Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Ezzatollah Ebrahimnejad


Age: 24
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Unknown


Date of Killing: July 9, 1999
Location of Killing: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Extrajudicial shooting
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

The following information about Mr. Ezzatollah Ebrahimnejad’s case has been gathered from the following sources: The websites of the newsletter of the students of Amir Kabir University (Interview with Ebrahimnejad’s brother, 12 July 2008, and conversation with Ebrahimnejad’s family lawyer, 21 May 2005); ISNA (Iranian Student News Agency), 8 July 2002, 10 May and 6 March 2003, 29 December, 30 January and 18 May 2005; Ruz,30 December 2005; Ezzatollah Ebrahimnejad’s weblog, 1 January and 11 February 2006; Cheshmandaz Iran, (Special issue) 9 July 2005; BBC News, 14 and 28 October 2006; Iran, 24 July 2001; and the Report of the United Nations Human Rights Commission of the United Nations for 2005.

Ezzatollah Ebrahimnejad, age 24, had graduated from the School of Law of the University of Ahvaz in 1998. In early summer of the same year, he was completing his term of military service in Tehran. He was known for his for love of literature, especially poetry. According to his close friends, he had cooperated with a number of literary journals in the city of Ahvaz and used to attend local literary group meetings. He had also befriended a number of university students in Ahvaz, Dezful and Poledokhtar. In Tehran too, he was in contact with university student circles and used to visit the dormitories of the University of Tehran during the weekends. One of his friends said that Ebrahimnejad had an energetic character and was an active and frequent participant in public marches and demonstrations, at times in the forefront of the lines. The report submitted to the court by the Ministry of Information also refers to Ebrahimnejad’s close contact with religious-nationalist circles and the Islamic associations of University students and his active participation in their public gatherings and demonstrations. On July 9, 1999, he had gone, as was his habit during holidays, to visit with his friends at the University campus.

The July 9, 1999 Incident

In the early morning hours of July 9, the day after students’ demonstrations to denounce the closing of the daily newspaper Salam, members of the Riot Guards, along with members of government supported militia in civilian clothes, known as Hezbollah’s Aides, raided the dormitories of the University of Tehran and began battering and seriously injuring many students, some of whom had been barely awake. The invaders then proceeded to savagely ransack the rooms and destroy or pilfer the students’ belongings.

The raid was apparently a reaction to the gathering of students to protest the closing of the reformist daily journal, Salam. The protests had flared up following the publication of a letter by Said Emami (one of the undersecretaries of the Ministry of Information who had been accused of complicity in the serial murder of the opponents and critics of the regime). The letter disclosed a government plan to tighten control over newspapers. An announcement posted on campus bulletin boards, called on students to congregate in protest to the restrictions imposed on, and the closing of, dissident journals. Answering the call, several hundred students gathered in front of the campus gate and began to shout slogans in praise of freedom and condemnation of tyranny. The students continued their march from the campus area to an adjacent street and finally returned to their dormitories. Some of the students, however, noticing the presence of security forces and plain-clothes militia, remained in the street and following a brief skirmish with the militia returned to their dormitories at the request of the president of the university.

Later on, following the raid of the dormitories by the riot police and plain-clothes militia, a number of students, along with the University president were arrested and taken away. Denouncing the violent and destructive police raid on their dormitories, a few thousand of shocked and angry students continued their demonstrations for another day. According to a BBC report, nearly 20,000 students had participated in one of the street demonstrations. Protestors in Tabriz University were also brutally attacked.

Furthermore, according to the report of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations for the year 2000, nearly 1500 individuals were arrested over the course of these demonstrations in Tehran, and, on the basis of the available evidence, at least 8 persons were killed in the demonstrations and the campus raid. The authorities, however, confirmed the death of only one of the demonstrators by gunfire: Ezzatollah Ebrahimnejad.

The Trial of the Accused in the Campus Raid

On March 4th 1999, pursuant to the complaint lodged by the injured students, began the trial of the personnel of the security forces who had been accused and indicted for the injuries suffered by a number of students in the campus “incident.” The trial was conducted in the 7th branch of the military court of the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The court dismissed the cases against Farhad Nazari, the commander of the uniformed soldiers and 17 plain-clothes security agents who had participated in the raid. Only a single conscript was convicted for the crime of stealing the electric shavers of some of the students. The court also ordered cash payment as compensation to the 34 students who had been severely beaten and some of whom had suffered broken hands, legs, jaws and other injuries during the raid. The compensation was to be determined according to the Islamic penal code for retribution. Mohsen Jamali was one of the students who was paid half of the legal compensation for the loss of his right eye.

Request for Judicial Review of the Case of Ebrahimnejad

Following the Campus Incident trial, the family of Ebrahimnejad in a letter, dated 10th January 2001, addressed to the Head of the Judiciary Power, requested that appropriate judicial authorities review the case of their son’s murder. The authors of the letter stated that, although more than 17 months have passed since their son’s murder, they have yet to receive any information from the judicial authorities regarding the status of his case. The family also expressed their deep disappointment that, in the trial of the accused in the campus raid, the court did not call for appropriate indictments in response to the complaints of the grief stricken family of the victim despite the fact that the family had already lodged a formal complaint against identified members of raiding groups.

Ebrahimnejad’s sister had also requested the judicial committee of the Majlis [the Islamic Republic’s Consultative Assembly] to call on the Judiciary to undertake necessary measures in order to bring the case to a just and satisfactory conclusion. (ISNA)

Furthermore, referring to the campus raids, Ebrahimnejad’s attorney emphasized the fact that in the Campus Raid of July 9th 1999 only two groups possessed fire arms: the security guards and the plain-clothes militia. Logically, therefore, the culprit must be sought in one of these two groups. (Ruz)

The Hearings in the Case of Ebrahimnejad’s Murder

So far (July 2009), there have been two hearings in the case of Ebrahimnejad’s murder. In the first instance, the hearing was held, without the presence of his family or their attorneys, in the 3rd branch of the Revolutionary Court. In this hearing, instead of dealing with suspected perpetrators of the crime, the Court accused Ebrahimnejad himself of the act of murder. In its verdict, made public by the Public Relations Office of the Court on July 21st 1999, the Court accused the very victim in the case of committing the following criminal acts: activities aimed at breaching Iran’s internal security by participating in illegal marches in the campus of the University of Tehran; verbal attacks against, and throwing stones at, government’s security agents; participation in meetings held to plot against the state’s authorities; contact with so-called nationalist-religious individuals; and finally aggressive confrontation with Hezbollah’s Aides. However, due to the death of the accused, the Court ordered the termination of judicial proceedings in the case. In its verdict covering the accusations, the Revolutionary Court referred to Ebrahimnejad’s death and opined that an armed individual, or individuals, present at the scene of the confrontations, must have mysteriously shot and killed him. Furthermore, the court announced that it lacks judicial competence to review the case of Ebrahimnejad’s murder and that the competent venue is the district criminal court of Tehran.

Reactions to the Court’s Verdict

In a letter addressed to Ayatollah Shahroudi, the Head of the Judiciary Power, Mohsen Rohami, the victim’s attorney, set forth his objections to the verdict issued by the Revolutionary court in the case of Ebrahimnejad as follows:

“In my letter of complaint, dated 14th July 2001, I specified my objections to the adjudication of the Campus Raid case and the court’s verdict of acquittal for the accused individuals. I would like, once again, to draw your attention to the verdict issued by the 3rd branch of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court in the case of Ezzatollah Ebrahimnejad and also to the interview of Mr. Hasan Moqaddas, the presiding judge of the court, and respectfully restate my objections as follows. I hereby request also that further judicially sanctioned investigations be ordered in the case.

As to the Court’s verdict, apart from several juridical errors, it suffers from the following major flaws: first, according to the basic principles of penal codes and the explicit intent of Article 6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Civilian and Revolutionary Courts, judicial proceedings must be ceased with the death of the accused party. In case the death has occurred prior to the start of criminal proceedings, no legal action can be instituted against the accused. Furthermore, even if an official report has been submitted and an indictment issued, the competent judicial authorities are neither bound nor allowed to institute criminal proceedings. In fact, Justice Department enforcement agents are legally bound to consider the case closed and thus terminate all investigative and judicial proceedings. However, if the accused dies after the start of criminal proceedings and before the issuance of the court’s verdict, the court shall issue a verdict ordering the termination of such proceedings, regardless of the merits or demerits of the indictment.

As to the court’s decision regarding the case of Mr. Ebrahimnejad, I call your attention to the following sentence in the final part of the verdict: “Therefore, on the basis of the preceding points and in view of the completion of the investigations, the court calls the hearings concluded and announces its decision as follows…” The key question is: “When had the investigations, the completion of which is assumed by the court, begun? Had it begun before or after the death of Mr. Ebrahimnejad? If it had begun prior to his death what were the crimes attributed to him and when, and by what judicial authority, had he been informed of the nature of the crimes he had allegedly committed? Judging by the date of the hearings, the verdict issued by the Court, and specially the dates of the letters to which the verdict refers, the investigations and judicial proceedings must have occurred between 2000 and 2001 which is after Mr. Ebrahimnejad’s death. It is clear, therefore, that the judicial proceedings against the late Mr. Ebrahimnejad have been in contravention with the basic and relevant legal and juridical principles. The Revolutionary Court’s inattention to these patently obvious facts is no less than astonishing.”

According to a report issued by ISNA, in his letter, Rohami has also brought up the following points: “In the Court’s verdict, Mr. Ebrahimnejad has been accused of activities aimed at breaching Iran’s internal security by participating in illegal marches at the campus of the University of Tehran; verbal attacks against, and throwing stones at, government’s security agents; participation in meetings held to plot against high-ranking government officials, contacts with persons of so-called nationalist-religious tendencies and aggressive confrontation with Hezbollah’s Aides. He has also been named as one of the most active participants in the student confrontations with the government security agents, before and after the July 9th incident. In other words, even after his death, Mr. Ebrahimnejad has been engaged in said activities.

Regardless of the false or true nature of such assertions, is it fair, or consistent with the basic principles covering the administration of justice, to level such accusations against someone who has long passed away and thus incapable of defending himself? Had the objective of the investigations- to which the presiding judge has referred- been the discovery of the cause and circumstances leading to the murder of Mr. Ebrahimnejad and identification and prosecution of the real perpetrators of the crime, then it stands in stark contradiction to the concluding section of the verdict issued at the end of the hearing which denies the intrinsic competence of the Revolutionary Court to review the case. The question of competence is usually addressed at the beginning of the hearing and before the court decides to proceed with the case. The content of the verdict, however, indicates that the presiding judge had intended to indict and prosecute the victim of the crime and not its real perpetrator.

According to said verdict, Ebrahimnejad had been mysteriously shot and killed by an armed person or persons. Furthermore, as stated in the verdict, one cannot isolate and review the circumstances surrounding his death from the prevailing atmosphere created by violent confrontations, multiple shootings by a variety of weapons, stone throwing and the effects of tear gas. Why is it, then, that the Revolutionary Court considers itself competent to judge the acts allegedly committed by Ebrahimnejad, such as stone throwing as acts against national security, while denying its competence to consider the acts of the armed murderer or murderers, who had discharged their weapons against the students, including the late Ebrah Nejad, as acts against Iran’s national security?

In his objection to the fairness of the Revolutionary Court’s verdict, Heshmatollah Ebrahimnejad, the victim’s brother, states that: “Our objection is based on the fact that in the last two years, the judicial authorities have not even asked members of our family if they are able to produce witnesses or pieces of evidence that might help the investigators in their search for the truth. Our objection is also based on the fact that the court has conducted its hearing and issued its verdict without the presence of our attorney.” He further states that: “We did have circumstantial evidence confirming that the late Ebrahimnejad had not been involved in the confrontations and that, in fact, he had spent Thursday night in dormitory no. 7 with his student friends from Ahvaz and had involuntarily gotten involved in the ensuing confrontation that transpired on Friday morning.” (Iran)

Mostafa Tajzadeh, political deputy for the Interior Minister at the time of the Ku-ye Daneshgah incident (July 9, 1999) said that “A list of names of some of the plainclothes operatives involved in the Ku-ye Daneshgah incident was made available to the Judiciary by the Supreme National Security Council. Why there was no further pursuit of the matter remains a question.” Tajzadeh told ISNA that “The Supreme National Security Council, which was responsible for pursuing the Ku-ye Daneshgah case, used ellipsis dots in the place of these individuals’ names in its own written report, because the presence of these plainclothes agents was undeniable.” Tajzadeh stated that “Starting March 2, 1998 – the moment the student gatherings before the dormitory were faced with disorder – we identified the plainclothes operatives and the names of a number of them were given to the Judiciary, and the identification of the individuals was followed up on in gatherings and protests. At length, this question ought to be directed at the Judiciary and those in charge of investigating the cases, because nothing practical and serious has been done.” (ISNA)

The Second Hearing, 2005

The second hearing, on 18th May 2005, was also held in the third branch of the Revolutionary Court with the victim’s family and their attorney present. According to the attorney: “In this hearing, we were asked if we suspected anyone to be the murderer. Since we were not ready to identify any person as such, once again we were obliged to point out that it is the function of the court and the prosecutor to conduct a thorough investigation regarding the case and prosecute the person whom they had found to be the actual perpetrator of the crime. The presiding judge declared that the case would remain active and the search to identify the suspect would continue.”

According to the available information, the Court did not investigate the type of gun which had fired the bullet causing Ebrahimnejad’s death. “If the police did not possess this type of gun, then it has to be the other armed group, namely the plain-clothed agents. There was not a third armed group that participated in the raid of the campus… We say that two groups were involved in the attack. If there was another group, please let us know. The first group was the security force; the second was the plain-clothed agents. The bullet which caused his death is still in his body. The type of the gun that fired it can be easily identified. Please find the gun and its owner.”

Doubts About the Nature of Ebrahimnejad’s Murder

According to the available information, Mr. Ebrahimnejad’s death was not an accident. In a conversation with an ISNA’s reporter, Mohsen Rohami, one of the first attorneys of Ebrahimnejad, stated that “Those plain clothed agents who have, without any legal justification, murdered Ezzat Ebrahimnejad must be held responsible, detained and prosecuted. Even if the suspect or suspects were government employees, and permitted to use force in such cases, they should not have aimed their fire at his feet and legs and not directly at his head.”

According to Ebrahimnejad’s sister: “We brought my brother’s corpse to our house and cleaned it. There was a deep stab wound in his thigh. We had been told that it was caused by the autopsy. There were, however, no signs of sutures on the thigh. There was also a patch of blue and black skin near his heel indicating the impact of a blow by a hard object. His back displayed the scars of strikes by a metal chain. His hands seemed to have been tightly tied together. The dark and empty socket of one eye indicated the point of impact of the fatal bullet. (Ruz)

One of Ezzatollah’s friends who had participated in the demonstrations stated that the trajectory of the bullet indicated that he had been shot through the temple at close range. Considering the chaotic scene of the confrontation, the rather long distance between the students and the Hezbollah’s Aides and the nature of the trauma, there was little doubt that Ezzatollah’s death had been caused not by a stray bullet, but by a carefully aimed weapon. (Iran-e Farda)

In his interview with Cheshmandaz-e Iran, the family’s attorney has also corroborated the statements of Ebrahimnejad’s attorney and sister regarding the nature of the visible wounds on the corpse. He has also asserted that the coroner’s report, too, confirms these statements. According to one of Mr. Ebrahimnejad’s attorneys, the examination of the bullet left in the body would have identified the exact provenance of the weapon and eventually its owner.

Two months after the raid, in an interview with Jomhuri-ye Eslami, Mr. Rahbarpour, the presiding judge of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court at the time, claims that the weapon used in the murder could not be traced to any member of the Revolutionary Guard. If this is the case, then the weapon used must have belonged to plain-clothes agents, since Ebrahimnejad, an unknown young conscript, a fledgling sensitive poet with a humble background, could not possibly have had any vengeful enemy intent on taking his life.

In the sixth anniversary of the incident at the campus of the University of Tehran (2005), Ebrahimnejad’s parents announced that they were not seeking revenge for the murder of their son and would forgive the murderer if he admits his responsibility for the crime. Recently, in response to an insulting article authored by a former leader of Hezbollah’s Aides, Ezzatollah’s parents have written the following: “On 9th July 1999, and in the dark of night, you dragged our son to a secluded corner, and with your friends help, subdued Ezzat with brutal blows of knives and metal chains. It was, however, Mehdi Safari Tabar, a son of Eslamshahr’s Friday imam, who murdered our son with a gun’s bullet aimed at his left eye. We were alone and powerless to bring you to the court of justice. But be assured that God almighty will try you in its divine court where there are neither commanders or soldiers or anyone else to let you free.”

On October 18, 2009, the Etemad newspaper reported that Mr. Ebrahimnejad’s gravestone at Behesht-e Zahra in Pol-e Dokhtar (Lorestan Province) was destroyed and replaced with another which “did not mention how he died and the date was not July 9. Rather, the gravestone said that Ezzatollah Ebrahimnejad died on July 10, 1999.”

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Ezatollah Ebrahimnejad’s Legal Proceedings

Pursuant to the Law on the Use of Weapons by Armed Forces in Exigent Circumstances of 1994, there are specific conditions and requirements for the use of firearms. First, they must be used in exigent and circumstances where their use is imperative and there is no other option but resorting to firearms. Secondly, the order in which the necessary steps are to be taken, including firing into the air and shooting below the waist, must be observed. In the present case, Mr. Ebrahimnejad had posed absolutely no security threat and there was no need to resort to the use of firearms. Furthermore, had there been a necessity to do so, he should not have been fired in the head first. Therefore, pursuant to Iranian law, the shooter’s action constitutes intentional murder.

In accordance with Iranian criminal law, murder is a crime that has public as well as private aspects. From a public law standpoint, the prosecutor has the duty to prosecute the suspects and there is no need for a plaintiff to file a complaint to trigger investigations. Also, from a private law standpoint, if the victim’s next of kin demand that the murderer be punished, the prosecutor’s office has the duty to conduct investigations and find the murderer. In this case, the next of kin and their attorneys brought a complaint against the defendants. Tehran Revolutionary Court, Branch Three, expressly stated that Mr. Ebrahimnejad was killed from a bullet wound, even though it declared that it was not the competent authority to hear the murder case. There is, therefore, no doubt that this is a case of intentional murder and it was necessary for the prosecutor’s office to conduct the necessary investigations to identify the murderer. Nevertheless, the court that was convened in 2005 to hear the case, wanted the next of kin to present the murderer, whereas, first, the next of kin had absolutely no duty to present the murderer and it was, on the contrary, the prosecutor’s office’s duty to find the murderer, and second, the statement indicated that the prosecutor’s office was in no way interested or engaged in identifying the murderer. For instance, it could have sent the bullet recovered from the murder victim’s body to a forensics expert to determine what type of weapon had fired the bullet and hence identify the owner of the weapon. A second action it could have taken was to question the students and the officers and agents present at the scene on the day the incident occurred. According to available reports, a number of government officials had provided the Judiciary with the names of several of the armed individuals who were present at Kuy-e Daneshgah (a street where several of the University dormitories are located) on the day of the incident. The court could therefore have easily summoned and interrogated said individuals. It is very clear that the prosecutor’s office and the court took absolutely no steps in identifying the murderer.

Another important defect in this case is that the Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch Three accused Mr. Ezatollah Ebrahimnejad of security-related crimes for participating in protests, whereas, first, the subject of the complaint filed was the intentional murder of the victim and the court was not permitted to hear the charges against the victim himself, and secondly, investigating a crime is only correct when a person is still alive. Mr. Ebrahimnejad was accused of committing security-related crimes subsequent to his death, and this is completely contrary to the law.

Furthermore, the attorneys and the next of kin were not asked to attend the first court hearing at the Revolutionary Court, whereas it is not possible to conduct a hearing without the presence of the next of kin as the plaintiffs in the case and their attorneys.

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