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

Arash Rahmanipur

About

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

Case

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

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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