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

Ezzatollah Ebrahimnejad

About

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

Case

Date of Execution: July 9, 1999
Location: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Shooting (extrajudicial)

Human rights violations in this case

Extrajudicial killings


Since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, national and international human rights organizations have blamed the Islamic Republic authorities for the extrajudicial killing of their opponents, both within and outside of Iran's borders. Although over two hundred cases have been reported, the exact number of victims remains unknown.

Extrajudicial executions carried out in Iran are rarely investigated; the few cases that have been investigated have indicated that the Iranian state security apparatus has been involved. Agents of the Islamic Republic have also targeted dissidents outside the country, assassinating opposition members in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and in the United States,.

In many assassination cases outside Iran, local authorities have made no arrests. However, investigations, when they have taken place and been made public, have led to the single hypothesis of State ordered crimes. The organization and execution of these crimes constitute a pattern that Swiss prosecutor Roland Chatelain describes as “common parameters” following a “meticulous preparation.” Similarities between different cases in different countries have created a coherent set of presumptions designating the Islamic Republic as the instigator of these assassinations.

 

In cases involving prominent Iranians assassinated in France, Germany, and Switzerland, local prosecutors have provided evidence linking Iranian authorities to the crimes in question.

 

In France, for example, the Iranian Deputy Minister of Telecommunications has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the 1991 murder of two dissidents. In Germany, agents of Iran's secret services and Lebanese Hezbollah have been convicted for the 1992 murder of four dissidents in Berlin. Currently, the Islamic Republic's Minister of Information and Security at the time of this murder is under an International arrest Warrant launched by German judicial authorities for his involvement.

 

The German court in Berlin found that Iran's political leadership ordered the murder through a "Committee for Special Operations," whose members reportedly include the Leader of the Islamic Republic, the President, the Minister of Information and Security, and other security officials.



The Islamic Republic’s officials have claimed responsibility for some of these assassinations while denying involvement in others. In the 1980s, Iranian authorities justified extrajudicial executions of dissidents and members of the former regime and actively worked for the release of Iranians and non-Iranian agents who were detained or convicted in the West for their involvement in those killings. During the 1990s, they systematically denied any involvement in extrajudicial killings and often credited the killings to infighting amongst the opposition.

 

Still, the rationale supporting these killings was articulated as early as in the spring of 1979 when the First Revolutionary religious judge publicly announced the regime's intention to carry out extrajudicial executions. He said:

 

“no state has the right to try as a terrorist the person who kills [exiles] in foreign lands, for this person is implementing the verdict issued by the Islamic Revolutionary tribunal.”

 

More than a decade later, in August, 1992, the Minister of Intelligence and Security publicly boasted about the success of Iran's security forces, alluding to the elimination of dissidents:

 

"We have been able to deal blows to many of the mini-groups outside the country and on the borders...."

Human rights violations

Based on the available information, some or all of 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 to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest one’s 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 to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

    UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.

The right to due process

Pre-trial detention rights

  • The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.

    ICCPR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a

  • The right to counsel of one’s own choosing or legal aid and the right to meet with one’s attorney in confidence

    ICCPR, 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; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 8%viol_bprl_8%..

  • The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    UDHR, Article 5; 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 9.3, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

  • The right to examine, or have examined the witnesses against one and to obtain the attendance and examination of defense witnesses under the same conditions as witnesses for the prosecution.

  • ICCPR, 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

  • 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

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), 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)

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.”

Correct This Entry