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

Arash Rahmanipur

About

Age: 20
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Unknown
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: January 28, 2010
Location: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Acting against state's security
Age at time of offense: 17

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, 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 freedom of peaceful assembly.

 

UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 21.

 

·         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, as a member of a religious or ethnic minority, to enjoy one’s own culture or to profess and practice one’s own religion.

 

UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 27.

 

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

 

UDHR, Article 7; ICCPR, Article 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.

 

UDHR, Article 11.1; ICCPR, Article 14.1 and Article 14.2.

 

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

 

·         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 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 1 and Article 2.

·         The right of a person not to be subjected to the capital punishment for an offence committed before the age of eighteen. The right not to be deprived of life while pregnant.

 

 ICCPR, Article 6.5; Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37.a.

 

About this Case

Arash was only 20.  He was absurdly charged with fomenting unrest.

News of the execution of Mr. Arash Rahmanipur and another individual was announced in various sources, including his chosen attorney’s interviews with the media (Voice of America and the International Campaign for Human Rights, January 28, 2010), a public relations announcement of the Revolutionary and Public Prosecution Office of Tehran (January 28, 2010), and the Fars News Agency. Supplementary information about this case was collected from the websites of the Amir Kabir Newsletter (January 28, 2010), IRNA (August 8, 2009), ISNA (August 8, 2009; February 1, 2010), Radio Farda (January 30, 2010), Committee of Human Rights Reporters (October 10, 2009), the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (January 28, 2010; May 20, 2010), Fararu (January 28, 2010), and HRANA (June 3, 2010).

Mr. Arash Rahmanipur was 20 years old and single. According to his father, he believed in love for humanity and in spirituality and justice.  He saw his homeland as his identity, as his whole life, and wished everyone would realize their duty towards the homeland.  He loved Iran and took pleasure in poetry and literature.  According to the information published, he was a supporter of a group called the Royal Association of Iran.

The Royal Association of Iran supports the reestablishment of the monarchy in Iran, but it does not align itself with any of the existing royalist groups. According to a document titled the Constitution, this association calls for a monarchical system consisting of a council of advisors (elected parliament), a primary advisor (prime minister), and a king (who acts as the people’s representative). According to this constitution, the country is governed through tribal, rural, and urban associations, and the government is based on equality, free education, socialist economy, freedom of expression (as well as thought and religion), and gender equality. The right to vote belongs to citizens who possess enough social consciousness and acumen. The leader of this group, Forud Fuladvand (Fathollah Manuchehri) started his activities in the early 2000’s by setting up a TV channel called Television-e Shoma [Your Television] in London, critiquing Islam and the Quran in its programs, and acquiring a modest following in Iran, with time. After a few protest activities in Europe, he set out for Iran to carry out what he described as an important operation called Tondar; but he disappeared in Turkey in January 17, 2002.  The Association was divided into different branches following this incident.  One offshoot in London is against recruiting members and against armed activity in any shape or form, while another in Los Angeles insistently calls for combative action through establishing Radio Tondar and accepting responsibility for some bomb explosions inside Iran.  Both groups claim to be the representative of the Royal Association, and each group accuses the other one of being a part of the conspiracy aligned with the Islamic Republic of Iran's security forces. Security forces have  -- at several points before and after the disappearance of Forud Fuladvand --  arrested a number of young people accused of being supporters of the Royal Association and sentenced them to prison or death.

The group trial was held in disregard of due process for Mr. Rahmanipur and many others arrested in relation to post-election protests, including tens of former high-ranking government officials; political, media, and student activists; and campaign organizers of the dissenting candidates, which provoked strong reactions  -- both inside Iran and internationally --  and was criticized by lawyers, attorneys, and political and human rights activists, as well as international and human rights organizations.

Arrest and Detention 

According to Nasrin Sotudeh, Mr. Rahmanipur’s chosen attorney, he was arrested, along with his pregnant sister, at his home in Tehran on April 15, 2009, almost two months prior to the election, and both he and his family suffered much pressure and many false promises throughout his detention.  He was only allowed one visit with his chosen attorney during his detention, which lasted several months.

According to his attorney, interrogators pressured not just Mr. Rahmanipur himself but his whole family.  Mr. Rahmanipur had told his attorney that  -- in two of the interrogations in which his sister had also been present --  they had told him that if he wanted his sister to be released, he had to make the confessions that they asked of him. (International Campaign for Human Rights, January 28, 2010)  Although his sister was released on acquittal after two months, she suffered a miscarriage as a result of the pressures endured during her detention.

Trial

Arash Rahmanipur was tried, in the absence of his chosen attorney, on August 8, 2009, in branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran, presided by Judge Salavati.  The security forces did not allow Ms. Nasrin Sotudeh, Mr. Rahmanipur’s attorney, to attend the trial and, instead, assigned someone named Salahi as Mr. Rahmanipur’s attorney.  Ms. Sotudeh says in this regard: “In a meeting held in August, I insisted on attending the trial.  As a result, the security forces threatened to arrest me and then confiscated my attorney certificate, for the record, and only later returned the certificate.”

Mr. Rahmanipur’s trial was the second of a series of group trials held for political and civil activists following the post-presidential election protests.  In addition to Mr. Rahmanipur, six others, including another member of the Royal Association of Iran, were tried in that session. Only state-owned media were allowed to cover the proceedings, and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting aired an extensive report.

Charges

The charges brought against Mr. Arash Rahmanipur in the indictment of the Public Prosecution Office included, “war against God,” through membership in the terrorist mini-group, the Royal Association of Iran, and effective collaboration with this group, as well as association and collusion for committing crimes against security (ISNA, February 1, 2010).

Explaining Mr. Rahmanipur’s individual indictment, the representative of the Public Prosecutor stated that the defendant had been in contact with the Royal Association and planned to blow up religious public places and polling stations:  “Arash Rahmanipur, nicknamed Sorna, Code 50150, has [had the intention] to carry out vicious and inhuman operations in polling stations, with the help of foreign enemies and the terrorist mini-group, the Royal Association of Iran, but he is currently in temporary detention and does not have any criminal history.”  At the trial, the representative of the Public Prosecutor asked for the harshest punishment possible for the defendant, based on articles 186, 187, 190, 610, and considering articles 46 and 47 of the Islamic Penal Code (ISNA, August 8, 2009).

Evidence

According to an announcement of the Revolutionary and Public Prosecution Office of Tehran, the evidence provided against Mr. Rahmanipur included, “reports by officials; the defendant’s own confessions; and other documents present in his file.”

In the trial coverage aired on Iran’s state television, Mr. Rahmanipur accepted the charges in the indictment and mentioned, for instance, that he had learned about the Royal Association through satellite TV channels and started contact with them a year ago. He also described the Association’s plans for weakening the foundations of religious beliefs of the people and bombing religious centers and polling stations on election day.

Describing the documents and evidence provided to support the charges at the trial, the representative of the Public Prosecutor referred to the defendant’s confessions regarding his relation with the Royal Association and his intention and motivation for bombing religious public places.  The evidence supporting the indictment included the “defendant’s confessions regarding his knowledge of the Royal Association of Iran through email; contacting someone named Jamshid and receiving required directions for terrorist operations”; “discovery of 100 kilograms of bomb-making material and ammunition, as well as at least five bombing experiments conducted, filmed, and then sent to the Royal Association of Iran via email”; and “intent to set up bombs and to blow up religious centers and polling stations.”

 Defense

Mr. Rahmanipur’s attorneys consider the charges [against him] unfair and refer to the defendant’s coerced confessions under pressure, lack of corpus delicti, violation of the defendant’s right to defense, denial of permission to the defendant's chosen attorney to attend the trial, and the defendant’s age (less than 18 years) at the time of the alleged crime as instances of violation.

The court did not give Ms. Sotudeh permission to attend the trial and defend her client.  In her interview with Voice of America, Ms. Sotudeh dismisses the court’s verdict and describes the illegal pressuring tactics used against Arash and his family as follows:  “After Mr. Rahmanipur announced that he refused to speak, except in the presence of his chosen attorney, security forces asked Arash’s father to convince him to appear in front of the camera, and when his father refused to do so, they threatened him that if he did not make Arash confess, they would arrest him as well.  Mr. Rahmanipur’s father was left with no choice but to ask his son to comply with his interrogators’ orders and consent to fabricated confessions.”

Emphasizing that his client had not actually committed a crime but had only intended to, Salahi, Mr. Rahmanipur’s appointed attorney, remarked in his defense at the trial: “Even if my client has confessed to certain crimes, the criminal charge of War against God is not imaginable in his case, due to a lack of corpus delicti for charges based on Articles 186 and 610 of the Islamic Penal Law, because he has not been armed and he has not actually attempted any crime.” (ISNA, August 8, 2009)  Ms. Nasrin Sotudeh has referred to the pressures exerted upon Arash, such as threatening his father and detaining his pregnant sister, and said: “If Arash had indeed committed a crime so grave as to be punishable by a death sentence, why then the need to pressure him like this? To force him to confess to acts not committed?  Thus, for various reasons, the sentence issued is completely illegal, unfair, and unjust.”  (International Campaign for Human Rights, January 28, 2010)

Referring to Saeed Mortazavi’s role in this case, Ms. Sotudeh remarked:  “The one time that I received permission to review the file, I noticed that there was no statement of criminality on file.  Moreover, Arash’s indictment was signed, in an unusual procedure, by Mr. Mortazavi, then Prosecutor General of Tehran.  If Mr. Mortazavi’s criminal file is under investigation at the Disciplinary Court of Judges following the report of the special parliamentary committee,* then no sentence issued, based on his indictment, should be permitted to be carried out.”

The public relations office of the Revolutionary and Public Prosecution Office of Tehran announced Arash Rahmanipur’s name “among those charged in relation to the disruptions following the election and particularly on the day of Ashura.”  (Fars News Agency, January 28, 2010)  This is while Ms. Sotudeh denied this claim and noted that, contrary to what the announcement of the Revolutionary and Public Prosecution Office says, Arash Rahmanipur was not arrested during the post-election unrest but two months prior to the election, in April, at his home.  Ms. Sotudeh’s statements have been indirectly verified by Mohammad Javad Larijani, the Deputy of the Iranian Judiciary.  In an interview with CNN, Larijani mentioned Mr. Rahmanipur’s arrest to have taken place a few months before the election and in relation to a mosque bombing in Shiraz. (Fararu, February 19, 2010)  According to Ms. Sotudeh, Mr. Rahmanipur was only 19 at the time of his arrest, and many of the charges brought against him, leading to the issuing and execution of the sentence, dated back to when he had been less than 18 years of age. International laws have strictly prohibited the death penalty for individuals less than 18 years of age at the time of the crime.  As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran is obliged to refrain from the death penalty for child offenders.

Mr. Arash Rahmanipur insisted upon his innocence in his writings in prison and considered his only crime to be his disbelief in official beliefs.  He has written of his love and passion for Iran and his duty towards the homeland and that his goal has been nothing but to rebuild his country, based on the principle of “good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.”  (HRANA, June 3, 2010)

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned Iran for its systematic use of severe forms of torture and solitary confinement to force confessions and have questioned the veracity of confessions elicited under such circumstances.  In the case of political prisoners, confessions have sometimes been televised. National television has broadcast confessions in which detainees have confessed to ambiguous and fabricated crimes; denied or repented from their political beliefs; or even named culprits.  Human rights organizations have also referred to the procedures for confession and repentance, in the case of released detainees.

Judgment

On November 16, 2009, Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran sentenced Mr. Arash Rahmanipur to death for War against God, according to Articles 186, 187, 190, and 610 of the Islamic Penal Code,** and the sentence was confirmed by the appeal court of the province of Tehran.  He was hanged secretly in Evin Prison on January 28, 2010, with no prior notification to his attorney or his family.  Having gone to Evin Prison to visit their son, Mr. Rahmanipur’s family were told by prison officials that he was transferred to Karaj Prison, only to learn of his execution later that day through the official media.

Hours after her client’s execution, Nasrin Sotudeh remarked:  “This sentence was issued secretly, and carried out secretly, in the absence of those who had to be notified, and was announced by the information unit of the Public Prosecution Office only afterwards.  This is while the law concerning the execution of death sentences obliges the Judiciary to notify the family when the sentence is to be carried out, so that they can prepare for the legal and judicial procedures and so the sentence is carried out in the presence of the attorneys.  All of these procedures have been ignored in the case of my client, Mr. Rahmanipur.” (International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, January 28, 2010)  The officials did not deliver Mr. Rahmanipur’s body to his family for at least two days after the execution.  (Radio Farda, January 30, 2010)

In a letter from Ward 209 of Evin Prison, Mr. Rahmanipur recorded his reaction to his death sentence:  “It pains me to see that, in this land, love is a crime for which the innocent are hanged.” (November 1, 2009)

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Events of the Day of Ashura

 After the June 2009 election and widespread protests against the election results, the government prevented further protest gatherings and demonstrations, declaring any protest gathering illegal and suppressing protests violently.  Under such oppressive conditions, the protesters seized religious occasions or official rallies  - such as the rally marking the anniversary of the storming of the US Embassy on November 4, 1979; the Quds Day rally; the Ashura mourning ceremonies; and the rally marking the anniversary of the Revolution on February 11, 1979 -  as opportunities for protest, and they took to the streets.

On the day of Ashura (December 27, 2009), people’s protests in Tabriz and Tehran turned violent, and at least 8 people were killed.  State news agencies, Fars and Mehr, reported destruction and the setting on fire of banks and public and private property. An announcement of the Tehran Police Headquarters on that day stated:  “Regrettably, a small number of people involved in sedition have attempted to disrupt public order by appearing on some streets along the course of the mourning procession for Imam Husain and shouting deviant slogans.”

An eyewitness who had participated in the Ashura protests told the Boroumand Foundation in an interview:  “The night before the Ashura mourning ceremonies, we were in touch with our friends to see who would come to protest the next day.  Because of the sacredness of this day, we did not imagine that there would be any bloodshed.  It was different from the days following the election in that people were now a bit scared, having seen protestors getting killed or having heard of the tortures suffered by those arrested.  People were mostly taking care not to get arrested.  By 10 AM, we were on Hafez, Taleqani, and Enqelab streets and remained on these three streets until 1 PM.  The main bulk of the clashes took place on these three streets.  People were marching and chanting … it was the police that started the violence.  For instance, we were walking on Taleqani St. when a police car came around and passed by the people.  We thought they were headed to Vali Asr Square,, but the car stopped a few hundred meters farther on, and the police got out and started shooting [tear] gas at the people.  Before, the police would wait and only start shooting when the crowd got too big, but this time there was no waiting, and they started shooting right away.  The crowd was progressing towards Vali Asr Street, but the police started shooting right away to prevent people from reaching that point and to disperse the crowd. This time people were ready for violence, and as soon as the police started to attack, first they started to run away, but then they started to throw rocks. The rate of destruction was higher on the day of Ashura. Not much harm was done to buildings, but trash cans were set on fire in the middle of the streets.  Also, police cars were set on fire, which was, of course, not without precedence.  Many of the people who took to the streets on the day of Ashura were themselves religious and were even beating their chests and participating in mourning ceremonies, while also chanting slogans against the regime.  At about 2 PM, my friend’s cousin let us know that they had pushed someone off the Hafez Bridge, and we could hear gunshots from Vali Asr Square.  As the presence of the people became more and more disperse throughout the afternoon, the number of government forces grew on Hafez Street, and they took the street under their control.  Then a group consisting of some 50 people, mostly women in conservative hejab, came chanting slogans in favor of the regime.”

Several videos documenting the deaths of some of the victims are available on YouTube and other websites.  In one of these videos, a police car hits one of the protestors and drives over his body several times.  The names of at least five individuals killed by police cars running over them have been reported.

The statements of the commanders of the Tehran Police concerning the number of people killed are ambiguous.  Police officials deny having run over protesters.  But the Deputy Commander of Tehran Police did confirm the arrest of 300 individuals on December 27, 2009.  Moreover, an announcement of the Tehran Police Headquarters on December 29, 2009, stated that, “The police will respond severely to any disrespect to religious sacred matters and the principles and values of the sacred government of the Islamic Republic and the profound beliefs of the Muslim people of Iran.”

 

* Mr. Saeed Mortazavi, former Public Prosecutor of Tehran, was suspended from office by the Public Prosecution Office of Tehran, following the report of a special parliamentary committee concerning the deaths of detainees in Kahrizak Prison during the post-election events (February 9, 2010).  Following the complaints filed against him by the families of the victims, the Disciplinary Prosecution Office of Judges suspended Mr. Mortazavi from office, nullified his immunity as a member of the judiciary, and sent his file to the Disciplinary Court of Judges and the Prosecution Office of Government Employees for investigation.

** Article 186 of the Islamic Penal Code:  When any group or association attempts armed uprising against the Islamic State, so long as its leadership core is intact, all its members and supporters who are aware of that group’s or association’s or organization's positions and take steps to further its objectives effectively, in any way, are guilty of War against God, even if they are not involved in the military branch.

Article 187 of the Islamic Penal Code:  Any person or group that plots to overthrow the Islamic State and, to that end, gathers weapons and explosives, as well as those individuals who knowingly and willfully provide effective financial support or supplies and weapons to them, shall be regarded as guilty of War on God and Corruption on Earth.

Article 190 of the Islamic Penal Code:  The Hadd punishment for War against God and Corruption on Earth is one of the following four:  1) death penalty, 2) hanging on gallows, 3) amputation of right hand and then left foot, 4) banishment.

Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code:  When two or more people gather and collude to commit crimes against internal or external security of the nation, or to provide means for such crimes, they will be sentenced to 2 to 5 years in prison, provided that they are not regarded as guilty of War against God.

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