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

Ali Afravi


Age: 18
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Single


Date of Execution: March 1, 2006
Location: Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Murder

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 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, ICCPR, Article 17.1. ·         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

Mr. Afravi was interested in history and social activities. He used to cooperate with Juornalists' Club in Ahvaz.

Information about Mr. Ali Afravi’s execution was published in numerous media, including IRNA (March 2, 2006) and Sharq Newspaper (March 2, 2006.) Mr. Afravi was the first of the accused to be executed in connection with the 2005 Ahvaz bombings, along with Mr. Mahdi Navaseri. In the following months, these executions continued, and dozens of other citizens were put to death.

Additional information was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, with a person close to Mr. Afravi and with another individual accused in the case, which has been referred to as “the Ahvaz bombings case” by Iranian authorities, as well as from other news websites including, ISNA (March 1, 2006), Radio Farda (March 2, 2006), Ahwazi Democratic Popular Front (June 28, 2011), Amnesty International (March 1 and 2, 2006), Human Rights Watch (June 26, 2006), and the Fars News Agency (March 1, 2006).

Mr. Afravi was 18 years old, single, and a resident of [the city of] Ahvaz. According to a person close to him, he was an intelligent young man, interested in studying history and engaging in social action. He spoke Arabic, Farsi, and English. He worked with the Young Reporters Club in Ahvaz, publishing some of his writings in local and national media under the name, “The Young People of Ahvaz.” For instance, in objecting to the process of the destruction of Malek Garden, one of the region’s historical sites, he had written a letter to UNESCO under that same name. In high school he had become a member of the Basij for a short time, but soon quit .

Mr. Afravi participated in [the Province of] Khuzestan’s Arab [population’s] protests and demonstrations in 2005, as well as in Koran and Arabic classes conducted at his father’s psychological services institute. At the time of his arrest, he was about to turn eighteen and was preparing for university entrance exams.

Mr. Afravi’s execution prompted the reaction of human rights institutions. Amnesty International protested by issuing bulletins, in which it considered the revolutionary court proceedings as unjust and based on confessions obtained under duress. The Ahwaz Human Rights Organization and the British Ahwazi Friendship Society also protested the execution of Arab citizens.

Hours after the executions of Mr. Afravi and Mr. Navaseri, a bomb exploded on 9th Street in Ahvaz’s Kianpars neighborhood, shattering windows and causing damage to surrounding buildings, although, according to local sources, there were no casualties.

Historical Background of the Ahvaz Bombing

Subsequent to the publication of a letter ascribed to a government official concerning systematic modification of the fabric of Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arab population, demonstrations broke out on Friday, April 15, 2005, in [the city of] Ahvaz, and then in [the town of] Hamidideh. In quashing the demonstrations, security and police forces resorted to violence, which led to the death and injury of dozens of protestors and resulted in the protests and the unrest spreading to a number of other Khuzestan cities, continuing for at least 10 days.* These protests were the beginning of a series of incidents, including widespread arrests, multiple bombings, and successive executions in Ahvaz. For instance, a series of bombings followed on June 12 and October 15, 2005, and on January 24 and February 27, 2006, in various regions of Ahvaz, Abadan, and Dezful. These bombings were carried out in front of government buildings and in public places and left in their wake more than 20 dead and dozens injured.** According to government sources, other bombings (targeting oil pipelines and non-residential regions around Ahvaz) occurred at the end of summer and in the fall of 2005, which did not leave any casualties.

In response to the Ahvaz bombings, security forces arrested dozens of the region’s ethnic Arab individuals, charging them with participation in the bombings. They were then kept in solitary confinement cells, for months, at the Information Ministry’s Detention Center.  People being held were subjected to torture, in order to confess having taken part in the bombings. According to the Ahvaz Prosecutor, ultimately a total of four cases were opened at the Revolutionary Court, Special Branch, and at least 45 individuals were charged. Dozens of these individuals were tried in closed sessions and were sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court. At least 19 of these sentences were carried out. Dozens of other Arab citizens were given long-term sentences.

Government officials never accepted that these bombings had internal reasons which had arisen following the Khuzestan incidents. In multiple, and sometimes contradictory, statements, political and judicial authorities imputed responsibility to groups opposing [the Islamic Republic], including, “Those loyal to the previous regime and residing in England;” “Fugitive SAVAK (the Shah’s security and intelligence apparatus) members, and family members of the destroyed Monafeqin (MKO);” “Wahabis;” “secessionists;” and/or to groups affiliated with the UK and other foreign countries. The Iranian government officially accused the UK of involvement in the bombings and declared that the bombers had been trained in Iraq, in regions under British army control, where they had acquired their arms and explosives. In one such statement, then-President Mahmud Ahmadinejad spoke of the clear and obvious footprint of Iraq’s occupiers in the Khuzestan incidents. (ISNA, January 25, 2006). The British government officially denied these accusations and expressed its concern regarding such statements made by Iranian officials. (BBC, November 1, 2005).

The televised confessions of a number of those arrested were broadcast several times on local TV and on Iran’s English language, Press TV. In one of these programs, broadcast on local TV on November 13, 2006, 10 of these individuals declared themselves to be members of “Katibeh Shohadaye Mohiuddin Al Nasser,” (“Mohiuddin Al Nasser Martyrs Brigade,”) or (the military wing of the Al-Nazal movement). No group officially accepted responsibility for the Ahvaz bombings. However, a video recording was distributed in the name of Katibeh Shohadaye Mohiuddin Al Nasser and “Harakat Al-Nazal Al-Arabi Le-Tahrir Al-Ahvaz (“Ahvaz Arabic Liberation Movement”), showing some of the bombings, including the explosion in front of the Natural Resources Organization building and oil pipeline explosions. At a later time, Harakat Al-Nazal officially accepted responsibility for some of the oil pipeline explosions.

Arrest and Detention

The Ministry of information issued a communiqué announcing the arrest of five individuals between October 18, 2005, and October 28, 2005, [in connection with and] accused of Ahvaz’s Naderi Street bombing. (Kayhan [newspaper], November 1, 2005)  According to a person close to him, Mr. Afravi was arrested at his father’s home in Ahvaz by a number of armed agents of the Ahvaz Information Administration on October 27, 2005, around noon. The agents did not present an arrest warrant. His father, Mr. Udeh Afravi, had been arrested by Ahvaz Information agents three days earlier, on October 24, 2005.

 According to people close to him, Mr. Afravi did not have any telephonic or face-to-face contact with his family during the entire time of his detention.

There is no information about Mr. Afravi’s place and conditions of detention. In spite of repeated inquiries, his family has not been able to obtain any information. According to people close to him, Mr. Afravi did not have any telephonic or face-to-face contact with his family during the entire time of his detention. Two of those accused in bombing cases, as well as other Arab activists who were detained by the Information Administration at the same time, testified in an interview, with the Boroumand Foundation, that the accused in bombing cases were kept in solitary confinement cells at the Ahvaz Information Administration’s secret detention center and routinely and continuously underwent physical and psychological torture.


No information is available regarding the trial session(s), except that, according to Khuzestan Province Deputy Governor and the Judiciary’s spokesman, Mr. Afravi’s trial, as well as that of the other accused in the case, took place at Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court Special Branch, after January 29, 2006. (Iran Newspaper, October 24, 2005, January 29, 2006)  According to official sources, the judicial proceedings, from trial to the court decision and to the implementation thereof, were conducted in extreme haste, in less than a month, and without observing judicial formalities and due process.

According to people close to Mr. Afravi, the entire process of investigation and trial was conducted in secret and the court did not allow him to retain counsel.

According to people close to Mr. Afravi, the entire process of investigation and trial was conducted in secret and the court did not allow him to retain counsel.


According to [Iran’s] Prosecutor General and the Judiciary’s spokesman, the charges against Mr. Ali Afravi were “Moharebeh (“waging war against God”) and murder,” in connection with Ahvaz’s Salman Farsi (Naderi) Street bombing on October 15, 2005. (ISNA, March 1, 2006) Furthermore, the Khuzestan Province Deputy Governor stated, in a news conference, that those [executed] individuals had Wahabi and Salafi tendencies and that their objective was to aggravate ethnic conflicts and to disrupt national unity. (IRNA, March 1, 2006) 

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.

Evidence of Guilt

There is no precise information regarding evidence presented at trial. However, according to official judicial and security authorities, the defendants’ confessions constituted the basis for the court’s judgment. On the night prior to the executions, Khuzestan Province’s state television network broadcast the confessions of seven of the individuals accused of the Ahvaz bombings. In the video-recording [of the confessions], which appeared to have been severely tampered with and edited, a number of the accused, including Mr. Afravi, confessed to certain acts incriminating themselves and other accused individuals of contacting certain Arab activists outside the country, and participating in the Naderi Street bombing.

The Ministry of Information’s communiqué of November 1, 2005, alluded to the discovery of an operational bomb, [various] arms and hand grenades secretly placed in different locations, as evidence of [the existence of] a grouplet. (Kayhan, November 1, 2005). Khuzestan Province’s Deputy Governor further announced, in his news conference, that a large number of books and tapes promoting Wahabism had been seized in the course of searches that had been conducted. (ISNA, March 1, 2006)


No information is available regarding the accused’s defense. From the time of arrest until the implementation of the court’s judgment, security and judicial officials did not allow the accused to contact his family and/or meet with and retain an attorney. According to testimony given by other individuals accused in the Ahvaz bombing case, the proceedings had been conducted in secret and without observing legal standards. The accused did not have the right to speak and were not given an opportunity to defend themselves.

From the time of arrest until the implementation of the court’s judgment, security and judicial officials did not allow the accused to contact his family and/or meet with and retain an attorney.

Two of the individuals accused in the Ahvaz bombing case testified in an interview with the Boroumand Foundation that those accused in bombing cases underwent severe physical and psychological torture, which made more incriminating the confessions about themselves and the other accused individuals. According to these persons, a team had come from Tehran to make the videotaped confessions and that they had been subjected to pressure and beatings for several nights before their confessions on film.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic use of severe torture and solitary confinement to obtain confessions from detainees and have questioned the authenticity of confessions obtained under duress. In the case of political detainees, these confessions are, at times, televised. State Television broadcasts confessions, during which prisoners plead guilty to vague and false charges, repent and renounce their political beliefs, and/or implicate others. Human rights organizations have also pointed to the pattern of retracted confessions by prisoners who were later freed.

A Summary of the Legal Defects in the Adjudication of Mr. Ali Afravi’s Case

The Ahvaz bombing case resulted in the arrest and execution of a considerable number of individuals. Dozens of people among the city of Ahvaz’ ethnic Arabs were arrested on the pretense of the bombings. Some were executed and others were handed prison sentences. Ali Afravi was one of the individuals who were executed. In this brief analysis, we will consider the adjudication of the late Mr. Afravi’s case from the standpoint of principles of fair trial.

1- Based on available information, the adjudication of Mr. Afravi’s case was done hastily and in complete secrecy. The secrecy in his case is such that even the adjudicating authority as well as the charges lodged against him are not clear. The court’s ruling is not available. The evidence indicates that judicial and security officials tried their utmost to keep the adjudication of the case secret. The late Mr. Afravi was not even allowed to visit with or make a phone call to anyone. Additionally, judicial and security officials unilaterally announced in the media that Mr. Afravi was a principal actor in the bombing and that his charge was “Moharebeh” (“waging war against God”). The officials’ secrecy on the one hand, and publication of one-sided information on the other, shows that Mr. Afravi’s trial lacked the requisite transparency, and the public was not given an opportunity to judge for itself. In other words, the authorities refused and prevented the impartial publication of information regarding the bombing, despite the fact that it was necessary for the public at large to be informed of the details of the bombing and of the details of the case against the defendants. Furthermore, the trial of Mr. Afravi and the other defendants in the case was carried out in secret and no official provided any information regarding it thereafter. All of this shows that the case was adjudicated away from the public eye and with a complete lack of transparency. This certainly affected the defendants’ rights to a defense and a fair trial. The hasty adjudication of the case is also cause for reflection. Whereas adjudication of the least serious, most ordinary cases can take years in Iran, this very important case was adjudicated expeditiously and a sentence was issued very quickly.

2- Based on available information, and according to the late Mr. Afravi’s relatives, he was granted no, or severely limited, access to an attorney during trial. Pursuant to Iranian laws, anyone accused of a crime can retain the services of and be accompanied by an attorney at all stages of judicial proceedings; Mr. Afravi, however, was strictly prohibited from having a lawyer during detention at the Information Ministry detention center, and was prevented from having access to one at the Prosecutor’s Office and in court. This is completely against the law, since the crime of Moharebeh and murder, with which Mr. Afravi was charged, requires the presence of an attorney. Pursuant to the Law on the Rules of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts, Note 1 to Article 186, “If in crimes for which the law has mandated the punishments of Qesas of life, execution, stoning, and life imprisonment, the defendant does not personally introduce an attorney, it is mandatory that a court-appointed attorney be designated.” Therefore presence of an attorney is a necessity in adjudicating the crime of Moharebeh and murder, the punishment for which is death. If this condition is not satisfied, the trial and the court decision will be invalid. The court’s action in this regard was illegal, rendering the ruling null and without legal validity.

3- The sentence issued in Mr. Afravi’s case was solely based on he and his friends’ confessions. These confessions, which were also broadcast on Iranian state television, were obtained under torture and duress, even though under Iranian law torture and duress of the defendant is illegal and considered a crime, and confessions obtained in this manner are without credence and legal value. Principle 38 of the Iranian Constitution, as well as certain domestic laws and international instruments to which Iran is a signatory, specifically state this, and go as far as to consider obtaining a confession through torture a crime and the perpetrators, criminals. Therefore, not only was the late Mr. Afravi’s torture at the hands of security agents in violation of the law, but the court’s reliance on a confession obtained under torture and duress was in complete violation of the law as well. Furthermore, it is not clear whether the defendants in the case accepted these confessions in court, before the trial judge issuing the ruling in the case, since a confession can be relied upon for the issuance of a sentence only when it is made before the trial judge. Issuance of the court’s ruling based solely on the confessions indicates that security officials had no other documentation or evidence proving that the bombing was carried out by Mr. Afravi; it is not logical for a bombing in one of the most crowded places in the city not to leave the least bit of trace or clue. In other words, it seems that judicial and security officials had found no proof of Mr. Afravi having committed the crime and had therefore resorted to extracting a forced confession from him.


The Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Mr. Ali Afravi to death. This decision was upheld by Supreme Court Branch 32.

On March 1, 2006, ISNA, quoting the Prosecutor General, wrote that the case had certain flaws and defects and that it was under consideration by the Supreme Court. The substance of these defects was not clear, and it appears that not much consideration was done, as the execution of Mr. Afravi, as well as another one of the accused in the case, was carried out in public that same day (March 1, 2006) in the city of Ahvaz.

On March 1, 2006, ISNA, quoting the Prosecutor General, wrote that the case had certain flaws and defects and that it was under consideration by the Supreme Court. The substance of these defects was not clear, and it appears that not much consideration was done, as the execution of Mr. Afravi, as well as another one of the accused in the case, was carried out in public that same day (March 1, 2006) in the city of Ahvaz.

According to Amnesty International, the execution was carried out in public on Naderi Bridge, near the location of the bombing and 45 minutes prior to the announced time. The rope was first placed around the necks of the accused, and then the crane raised them slowly from the ground (this mode of execution is, in effect, suffocation, more painful, and, obviously, more prolonged), contrary to what is customary in these cases.

Mr. Afravi’s family was informed on television about the death sentence and the time of execution of their son. His father, who was one of the defendants in the same case during the execution of his son, was detained in the detention center, and a few weeks later he was informed of his son's execution. Security officials returned neither Mr. Afravi’s body, nor his belongings, to his family. Furthermore, they declined to tell the family where they had buried him. The family was warned by the Ahvaz Department of Information against having a wake or any other type of memorial for him. After a while, and subsequent to inquiries made at the city’s mortuaries, the family concluded that the security agents had buried Mr. Afravi in a remote cemetery at a place called Borumi, outside of Ahvaz.

*A Summary of the Khuzestan Protests on April 2005
Subsequent to the publication of a letter dated July 24, 1998, ascribed to then-President Khatami’s Chief of Staff, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, demonstrations protesting the letter broke out on Friday, April 15, 2005, first in [the city of] Ahvaz, and then in other cities, such as Mahshahr and Hamidideh, and continued for several days. The letter emphasized the modification of Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arab population through promotion and encouragement of the migration of non-native populations to the province, [thus] reducing Khuzestan’s Arab population to one third of the total population of the province. Although the government’s spokesperson officially denied [the existence of] this letter on Saturday, April 16, the demonstrations that had been called for by the “Coordination Committee for Popular Protests in Ahvaz” continued extensively in the coming days. In calling for demonstrations, [the organizers] highlighted various factors, including “the central government’s policies in expropriating Arab farmers’ lands for various projects such as sugar cane development,” and “marginalization of, as well as profound discontent among, Khuzestan’s Arab [population], as a result of the regime’s efforts to obliterate Arab identity.”
The demonstrations that had started in Kui-e Alavi (Shelangabad /Da’ereh), one of [the city of] Ahvaz’s poor neighborhoods, quickly spread to the center of Ahvaz and to the cities of Mahshahr and Hamidieh. Citing Ahvaz News (a regional news organization) and eyewitnesses at the scene, the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization’s bulletin, dated April 15, 2005, stated, “Around three thousand Arab people of Ahvaz have gathered together and started extensive but peaceful demonstrations in Kordovani Street and Square, along with thousands of others in neighborhoods such as Shelangabad, Malashieh, Ameri, and Kut Abdollah, among others. Security forces are attacking the demonstrators, first with tear gas, and are subsequently firing on them in Da’ereh and Malashieh neighborhoods.” The degree of violence resorted to by security and police forces in quashing the demonstrations was such that it led to the death of a number of protestors. Dozens more were injured. Subsequent to these deaths, the intensity and magnitude of the protests increased. In a number of towns, demonstrators proceeded to cut off roads and to occupy government buildings and police posts. These protests continued for ten days in many Arab regions of Khuzestan. Protestors demanded a government apology to the region’s Arabs. Official government sources, quoting the Islamic Republic’s Defense Minister, announced the death toll as standing at three or four. (ISNA, April 19, 2005) Civil society activists, however, declared the number of people killed during these events to be between 50 and 60. Amnesty International stated the number as 29; Human Rights Watch, 50; and the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization, 160. Dozens of others were injured. The Ahvaz General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest and arraignment of 447 individuals. (IRNA, April 25, 2005) Local sources, however, announced the number as being greater than 1200. A number of intellectuals and ethnic leaders were among those arrested. Although the demonstrations subsided after ten days, widespread arrests, multiple bombings, successive executions, and popular protests continued on various occasions, including the anniversary of the events.
**Ahvaz Bombings in 2005 and 2006:
June 12, 2005:  Four explosions occurred in front of the Governor’s building, the Planning and Budget Organization building, the Housing and Urban Development Organization building, and in a residential neighborhood, leaving at least 8 dead and 98 injured.
September 1, 2005:  The bombing of oil installations and two pipelines in the Zargan region of Ahvaz.
October 15, 2005:  Two explosions occurred prior to Iftar, in the month of Ramadan, at two locations on Salman Farsi (Naderi) Street, leaving at least 6 dead and 100 injured.
January 24, 2006:  Bombings at Saman Bank --  in the Kianpars neighborhood of Ahvaz and at the Khuzestan Province Natural Resources General Administration building --  left at least 6 dead and 45 injured (certain reports indicating 8 or 9 dead).
February 27, 2006:  Bombings at the Governor’s buildings in the cities of Dezful and Abadan left 4 injured.

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