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

Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah


Age: 29
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Unknown
Civil Status: Single


Date of Execution: May 9, 2010
Location: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Hanging
Charges: Sympathizing with anti-regime guerilla groups

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.


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 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 freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade union for the protection of one’s interests.

    UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.

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.

    UDHR, 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 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 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 1.1, 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 1Article 2%viol_ctcidp_2%.

About this Case

Born to a Kurdish family, she knew carpet weaving by early in her childhood.  Speaking and writing Persian came only much later.  Those she met in the capital noticed her cheerful spirit and resilience.

News of the execution of Ms. Shirin Alamhuli Atashgah, daughter of Khadar, and four others was announced by the public relations department of Tehran's Public and Revolution Courts. The information regarding her arrest and detention was drawn from the following sources: Ms. Alamhuli's letters from prison, ISNA, Committee of Human Rights Reporters, The Wall Street Journal, Modafe' [personal website of [human rights defender Mohammad Mostafa'ie] (9 May), Kurdish Perspective (7 and 15 May), Fars News Agency (17 May), Halt Execution of Ms. Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah (7 May), Bidaran website (19 May) 2010, Rahana (31 January, 3 February 2010), Iran-e Emruz (25 February 2010), (16 January 2010), and Radio Farda (9 May 2011).

Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah was born on 3 June 1981 in the village of Gheslagh, near the city of Maku [in the predominantly Azeri and Kurdish speaking West Azerbaijan Province], to an impoverished family. She was illiterate and skilled in carpet weaving. One of her cellmates, Ms. Haratounian, remembers her as: "a very generous girl with a perpetual smile. Even in the most appalling situations, she would smile and say, 'this will pass too.' I cannot get this catchphrase of hers out of my mind. She was a guardian angel with a free spirit. Shirin was a free spirit in the real sense of the word."

According to Mr Bahramian, one of her lawyers, Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah, who didn’t speak any Persian at the time of her arrest, had briefly attended Literacy Movement classes. “She had merely learned to sign her name, but she is an intelligent girl and has recently managed to complete the fifth grade of primary school in prison. She has promised me to continue her education to university level."

Arrest and detention

Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah was arrested on 26 May 2008 by the [Islamic] Revolutionary Guards Corps [IRGC]. After enduring 25 days of torture and detention, she was transferred to Evin Prison. Following six months' imprisonment, she was transferred to Evin's Women’s Ward. According to Fars News Agency, she was arrested in connection with an explosion at the headquarters of the IRGC.

Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah reported that no arrest warrant was presented to her and that during her detention in the IRGC headquarters, she had no access to a lawyer. She also described the harsh prison conditions and the torture she was subjected to in several letters. On 18 January 2010, she wrote: "I was arrested in May 2008 by several military and plainclothes officers and taken directly to the IRGC headquarters. Upon arrival, they promptly proceeded to beat me. I spent a total of 25 days in IRGC custody, 22 days of which I was on hunger strike. During that period, I was constantly subjected to all kinds of physical and psychological pressure. The interrogators, who were male, handcuffed me to a bed. They repeatedly struck me on my face, body and soles of my feet with electric batons, cables, kicks and punches. At the time, I could barely speak or understand any Persian. So when their questions remained unanswered, they would beat me so hard that I would pass out. At Call to Prayers, they would go for their prayers, giving me time to, in their words, think about my conduct. Then it would start all over again: the beatings, passing out, ice water..."

"The tortures to which you have subjected me have become my nightmares. I spent every day in pain from the torture. Blows to my head during interrogation have given my severe head trauma. There are days when I am struck with the most agonizing headaches. My nose starts to bleed, and I lose awareness of my surroundings. It takes several hours before I gradually regain consciousness. Another 'gift' of their torture was the damage to my eyesight, which is worsening every day. My request for eyeglasses has remained unanswered."

"When they realized my resolve to continue with the hunger strike, they attempted to forcibly feed me by shoving serums and tubes into my stomach through my nose. I would resist by pulling out the tubes, which resulted in bleeding and tremendous pain. After some two years, the scars remain and bother me."

"One day during interrogations, they kicked me so hard in the stomach that I immediately started to bleed. One day one of the interrogators approached me, asking irrelevant questions. He was the only interrogator I saw, as at other times I was in blindfolds. When I failed to respond, he slapped me, drew a gun from his belt and put it to my head. He said: 'Answer my questions. I know you are a member of PJAK and a terrorist. Look girl! It makes no difference whether or not you talk. We are happy to have taken a PJAK member captive."

"They would make me stand on my injured feet until they would become totally swollen. Then they would bring me some ice. Every night I could hear screams and cries, which would continue until dawn, leaving me unnerved. I subsequently found out that they were recordings intended to intensify my suffering. Or I would be held in the interrogation room for hours with cold water dripping on my head, before being returned to my cell in the evening. One day, as I was being interrogated while sitting in a chair with blindfolds on, the interrogator put out his cigarette on my hand. On another day, he placed his shoes on my feet pressing so hard that my toenails turned black and fell off. Or they would make me stand on my feet the whole day without asking any questions, while the interrogators sat there, doing crossword puzzles."

Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah was transferred from the IRGC headquarters to a hospital and then to section 209 of Evin Prison, which refused to take her in custody as she appeared very weak. "Ward 209 refused to accept me owing to my physical state and the fact that I could not even walk. They kept me in that state next to the ward for an entire day, until eventually they transferred me to the [prison] clinic. I could no longer differentiate between day and night. I don't know how long I was in Evin's general clinic before being taken back to Ward 209 once my wounds had healed. And the interrogations resumed."

"Interrogators at 209 had their own particular styles and techniques; or as they put it, a 'policy of [blowing] hot and cold'. First, a heavy-handed interrogator would come in and subject me to pressure, torture and threats. He would tell me that he did not give a damn about any laws and could do anything he wanted to me... And then, it would be the turn of the gentle interrogator, who would enter and ask him to stop treating me like that. He would then offer me a cigarette and repeat the same questions; and so the vicious circle would continue.”


There is no information concerning the court session or sessions. The case was heard at Branch 15 of Tehran Islamic Revolution Court, on 29 November 2009. The Supreme Court examined her case on 14 February 2010.


The charges leveled against Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah were listed as “enmity with God” through "links and collaboration with, and membership in, PJAK mini group, and also illegal entry and departure through the border." According to the Tehran Public and Revolutionary and Ordinary Court Prosecutor’s communiqué, Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah was charged with bombing in the IRGC headquarters parking lot in the west of Tehran. According to the communiqué, “she has admitted in her last defense to the fact that she had carried out the operation under the instructions of PJAK.” (ISNA, 9 May 2010)

Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) which is a leftist organization was established in January 2004 with the aim of creating an "an ecological-democratic society and gender equality" within the framework of a democratic and federal government in Iran where autonomy is granted to all ethnic minorities. It held its first congress on 25 April 2004. The party, led by Abdul Rahman Haji Ahmadi, has a very close relationship with the PKK Party in Turkey, and regards Apo "Abdullah Ocalan" as its spiritual leader. PJAK's influence is mainly over the northern parts of Iranian Kurdistan, where it is engaged in an armed struggle against the Islamic Republic. PJAK refers to Iranian Kurdistan as East Kurdistan.

Evidence of guilt

The evidence submitted against the defendant was comprised of her own "confessions" and discovery of several meters of electricity cable, four large batteries, thick glass tape, remote control for triggering explosives, and various other devices. According to the Tehran prosecutor, the defendant had admitted in her last defense that she acted on PJAK’s orders. (Report by the public relations department of Tehran's Public and Revolution Courts)


There is no information concerning the defendant's statements during her trial. According to her cellmate, Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah had not accepted the charge of links to PJAK. The defendant, her lawyers, and human rights organizations underline several instances of violation of due process of law in her case, including the fact that her confession was extracted under torture.

Regarding the circumstances of her "confessions," Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah explains in her 18 January 2010 letter: "On one of the occasions a doctor came to treat my wounds and check my condition. I had fallen into a state of semi-consciousness as a result of the pain. The doctor asked the interrogator to transfer me to a hospital. The interrogator replied: "Why should she be treated in hospital. Can she not be treated here?" The doctor said: ‘I’m not talking about treatment; I will do something in the hospital that would make the girl sing like a nightingale." The following day they took me to hospital with blindfolds and in handcuffs. The doctor laid me on the bed and injected me with a needle. It was as if I had lost all control. I was telling them whatever they wanted to hear in answer to their questions. They were filming the process.

The defendant’s lawyers repeatedly stressed the fact that she did not speak Persian when she was arrested. Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah also addresses the judge in her letter:

“When you were interrogating me, I could not even speak your language. I learned Persian in the past two years from my cellmates. Yet you interrogated, tried and sentenced me in your own language, even though I could not understand what was happening and was unable to defend myself... “

Mr. Bahramian also points to the inadmissibility of any ill intention as Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah was illiterate and proving her intention of joining an organization is difficult. “An illiterate person invariably knows nothing about politics and political activity because of his/her lack of proper knowledge of the social and political situation. Therefore, charging her with joining a political organization to overthrow the system or act against national security is more like a joke because this individual has no idea of what acting against national security or joining a political party means.”

Alamhuli-Atashgah’s defense lawyers also note the disproportionality of the sentence and the crime with the death sentence in particular since no one has been killed as a result of her actions. The fact that the authorities were not neutral in her case and that a few days before her execution, Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah was taken to be interrogated again and was told by her interrogators that her sentence was not final and that they could change it.

Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah reported on this last interrogation session in her final letter, entitled, "I Am a Hostage." "I have now entered my third year in prison. In other words, three years of an agonizing life behind bars in Evin, two years of which I spent in a state of uncertainty, without access to a lawyer and without any charges to legitimize my arrest.

“In that state of uncertainty, I endured a bitter period in IRGC custody. Subsequently, I experienced the interrogations phase in Ward 209. After that I spent the remainder of the period in the general ward. My incessant requests for an explanation for my predicament were left unanswered. And finally they unjustly sentenced me to death.

“Today is 2 May 2010. After a long period, they have again transferred me to Ward 209 of Evin for interrogation, repeating the same unfounded charges against me. They asked me to cooperate to be spared from the death penalty. I don't know what they mean by cooperation when I have nothing more to add to what I have already told them. So they asked me to repeat whatever they said. But I did not do so. The interrogator said: "We were going to release you last year but are here now because your family did not cooperate. The interrogator himself admitted that I was merely a hostage in their hands and that they would not let me go unless they achieved their goal; or else I would be executed. But I would never be freed."


The court sentenced Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah to a two-year prison term for illegally crossing the border and the death penalty on charges of moharebah [enmity with God] through links with PJAK. The Court of Appeal of Tehran Province upheld the verdict. The Supreme Court had not provided her family and lawyers with any communications regarding confirmation of the sentence. Ms. Alamhuli-Atashgah's family described her mood during their last visit as very good. That was despite the fact that in the preceding two weeks she had been subjected to extreme pressure to provide a confession and to take part in a televised interview.

Ms. Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah was hanged in Evin Prison on 9 May 2010 without the knowledge of her family or lawyers. Regarding the day of her execution, Bidaran website quoted one of Shirin's cellmates on the night she was executed: "The Women’s Ward's telephones were disconnected from the evening of Saturday [8 May 2010], which had made us even more worried... Every second felt like an eternity as we waited for some news of Shirin. When 10 minutes before the lights-out time (21:50), they took Shirin away, under the pretext that she had given the wrong name for her father, we did not presume for a second that we would have no more meetings [with her] after that separation. Shirin's zest for life and progress, and her dedication to study, resembled that of a person who has only spent a few days in custody and is expecting to be released soon."

Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah was secretly buried in an unidentified location. The security forces arrested the mother and sister of Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah, at their home in Maku, on 15 May 2010. They were released after a few hours. Families of prisoners executed at the same time as Shirin Alamhuli-Atashgah called on the Tehran Prosecutor, the Governor of Kordestan, and the Head of the Judiciary in order to get their bodies. In an interview to a JARAS reporter in June 2010, Mr Bahramian expressed disappointment in the judicial authorities for refusing to respond to the families and lawyers of the executed political prisoners. He added, "For almost a month the families of the victims have been searching for the bodies of their loved ones. They have received no response from the gentlemen [judicial authorities] to acknowledge their accountability.” 

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