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

Ebrahim Berukhim (Berookhim)

About

Age: 30
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Judaism
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Killing: July 31, 1980
Location of Killing: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Espionage
Age at time of offense: 30

About this Case

He was simply a prosperous jewish businessman.

News of the execution of Mr. Ebrahim Berukhim, son of Ess’haq, was submitted through electronic form to the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center on August 26, 2019, by a person close to him. (Electronic form). News of this execution and that of 14 other individuals had also been published in Kayhan and Jomhuri-e Eslami newspapers on July 31, 1980, quoting the State Prosecutor General’s Public Relations Office. Additional information about this case was obtained from Kayhan newspaper (May 4, 1980), Jomhuri-e Eslami newspaper (May 5, 1980), Shahyad Publication website in Israel, and in articles written by Mr. Karmel Melamed about Mr. Berukhim (March 4, 2004, and July 23, 2010).

Mr. Berukhim was a single and wealthy Jewish businessman. He had completed his college education at the University of Denver in the United States, and had returned to Iran in the mid 1970’s. After serving his mandatory military service, he became a partner in Tehran’s Imperial hotel. According to his relatives, Mr. Berukhim was a successful man without any political affiliations. He had an older sister whom he was very close to.

In the early days of the Revolution, Mr. Berukhim was arrested at his hotel by the Islamic regime’s armed agents. The agents blindfolded and took him to Tehran’s Qasr Prison, and took over his hotel. Mr. Berukhim was in jail for two months. His family was able to obtain his release through bribing prison officials. His family was trying to take the hotel back. Therefore, every week, one of them would go to Evin Prison to answer questions, because the authorities had told them they would give them their hotel back if they answered their questions.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Berukhim was arrested for the second time in May 1980 along with his 82-year-old father. He had gone to Evin Prison with his father to discuss the return of their hotel, which the officials had promised them they would do, but they were both arrested instead.

There is no further information about Mr. Berukhim’s arrest. According to one of his friends, he appeared to have been tortured in prison because of the signs and marks on the bottom of his feet.

Trial

Markaz (Central) Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch One, tried Mr. Berukhim and three other members of his family on May 4, 1980; they were represented by counsel. No information is available about the trial session(s).

Charges

The charges brought against Mr. Berukhim and his family were “plundering and pillaging the country’s wealth and assets through establishing a hotel and spending millions of Rials of the country’s budget in the form of a loan in said hotel; taking millions of Rials of currency abroad during the country’s critical times; establishing an espionage center for American and Israeli operatives and their cronies; establishing centers for prostitution and corruption and destroying society’s moral values; violating workers’ rights and insulting them; having close relations with the wretched Pahlavi [Royal] court and cooperating with the defunct SAVAK [the previous regime’s security and information organization]; the written report by the hotel’s workers’ representative and members of the representative council [attesting to] Israeli pilots staying at the hotel, his residing at the hotel, and the hotel manager cooperating with the Merogroup spy ring under the pretext of vegetarianism”. (Jomhuri-e Eslami newspaper, May 5, 1980). In the media, however, Mr. Berukhim’s charge was stated as “spying for Israel”. (Kayhan newspaper, May 5, 1980).

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant 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 the Islamic Republic authorities have brought trumped-up charges, including drug trafficking, sexual, and other criminal offences, against their opponents (including political, civil society activists, as well as unionists and ethnic and religious minorities). 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 and executed based on trumped-up charges is unknown.

Evidence of guilt

The evidence presented against Mr. Berukhim and three other individuals consisted of “testimony of more than 300 workers employed by the hotel; currency receipts from a New York bank; existence of Israeli coins and the Moshe Dayan medal and other Israeli coins; the Defendant’s letters to his family; the Berukhim family’s connection to the United States; having the American flag on his desk; conducting the Jewish Association meetings at the hotel; conducting Zionist meetings at the hotel [with the participation of people] like Elghanian*; the hotel workers’ representative’s written report; having close relations with the wretched Pahlavi court; cooperation with the defunct SAVAK; and violating the hotel workers’ rights and insulting them”. (Jomhuri-e Eslami newspaper, May 5, 1980).

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic use of severe torture and solitary confinement to obtain confessions from detainees and have questioned the authenticity of confessions obtained under duress.

Defense

According to people close to Mr. Berukhim, his family and friends advised and asked him to leave the country when he was released from prison after his first arrest, but he did not comply. He stated that he was innocent and had done nothing illegal.

He had no connection or relation to any operatives of Iran’s previous regime. According to his friends, the [real] reason for framing him and bringing false claims against him was that they (the officials of the Islamic Republic) wanted to expropriate the wealth, assets, and homes of Jews. (Articles written by Mr. Karmel Melamed). There is no information regarding Mr. Berukhim’s defense.

A Summary of the Legal Defects in the Adjudication of Mr. Ebrahim Berukhim’s Case

According to information published in the newspapers at the time, Mr. Ebrahim Berukhim was sentenced to death on the charge of Efsad fel-Arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”) through spying for the State of Israel and cooperating with the SAVAK (the Shah’s information and security organization”).

After the 1979 Revolution, Iran’s judicial system underwent tremendous changes that were based on [the new regime’s] ideological worldview. Because of these changes, many of the fair trial guarantees existing in Iranian law were simply scrapped. This was particularly the case in revolutionary courts that were instituted pursuant to a decree issued by the Leader of the Revolution and had no basis in law. The judges sitting on the bench in revolutionary courts were chosen mostly from among clerics affiliated with and loyal to the government, and had no judicial experience whatsoever. In these courts, trials took place based on Islamic laws and regulations, and the judge was called the Shari’a Judge [or Ruler]. These conditions resulted in violations of due process and the principles of fair trial, particularly in political and security-related cases.

The Defendant in the present case also fell victim to those same conditions, much like thousands of other cases. In this case, the Shari’a Judge most probably tried the Defendant on the charge of Moharebeh (“waging war against God”) and Efsad fel-Arz, whereas no such crime was defined anywhere in the criminal laws of the time. Judges derived that crime from religious texts. Even in religious texts, however, Moharebeh consists of an act where an individual takes up arms within a group, and deprives a large segment of the populace of their safety and security. There was no sign or evidence of any use of weapons in this case. Furthermore, the defendants’ actions did not result in the people being deprived of security in any way whatsoever.

Another charge leveled against the Defendant was spying for Israel, whereas the crime of espionage consists of an individual putting classified information [at the disposal of or] turning the same over to people without standing or authorization. The Defendant in this case never held a position where he could have had access to classified information by any means.

One of the other charges brought against the Defendant was closeness to the Pahlavi court. Since Mr. Berukhim never held a military or civilian [government] post, his relations with individuals connected to the government cannot be defined as a crime. Other evidence presented, such as the American flag in his office or conducting conferences and meetings in his hotel have not been criminalized either in Shari’a law or in state laws in any manner whatsoever.

What can be said regarding expropriation of property is that, according to general principles of law, expropriation [also referred to as confiscation or seizure] is only possible when the property is acquired through [illegal means], acts contrary to public order. In the present case, even if certain acts such as espionage or proselytizing the Jewish faith were proven, it cannot be deduced that Mr. Berukhim’s wealth and assets were acquired through those means. Mr. Berukhim was a businessman who had acquired his wealth by conducting legal business activities. Conviction [on those charges] cannot constitute a reason for expropriation of his property without investigating and analyzing the sources of the acquisition of his assets.

Judgment

Markaz (Central) Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch One, found Mr. Berukhim to be Mofsed fel-Arz (“one who spreads corruption on Earth”) and sentenced him to death.

In the morning of July 31, 1980, Mr. Berukhim and 11 others were executed by a firing squad in Evin Prison’s yard. According to a friend, "they shot him with one bullet at point-blank range in his heart,”. His and his family’s property was expropriated.

After Mr. Berukhim’s execution, several of his friends went to Evin Prison to take delivery of his body but prison officials refused to turn his body over, insisting that “the Jewish infidel” was to be buried in a mass grave alongside the other people who had been executed that day. After some negotiations with the officials, they agreed to release Mr. Berukhim’s body provided a considerable amount of money was paid to them covering the cost of the bullets spent in his execution. According to Mr. Berukhim’s friend, “Ebi’s body was still warm at the Jewish cemetery morgue. They had desecrated his body with markers, and signs of torture with steel cables were visible at the bottom of his feet.”

Mr. Berukhim’s father was at the prison's hospital at the time of his son's execution and only learned of his son’s execution several weeks after once he was released from prison with the help of a huge bribe and reunited with his daughter's family in Germany.

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*Mr. Habibollah Elghanian, was the head of Tehran’s Jewish Association and one of Iran’s major businessmen. Mr. Elghanian was one of the first Jews to be executed after the Revolution. He was shot by a firing squad on May 9, 1979 in Tehran and all of his assets and properties were expropriated.

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