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

Esma'il Yazdankesh (Yazdankish)

About

Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Unknown

Case

Date of Killing: August 28, 1979
Location of Killing: Tabriz Prison, Tabriz, Azarbaijan-e Sharqi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Murder

About this Case

About this Case

Information regarding Mr. Esma’il Yazdankesh’s (Yazdankish) execution was drawn from Kayhan Daily (28 and 29 August 1979), Khalq Mosalman (6 September 1979), and Jomhuri Eslami (28 and 20 August 1979).

On 27 August 1979, there was a riot among common prisoners in Ward 6 and the Temporary Ward of Tabriz Prison. According to the existing information, days before the incident the atmosphere in the prison had been hostile due to prisoners protesting to their prolonged uncertain situation. They chanted slogans against some of the judicial and prison officials (Khalq Mosalman, 6 September 1979). In the morning of 27 August, the Warden went into the ward to negotiate with the inmates. He was almost successful to convince the prisoners, but it is not clear why the prisoners changed their minds. They beat the Warden and the prison guards and set Ward 6 on fire. They also took some hostages. Although in the last hours of the riots, they released the hostages themselves. The riot finished after 10 to 15 hours after the interference of the army, the revolutionary guards and the revolutionary committees (Kayhan and Jomhuri Eslami, 29 August 1979).

There are contradictory details about this riot from governmental and independent resources. On 29 August, Kayhan and Jomhuri Eslami stated that the officials only used non-lethal forces such as batons, tear gas and warning shots. Whereas according to the report of Kayhan itself on 28 August, at one occasion, the Revolutionary Guards opened fire at a group of prisoners who were allegedly escaping. These shootings left 13 inmates injured and 1 dead and also killed a member of the Revolutionary Committees (Kayhan, 28 August 1979). The driver of an ambulance which came into the prison yard to take out a body was locked in, and because the door was locked from outside, he was injured with a knife (Kayhan and Jomhuri Eslami, 29 August 1979).

Arrest and detention

No information regarding the Mr. Yazdankesh's arrest and detention is available. He was apparently spending his pre-trial detention in Tabriz Prison.

Trial

Mr. Yazdankesh was tried along with 13 others in Tabriz Revolutionary Tribunal. According to the statement of Tabriz Revolutionary Tribunal, the trial of these 14 defendants began in the morning of 29 August, and the verdicts were carried out before noon of the same day (Jomhuri Eslami, 29 August 1979).

Charges

Mr. Yazdankesh’s charges are not individually defined, but the statement of the Revolutionary Tribunal of Tabriz indicated that all the 14 defendants were responsible for “inciting riots and unrest, arson and destruction of the prison, stabbing the revolutionary guards and participation in the murder of one revolutionary guard and one inmate” (Jomhuri Eslami, 29 August 1979). The statement by the Revolutionary Court provided that the prisoners, who were involved in the riots, were responsible for serious crimes. For example, the statement of the Revolutionary Tribunal claimed that Mr. Yazdankesh was in prison for “murder” (Jomhuri Eslami, 29 August 1979). Accordingly, Kayhan claimed that these prisoners were probably going to be sentenced to execution or long-term prison; therefore, they made a riot to escape (Kayhan, 29 August 1979(.

Evidence of guilt

There is no information about the evidence against Mr. Yazdankesh. Kayhan indicated that the Religious Judge of Tabriz Revolutionary Tribunal was watching the riot from the roof of one of the buildings and was identifying the prisoners involved in it. So in the trial, he denied the prisoner’s defenses by giving them examples of their behavior in the riot (Kayhan, 29 August 1979).

Defense

There is no information available about Mr. Yazdankesh’s defense, and it is not clear if he managed to find a lawyer or prepare his defense in the limited time between the end of the riots and the trial.

The statement of the Revolutionary Tribunal mentioned the conspiracy of the anti-revolutionists, whereas the newspapers close to the government reported that the riots were carried out by the common prisoners in order to protest to the violation of their rights to due process and that the political prisoners had no role in it. Only two of the defendants had a case in the Revolutionary Tribunal (Kayhan, 29 August 1979). All the parties–even the newspapers—close to the government agreed that the reason of this riot was the prisoners’ long wait for trial and undue influence in their cases. The Warden of Tabriz Prison at the time said: “there are prisoners who were arrested 6 months ago but their cases are still pending”. The prisoners requested Ayatollah Taleqani, a member of Khebregan of the Constitution (a transitional institution which was formed to draft the first Iranian constitution after the Islamic Revolution), to come to Tabriz. They also wanted the prison conditions to be reconsidered (Kayhan, Jomhuri Eslami, 28 and 29 August and Khalq Mosalman, 6 September 1979).

In addition, the claims of the newspapers close to the government and the statement of the Revolutionary Tribunal of Tabriz about the charges of Mr. Yazdankesh and other prisoners can be doubted, because these prisoners were in a pre-trial detention and did not know the destiny of their own cases. So it is not clear how Kayhan Daily could have decisively determined their death or long-term prisons sentences.

Judgment

The Revolutionary Tribunal of Tabriz declared Mr. Yazdankesh “guilty” and sentenced him to death. He was executed by firing squad along with his cellmates at 11:30 a.m. in the yard of Tabriz Prison (Kayhan and Jomhuri Eslami, 29 August 1979).

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%viol_udhr_3%; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), %Article 9.1%viol_iccpr_9.1%.

  • The right not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation.

    UDHR, %Article 12%viol_udhr_12%, ICCPR, %Article 17.1%viol_iccpr_17.1%.

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

    UDHR, %Article 7%viol_udhr_7%; ICCPR, %Article 26%viol_iccpr_26%.

The right to due process

  • The right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a competent and impartial tribunal in accordance with law.

    ICCPR, %Article 14.1%viol_iccpr_14.1% and %Article 14.2%viol_iccpr_14.2%.

Pre-trial 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%viol_iccpr_9.2% and %Article 14.3.a.%viol_iccpr_14.3.a.%

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

  • ICCPR, %Article 14.3.d%viol_iccpr_14.3.d%; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, %Article 1%viol_bprl_1% , %Article 2%viol_bprl_2%, %Article 5%viol_bprl_5%, %Article 6%viol_bprl_6%, and %Article 8%viol_bprl_8%.

  • The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.

    ICCPR, %Article 14.3.b.%viol_iccpr_14.3.b.%

Trial rights

  • The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.

    ICCPR, %Article 14.1%viol_iccpr_14.1%, %Article 14.3.c%viol_iccpr_14.3.c%.

  • The right to defense through assistance of his or her own choosing or legal aid. The right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on one’s behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him.

  • ICCPR, %Article 14.3.e%viol_iccpr_14.3.e%.

  • The right to have the decision rendered in public.

    ICCPR, %Article 14.1%viol_iccpr_14.1%.

Judgment rights

  • The right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.

    ICCPR, %Article 14.5%viol_iccpr_14.5%.

  • The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

    ICCPR, %Article 6.4%viol_iccpr_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%viol_udhr_3%; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), %Article 6.1%viol_iccpr_6.1%; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, %Article 1.1%viol_sopiccpr_1.1%, %Article 1.2%viol_sopiccpr_1.2%.

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

    ICCPR, %Article 7%viol_iccpr_7%; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, %Article 1%viol_ctcidp_1% and %Article 2%viol_ctcidp_2%.

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