O. of a Baha’i-owned gas company, Asan Gaz.

The Baha’is in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Background

“Baha’i is not a religion, it is a political party. It is a party that was initially supported by the British and is now supported by America. They [the Baha’is] are spies...”

Ayatollah Khomeini, Founder of the Islamic Republic*

“The Qur’an recognized only the People of the Book as religious communities. Others are pagans. Pagans must be eliminated.”

Iranian Attorney General, Seyed Moussavi-Tabrizi**

“The punishment for a Mortad-e Fetri [apostate who was born in a Muslim family] is death and his repentance is not accepted.”

Head of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Courts, Ayatollah Gilani***

The authorities of the Islamic Republic have subjected the members of the Baha’i religious community of Iran (the largest minority, with approximately 300,000 members in 1979****) to systematic harassment and persecution, depriving them of their most fundamental human rights. The Baha’i religion is not recognized under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, and Iranian authorities refer to it as a heresy. As a result, the Baha’is have been denied the rights associated with the status of a religious minority; they cannot profess and practice their faith, and are banned from public functions. Discrimination under the law and in practice has subjected them to abuse and violence.*

The information about Mr. Seyed Hossein Vahdat-e Haq has been drawn from interviews with his wife, Ms. Paridokht Vahdat-e Haq, his and her petitions to various authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, his letter from prison (Feb. 4, 1982; from Ms. Mahmehr Golestaneh’s book A Tribute to the Faithful), two court verdicts, and official correspondence. His name (spelled “Husayn Vahdat-i-Haq”) is among the 206 Iranian Baha’is listed in a 1999 report published by the Baha’i International Community. The report, Iran’s Secret Blueprint for the Destruction of a Religious Community, documents the persecution of the members of the Faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran and lists the Baha’is killed since 1978.

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was born on August 6, 1925 in Shiraz. He graduated from the military high school, and in September/October 1947 he was promoted to Second Lieutenant. He married in April/May 1950, and he and his wife migrated to Tehran, where he started studying electronic engineering and telecommunications. He continued his education in Electrical Engineering at the University of Stuttgart (Germany). He returned to Iran in 1959, holding a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. He travelled to Germany and Denmark several times to attend trainings; he studied in France for a year and a half.

Before the Revolution, his superior offered Mr. Vahdat-e Haq a promotion. However, according to his spouse, the fact that he was a Baha’i became an obstacle to this promotion. The 1979 Revolution led to Mr. Vahdat-e Haq’s dismissal from the army without pension. Subsequently, he petitioned, among others, the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Council. His petitions contained elaborated argumentation about the rights of the Baha’is, referring to verses of the Quran and Ayatollah Khomeini’s statements.

As many other Baha’is were also discharged from their jobs, Mr. Vahdat-e Haq became a member of an occupational committee, established by the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly to teach various skills to the newly unemployed Baha’is. Mr. Vahdat-e Haq soon started working as the chief executive officer of a gas company called Asan Gaz, owned by other Baha’i individuals. He was not politically active.

According to his wife, she received a false phone summons by an unidentified individual on April 8, 1979, and, a week before his arrest, their house was under surveillance by plain-clothed persons.

The arrest and execution of Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was not the end of his family’s ordeal. His property and that of his wife and children were confiscated, and in 1984 his wife was arrested and detained for three months.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was arrested on September 30, 1981, at 1:30 p.m. in Asan Gaz Company by two representatives of the Islamic Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office. He was taken to the prison of the Committee to Combat Vice (Dayereh-ye Mobarezeh ba Monkerat). On the day of his arrest, the authorities searched his house, sealed some rooms, including his wife’s room (where she had her clothes), and seized jewelry, rugs, television and radio sets, and his daughter’s violin, as a “forbidden object.” The family car was confiscated in December 1981. In July 1982, the authorities unsealed the doors to the rooms.

In a visit with his wife, two days after his arrest, Mr. Vahdat-e Haq looked pale and stated that the prison guards had not given him any food; some Zoroastrian prisoners shared their ration of bread with him. He also told his wife that he had to sleep on a wet floor in the cellar of the prison. Two armed prison guards monitored this visit. Later that day, his wife brought some food to the prison, but the guards did not give it to Mr. Vahdat-e Haq until it was spoiled, a day after. In subsequent visits, Ms. Vahdat-e Haq noticed that her husband always looked pale and had lost weight.

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was transferred to the Qasr prison on December 12, 1981, and fingerprinted and photographed the following day. In a letter dated February 4, 1982, Mr. Vahdat-e Haq wrote that he was detained with common criminals in dirty and unhealthy conditions; he coughed and had a cold and chest-pain. He added that prison guards humiliated prisoners.

Trial

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was tried at the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal to Combat Vice. The Tribunal was held in three sessions in Tehran on November 24, 25, and 26, 1981.

Charges

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was charged with “strong belief in Baha’ism, serious efforts in proselytizing this wayward sect … and using the facilities of the Asan Gaz company, as its chief executive officer, in order to train individuals and send them to other cities, and having written letters, which he claimed were petitions to the authorities, but which were, in fact, insults to the authorities and the regime of the Islamic Republic” (the verdict of the court).

The Judge orally told his wife that Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was an apostate since he had converted from Islam to the Baha’i faith.

Evidence of guilt

According to Ms. Vahdat-e Haq, at the time of arrest the officers found Mr. Vahdat-e Haq’s petitions to the authorities, including the Supreme Leader, and to the Pension department of the Army regarding his discharge from the army without pension, as well as a book of Baha’i prayers.

Defense

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq wrote in letters that “there was no trace of any misconduct in my 33-year long service with the army” (petition to Ayatollah Khomeini) and that he was always “obedient to the regime and the government” (letter from prison). He was denied the right to be represented by an attorney.

According to his wife, regarding the confiscation of their property, the religious judge told her in a visit that “detention is costly” and that “Baha’is are good but their religion is bad.” He also told her that according to the interrogator, Mr. Vahdat-e Haq proselytized, and that he would be freed if he recanted.

Regarding the “apostasy” charge, Ms. Vahdat-e Haq told the judge that Mr. Vahdat-e Haq’s father was a Muslim who became a Baha’i and therefore Mr. Vahdat-e Haq is considered to have been born into a Baha’i family. The judge replied that Mr. Vahdat-e Haq had voluntarily converted from Islam to the Baha’i faith as evident in his quotes from the Quran in his petitions to the authorities regarding his discharge from the army, and hence he was an apostate.

Judgment

The Islamic Revolutionary Court to Combat Vice called Mr. Vahdat-e Haq a “corruptor on earth” and condemned him to death. The family was not informed of this ruling as his spouse was told that Mr. Vahdat-e Haq had been sentenced to imprisonment and transferred to Evin prison. According to his wife, the High Judicial Council confirmed the ruling, stating that unless he repented and denounced his faith, he was condemned to execution.

Mr. Hossein Vahdat-e Haq was shot by firing squad in Qasr prison in Tehran on February 28, 1982. His body was never returned to his family. His wife received his will five years later, only after having petitioned various authorities.

Following the execution, the authorities continued to harass Ms. Vahdat-e Haq regarding their apartment building that belonged to her and her children. In the winter of 1982, she was twice forcefully expelled from the apartment she owned, as the property was de facto confiscated. She was eventually allowed to live in parts of her apartment, although she was deprived of the rental income used to pay her mortgage and taxes, both of which she was asked to pay. Despite many letters and petitions to various authorities, and some rulings in her favor, she was asked to either pay rent for her own apartment or buy it back. After years of effort, an expropriation sentence was issued on May 27, 1991, 10 years after the execution of her husband. Her children’s apartments were sold and she was forced to leave the premises on December 12, 1999.

 

*The Islamic Republic Penal Code grants no rights to Baha’is, and the courts have denied them the right of redress, or protection against assault, murder, and other forms of persecution and abuse. In so doing, the courts have treated Baha’is as unprotected citizens or “apostates,” citing eminent religious authorities whose edicts are considered to be a source of law equal to acts of Parliament. The Founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, made execution a punishment for the crime of apostasy and decreed that a Muslim would not be punished for killing an apostate.

Banishment from public life has seriously damaged the Baha’is’ professional, economic, and social lives. Soon after the revolution, a Ministry of Labor directive called for dismissal from public office and all governmental organizations and associations those “who belong to any of the misguided sects recognized by all Muslims as heretical deviations from Islam, or to organizations whose doctrine and constitution are based on rejection of the divinely-revealed religions.” Finally, the mandatory requirement of specifying religion in application forms and official documents (lifted recently in some areas under international pressure) has seriously limited Baha’is’ freedoms and opportunities in all areas of their lives, including divorce, inheritance, access to universities, and travel.

In practice, since 1980, thousands of Baha’is have lost their jobs, pensions, businesses, properties, and educational opportunities. By banning the Baha’i administration, including Spiritual Assemblies -- the elected bodies that lead and administer the affairs of Baha’i communities at both local and national levels -- the Islamic Republic has denied Baha’is the right to meet, elect, and operate their religious institutions. Further, the Iranian government has executed at least 200 Baha’is and has imprisoned, tortured, and pressured to convert to Islam scores more.

Because of the unanimous international condemnation of the persecution of this quietist (apolitical) religious community, Iranian authorities do not always admit that the Baha’is are being punished for their religious beliefs. Therefore judicial authorities have often charged Baha’is with offenses such as “being involved in counter-revolutionary activities,” “having supported the former regime,” “being agents of Zionism,” or “being involved with prostitution, adultery, and immorality.”

* Speech May 28, 1983, Sahife-ye Nur, Volume 17.

**The Baha’i Question: Iran’s Secret Blueprint for the Destruction of a Religious community: An Examination of the Persecution of the Baha’is of Iran, Baha’i International Community, 1999, p. 27. The quote was published in English in London’s Sunday Times, 20 September 1981 and cited in The Persecution of the Baha’is of Iran, 1844-1984, by Douglas Martin, Baha’i Studies, volume 12/13, 1984

*** Kayhan, October 19, 1981.

**** ‘Slow Death for Iran’s Baha’is’ by Richard N. Ostling, Time Magazine, 20 February 1984. Also see ‘The Persecution of the Baha’is of Iran, 1844-1984, by Douglas Martin, Baha’i Studies, volume 12/13, 1984, p. 3. There is no current information about the number of Baha’is in Iran.

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