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

Zamel (Zamen) Bavi

About

Age: 29
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Execution: January 29, 2008
Location: Karun Prison, Ahvaz, Khuzestan, Iran
Mode of Execution: Hanging

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 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 appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.

 ICCPR, Article 14.5.

·         The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

 ICCPR, Article 6.4.

 

Capital punishment

 

·         The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.

 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.

 

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

 

ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 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. Bavi always helped out friends, people in need, and families of political prisoners. Although all his brothers were older than him, but they were all known as Zamel's brothers in the prison.

News of Mr. Zamel (Zamen) Bavi’s execution was published in numerous sources, including Amnesty International (February 6, 2008), Ahvaz Human Rights Organization (January 30, 2008) and the European Parliament (January 30, 2008). Additional information was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF interview) with two individuals accused in the case, which has been referred to as “the Ahvaz bombings case” by Iranian authorities, including one of his prison mates, an ethnic Arab human rights activist, and from other sources.*

Mr. Zamel Bavi was a 29-year-old high school graduate, married, with a two-year-old child. He resided in [the city of] Ahvaz and had a grocery distribution store. According to people close to him, Mr. Bavi had extensive social relations. He always helped out friends, people in need, and families of political prisoners. He was an athlete, active in Tae Kwon Do and track and field, and was always happy and in good spirits, even in difficult circumstances. He did not belong to any political groups or organizations. He was the son of Mr. Salem Bavi, one of the leaders of the tribe and an influential philanthropist among Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arabs. The Bavi family has had numerous social and cultural activities, with the aim of keeping the Ahvazi Arabs’ ethnic identity alive. For instance, Mr. Zamel Bavi’s wedding was performed according to ancient Arab traditions and, in the presence of a great crowd, attracting the attention of the region’s Arab population and local media, as well as alerting the security apparatus. (ABF interview).

According to Mr. Bavi's cellmates, he was popular and respected among the prisoners and would financially assist those in need. Although all his brothers were older than him, but they were all known as Zamel's brothers in the prison. Mr. Bavi used to study Arabic and attend Qoran classes in prison (ABF interview).

The arrest of eight members of the Bavi family (five brothers, the son-in-law, and the head of the family, i.e. the father) and issuing tough sentences for the Bavi brothers, including a death sentence for Mr. Zamel Bavi, caused numerous reactions.

The sentence and execution issued for him prompted numerous reactions from the attorneys in the case, the Association for the Protection of Prisoners’ Rights, as well as international organizations such as Amnesty International (May 17 and June 23, 2006) and Human Rights Watch (June 26 and November 11, 2006). In a resolution issued on December 19, 2006, the UN General Assembly expressed grave concern about widespread human rights abuses, the use of torture and execution in Iran, and, more particularly, regarding discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities. The open publication of seven of the Ahvaz bombing defendants’ attorneys resulted in their prosecution on the charge of endangering national security in Ahvaz. (ILNA, October 7, 2006). The attorneys’ trial was supported by the UN Special Rapporteurs’ objections. (UN website, January 10, 2007). On January 31, 2008, the European Parliament strongly condemned the execution of four “Arab political activists,” including Mr. Bavi.

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 20 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

Mr. Zamel Bavi was arrested by the Ahvaz Information Administration agents on August 10, 2005, while returning from work. About an hour later, his four brothers were also arrested at their place of employment. A short time later, security agents arrested his father and their son-in-law as well. The latter were released three weeks later, but the Bavi brothers remained in the Information Administration’s custody. (ABF interview).

About an hour later, his four brothers were also arrested at their place of employment. A short time later, security agents arrested his father and their son-in-law as well. The latter were released three weeks later, but the Bavi brothers remained in the Information Administration’s custody.

Mr. Bavi was kept in solitary confinement at the Ahvaz Information Administration’s secret detention center. During the 10 months he spent in solitary confinement cells, he was only allowed to walk the yard a few times. In the first two months, he had no visitations, and afterwards he was only able to meet with his family three or four times - and once with his attorney - in the presence of security agents. (ABF interview).

According to two of the defendants in the bombing case, who were detained by the Information Administration at the same time, and to a person close to him, while at Ahvaz Information Administration detention center, Mr. Bavi routinely and continuously underwent physical and psychological torture, including being kicked and punched, flogged with green pipes or electric cable, and deprived of sleep for long periods. The interrogators had threatened that they would arrest his wife and child if he did not confess and torture them right in front of him. Another form of psychological torture inflicted on him was to threaten him and his family with rape. In May-June 2006, Mr. Bavi and the other defendants in the case were transferred to Ward 6 of Ahvaz’s Karun Prison. (ABF interview).

Trial

No detailed information is available regarding Mr. Bavi’s trial. According to a person close to him, on May 30, 2006, Branch Three of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court tried Mr. Bavi and several other defendants in the case. The trial was a closed session that lasted only a few minutes, without any witnesses present. Mr. Nikbakht and a number of other local attorneys represented the Bavi brothers in the case. In objecting to the Court not having authorized them to read the case file, the defense attorneys did not attend Mr. Zamel Bavi’s trial session.

In objecting to the Court not having authorized them to read the case file, the defense attorneys did not attend Mr. Zamel Bavi’s trial session.

Charges

According to Mr. Saleh Nikbakhti, one of the Bavi brothers’ defense attorneys, the charge brought against Mr. Zamel Bavi was “Moharebeh (“waging war against God”) and membership in illegal groups opposed to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Court also accused Mr.Bavi of acting against national security through membership in the Ahvazi Arab People’s Democratic Party. (ABF interview).

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 persons close to Mr. Bavi, the defendants’ confessions, while in solitary confinement, constituted the basis for the court’s judgment. According to Mr. Nikbakht, the Court presented evidence that Mr. Zamel Bavi had kept inactive handmade bombs in his home. (Human Rights Watch, June 26, 2006). The Court accused him of hiding seven handmade bombs. (Amnesty International, October 19, 2007).

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.

Defense

No information is available regarding the defendant’s case. According to persons close to him, however, Mr. Bavi was not given the opportunity to present an effective defense. Mr. Bawi's lawyers did not attend the trial session protesting the fact that the court had not given them complete access to their clients' 1800 pages file and had in fact denied them the right to defend them.(ABF interview).

In May 2006, seven defense attorneys in the case objected to the course of the proceedings in an open letter to the head of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, Branch Three. They had been apprised of the trial date only one or two days prior to such date, at most, whereas the law requires that they be so informed at least five days in advance. Further, that in spite of repeated written and oral requests, the court had not authorized them to meet privately with their clients and that trial sessions had been conducted individually, without the other defendants and their attorneys present, which was against the law. (Attorneys, letter).

According to Mr. Saleh Nikbakht, one of Mr. Bavi’s defense attorneys: “Since the Prosecutor had not presented any evidence that the defendants had actually committed a violent act, they cannot be considered Mohareb under the laws of Iran.”

According to Mr. Saleh Nikbakht, one of Mr. Bavi’s defense attorneys, “Since the Prosecutor had not presented any evidence that the defendants had actually committed a violent act, they cannot be considered Mohareb under the laws of Iran.” In an interview with ISNA, Mr. Nikbakht stated that, in order to issue a death sentence and to bring a successful charge of Moharebeh, the defendant must have taken up arms or to have been a member of groups who intended to carry out an armed struggle. He further stated in Mr. Bavi’s defense:  “Since, in spite of possessing explosives, he has not used them; and since he has not had any contact with any of the groups opposed to the Islamic Republic engaged in armed activities, issuing a death sentence in a court of first instance is illegal.” (Isna, Jun 23, and September 29, 2006)

In a letter to the chief of the Judiciary, the head of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights objected to the sentences issued for ten of the defendants, including Mr. Bavi: “These defendants were tried (mostly in other cities) after they had spent 10-11 months in solitary confinement, without even meeting with their lawyers… Based on [our] information, some of them had no connection to any explosion. Apparently they were enticed by an individual who had delivered audio bombs to them and had tempted, encouraged, and instigated them to carry out the explosion; some of the defendants were not even aware of what was going on at all. Those defendants who had received delivery of the explosives had changed their minds [in implementing the bombings] and had either left or hidden the explosives in other locations. What is amazing is that the individual about whom nine people have confessed and was the principle person in instigating [the defendants] and delivering the bombs [to them], is now living in the city of Ahvaz in the open, but those he misled and deceived have been condemned to death.” (Emadeddin Baqi, June 15, 2006). In an interview with the BBC, the head of the Organization for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights pointed to letters in the prisoners’ own handwritings, stamped by the prison, in which they have declared that they were forced to confess under duress. (Morning Show, June 26, 2006). In another interview, with ILNA, Mr. Baqi objected to the fact that a 28- or 30–year-old judge, without sufficient [and proper] education [and experience] was given the power to decide whether the defendants lived or died. He emphasized that, even applying accepted legal and religious norms of the Islamic Republic itself, such death sentences should not have been issued. (ILNA, June 25, 2006).

Three U.N. Special Rapporteurs sent two letters to the Islamic Republic officials in August and November 2006, demanding clarifications regarding the Ahvaz bombing defendants’ claims of torture and unfair trial. The government did not, however, reply to these letters. (U.N. Human Rights website, January 10, 2007).

Two of the individuals accused in the Ahvaz bombing case testified, in an interview with the Boroumand Foundation, that the prison guards in bombing cases applied severe physical and psychological torture in order to elicit incriminating confessions about themselves and the other accused individuals.

Decision

On June 8, 2006, The Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch Three, sentenced Mr. Zamel Bavi to death. This decision was upheld by Supreme Court Branch 32 in September or October. (Mr. Nikbakht’s interview with ISNA, September 29, 2007).

On January 30, 2008, Mr. Bavi was hanged at Ahvaz’s Karun Prison, without due process of law. According to a person close to him, the implementation of Mr. Bavi’s sentence had been halted twice before, upon the order of the Prosecutor General’s office. The sentence was carried out, however, in spite of the order, without the Ahvaz Prosecutor’s knowledge and without fulfilling official administrative formalities. According to Amnesty International, neither he nor his family and attorney had knowledge of the implementation of the sentence, even though, legally, the attorney must be notified 48 hours prior to the time of such implementation. The night before the execution, Mr. Bavi was transferred to the Information Administration’s News Headquarters and had visitation with his parents, none of whom had knowledge of what was about to take place.

Mr. Bavi’s body was not surrendered to his family. Security agents did not allow his body to be buried in the tribal and family cemetery. He was buried in the Ahvaz’ Borumi Cemetery in the presence of only his mother, father, and wife. Security agents did not allow Mr. Bavi’s family to conduct an official funeral wake.

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*Sources
IRNA (March 1, 2006 and September 13, 2007), ISNA (January 25, June 23, and September 29, 2006, and September 13, 2007), ILNA (June 25, July 25, October 7, and November 18, 2006), Radio France (February 15, 2007), Radio Farda (January 25, June 15, and June 21, 2006), BBC Parsian (June 21 and 26, 2006 and September 13, 2007), Padmaz (April 12, 2014), Amnesty International (May 17, June 29, June 23, November 13, October 19, and December 24, 2006), Amnesty International (January 10, January 15, and September 13, 2007 and February 6, 2008), U.N. Human Rights website (January 10, 2007), Human Rights Watch (June 26 and November 11, 2006, and February 15, 2007), Rooz Online (November 20, 2006), Ahwaz News Agency (September 14, 2007 and January 30, 2008), Emadoddin Baqi Website (June 15, 18, 21, 23 and 26, 2006), Iran Newspaper (March 2, 2007), and the Kayhan Newspaper(July 30, 2006), Ahwazstudies (January 30, 2008).
** 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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