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

Jamshid Dehqani

About

Age: 29
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: March 4, 2015
Location: Gohardasht Prison, Karaj, Tehran Province, 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, the following human rights may have been violated in this case:

  • The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.

  • The right not to be punished for any crime on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time it was committed.

UDHR, Article 11.2; ICCPR, Article 15, Article 6.2.

  • The right 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 unions 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.

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 the right to legal aid. The right to communicate with one’s attorney in confidence

ICCPR, Article 14.3.b and 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.

  • 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.

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 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

  • The right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one, and the right to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on one’s behalf under the same conditions as prosecution witnesses.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.d and 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.

  • The right not to be tried or punished again for an offence for which one has already been

convicted or acquitted.

ICCPR, Article 14.7.

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.

About this Case

Jamshid Dehqani: “We were men of religion and the mosque, and in addition to daily tasks, we cared about religious issues”

News of Mr. Jamshid Dehqani’s execution along with his brother and four other individuals, was published by various sources including Kalemeh TV (March 4, 2015), HRANA (March 4, 2015), and Deutsche Welle Radio (March 4, 2015). The Judiciary Branch news agency (Mizan Online, March 4, 2015) also announced the news of the execution of six individuals in Rajai Shahr Prison, without stating their names. Additional information was obtained through an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation with Mr. Hamed Ahmadi, the spokesman for Rajai Shahr Prison Sunni prisoners (ABF Interview) in the weeks leading to the execution, prisoners’ video messages and audio interviews with television networks and other media from inside prison, including video messages recorded by Mr. Dehqani, and other sources*.

Mr. Dehqani was single, had a high school diploma, and was a Sunni Kurd residing in [the city of] Sanandaj. He was a taxi driver and the oldest son of a five-member poor and deprived family. Jamshid and his brother Jahangir were the family’s breadwinners and guardians, and in charge of their old and sick parents. According to his sister, their family had no source of income after her brothers’ arrest, and lived on “people’s support.” (Rooz Online)

Mr. Dehqani was a religious man and believed and practiced the Shafe’i [branch of Islam]. He himself had written: “We were men of religion and the mosque, and in addition to daily tasks, we cared about religious issues” (Sunni News, September 26, 2013). Among his religious activities were participating in Ebrahim Khalilollah Mosque and distributing religious CD’s and printed materials in his taxi. According to his prison mate, he was a patient and pleasant man who tried to help people around him and those in need. In prison, he was engaged in [spiritual] purification and religious studies. (ABF Interview)

Mr. Dehqani did not belong to any group or organization. He and the other prisoners sentenced to death were proselytizing the Shafe’i**religion, and according to themselves, were trying to prevent people being taken advantage of in the name of religion. (Center for Supporters of Human Rights, May 4, 2014)

Background

Based on existing information, in the years 2007 to 2009-10, numerous insults were made by promoters of the Shi’a religion against Sunni beliefs and individuals who commanded their respect, causing the reaction of Sunni religious personalities and activists. Following offensive remarks made by Ebrahim Hatamikia (famous Shi’a film director) against Aisha (the Prophet Mohammad’s wife) in an interview with Khanevadeh Sabz Magazine (Volume 195, 2007), and statements made by well-known preachers including Hojjatoleslam Daneshmand, Hojjatoleslam Juybari, and Hojjatoleslam Ansari – whose lectures were at times covered by state-run radio and television – a number of religious Sunni youth from Kurdistan considered these insults to have been organized [by the state]. They started religious classes, distributing CD’s and books in local mosques, universities, and their neighborhoods, and protested these actions, shedding light on [the motives], promoting and defending the principles of the Shafe’i religion. These CD’s included documented cases offensive to Sunni beliefs, quoting religious authoritative and reputable sources such as Bihar al-Anwar. These young people’s religious activities aroused the security apparatus’ suspicions.

Subsequent to Ayatollah Khamenei’s trip to Sanandaj in May 2009, a number of young Sunni Kurd religious activists were arrested in the name of the fight against Salafi and heretic movements. Three months after these arrests, [a number of] assassinations were carried out in Sanandaj, including those of Mamusta Shiekholeslam, member of the Assembly of Experts, and Molla Borjhan Aali, a Sunni cleric. The security forces accused individuals that had already been arrested prior theses assassinations. Although the charge of assassination was not brought up in court and the arrestees were tried for Moharebeh, the charge was, nevertheless, constantly mentioned on news media and by judicial and security officials. The defendants denied any and all relations with armed, radical, and extremist groups, objected to the charges brought against them and demanded an open re-trial, to which they got no response. Ultimately, six of the detainees were executed in January 2013 and another six on March 4, 2015.

The issuance and implementation of the death sentence against this group of Sunni defendants caused much reaction by individuals and domestic and international institutions. In June 2014, 19 human rights organizations objected to the sentences and demanded that they be revoked. Additionally, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Human Rights Defenders, and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation issuing bulletins and a number of calls to action, demanded the revocation of the defendants’ death sentence and a fair, transparent, an open trial. Sunni religious personalities, including Molavi Abdolhamid, [city of] Zahedan Friday Prayer Imam, Hassan Amini, Sanandaj’s Imam Bokhara Seminary’s mufti and director, and Molana Gergij [city of] Azadshahr Friday Prayer Imam, wrote open letters to the Leader [of the Islamic Republic] and to the Heads of the Judiciary, Legislative, and Executive Branches, asking for the revocation of the Sunni prisoners’ death sentence (Al-Arabiyah, September 19, 2013). Civil and human rights groups and organizations condemned the implementation of the death sentences.

Arrest and Detention

On June 17, 2009, Mr. Dehqani was arrested while he was driving his taxi by Information Ministry agents in Sanandaj who did not have an arrest warrant and [immediately] proceeded to beat him. According to Mr. Dehqani himself, within the first few moments of being taken to Sanandaj Information Administration Detention Center, several people started to “punch and kick him” breaking his nose and his head. (Interview with Kalemeh TV, September 25, 2013. He spent over 20 months in solitary confinement cells at Sanandaj, [the city of] Hamedan, and Tehran Information Administration Detention Centers. His brother Jahangir was also arrested that same day.

“During the entire time in solitary confinement, we were subjected to the harshest physical and psychological torture. We were blindfolded, handcuffed, and shackled, and they would bring us papers for us to sign with our eyes closed. We had no knowledge of their content and to this day, we don’t know what was in those papers. They threatened us and said that if we didn’t sign them, they would bring our mothers and our sisters here.”

On April 19, 2010, Mr. Dehqani and nine other defendants in the case were transferred to Hamedan Information Administration Detention Center, and six months later, on October 15, 2010, to Tehran’s Evin Prison’s Ward 209. During his incarceration, he was denied the right to visit and contact with his family, as well as the right to an attorney.

Four of the defendants in this case testified in a letter that they had been continually subjected to physical and psychological torture during their detention at Information Administration detention centers. As reported by the defendants themselves, torture included flogging, electric shock, beating the sole of the foot (bastinado), hanging [from the hands or the feet], [being kept in a] dark solitary confinement cell without a toilet, threat of sexual assault, threat of the arrest of family members, months of no contact with the family, [being kept] hungry, insults to Sunni religious beliefs, left handcuffed and shackled for long periods in the prison yard during winter. (Four prisoners’ letter, September 2013, Center for Supporters of Human Rights, Sunni prisoners’ representative, May 4, 2014, ABF Interview)

In a separate letter from inside prison, Mr. Dehqani and his brother have explained that the interrogators’ objective in applying physical and psychological torture, was to force them to sign confessions the contents of which they had no knowledge of: “During the entire time in solitary confinement, we were subjected to the harshest physical and psychological torture. We were blindfolded, handcuffed, and shackled, and they would bring us papers for us to sign with our eyes closed. We had no knowledge of their content and to this day, we don’t know what was in those papers. They threatened us and said that if we didn’t sign them, they would bring our mothers and our sisters here.” (Sunni News, September 26, 2014)

A person close to the defendants describes their conditions in the Sanandaj Detention Center: “They underwent the toughest physical and psychological torture at the Sanandaj Information Administration. There was a bed called ‘the miracle bed’. They would lie these guys down on the bed handcuffed and shackled and they would beat them on the soles of their feet until they confessed and cooperated. They would give them electric shock. They would beat them with electric rods. They hanged from the ceiling with their hands tied behind their backs on numerous occasions; and no one knew for how long. They wouldn’t even feed them, for two, even three days. Then they would give them, for example, a watermelon for food, after which they desperately needed to go to the bathroom, but they wouldn’t let them until signed the papers they had brought for them to sign. (Sunni prisoners’ representative’s interview, Center for Supporters of Human Rights, May 4, 2014)

In protest of the adjudication process and of the treatment of Sunni defendants, Mr. Dehqani and other defendants in the case, collectively went on a hunger strike three times, the last of which in December 2014-January 2015, lasted 73 days.

In February-March 2011, Mr. Dehqani was transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison’s Ward 1 which, according to [the officials] themselves, was where “dangerous criminals” were kept. In February 2012, he was transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison’s Ward 4, Hall 10, along with the other Sunni prisoners, and on November 13, 2012, to [the city of] Karaj Qezel Hesar Prison. In the spring of 2014, after the 73-day hunger strike, he and three other defendants of the case were transferred back to Rajai Shahr Prison. (Video message from inside prison, Social Media, June 2014)

According to the Sunni prisoners’ representative, because of their beliefs, they did not enjoy the same rights as other prisoners even in the general ward; prison officials, as well as prisoners themselves instigated by the officials, insulted their beliefs. For instance, they were not allowed to perform group prayer, or officials would not allow their religious books, which they deemed superstitious, to be brought into the prison. (Sunni prisoners’ letter from inside prison)

In interviews and letters, Mr. Dehqani’s older brother described life conditions in Rajai Shahr and Qezel Hesar prisons as extremely difficult: “We’ve been in Qezel Hesar Prison for about seven months, in the most difficult conditions; among prisoners who are all drug addicts; among people who do not believe in God, do not believe in the Koran. Nor is there any food; there’s been lice, mice, and shoes in the food they bring us. These are the conditions we live in.” (Mr. Jamshid Dehqani’s interview from inside the prison, Social Media, June 2014)

When Mr. Dehqani asked the court why he was being sentenced to death, the judge responded: “Be quiet you evil Sunni, I will hang you; weren’t you frequenting the mosque?”

Trial

On February 12, 2011, Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 28, tried Mr. Dehqani and nine other defendants in case number d/t/89/18078, in a closed door session. Four of the defendants wrote that the court did not allow them to retain an attorney of their own choosing, and that the defendants met their court-appointed lawyer a few minutes before trial and signed the retainer agreement. The defendants appeared blindfolded, handcuffed, and shackled before the judge, and their trial lasted only 10 minutes (Mr. Dehqani’s co-defendants’ letter to international bodies, Sunni prisoners’ website). According to one of the defendants in an interview with HRANA, security agents used electric shockers several times when the defendants were speaking during trial (HRANA, September 15, 2014, interview with prisoners’ representative). Based on Mr. Dehqani’s writing, the judge psychologically tortured them during trial and insulted their beliefs and their families. When Mr. Dehqani asked the court why he was being sentenced to death, the judge responded: “Be quiet you evil Sunni, I will hang you; weren’t you frequenting the mosque?” (Sunni News, September 26, 2013) 

Contrary to normal judicial procedure, the trial was conducted outside the jurisdiction of the defendants’ place of residence and arrest.

Charges

According to the content of their letter, the charges brought against Mr. Dehqani and the other defendants was collectively “Moharebeh” through “Contact with an enemy Salafi group,” “propaganda against the regime through participation in ideological and political classes, possession, purchase, and sale of Sunni belief books and lecture CD’s” (Four Sunni prisoners’ letter to the United Nations Secretary General, September 2013). In a news piece published on the day of implementation of the sentence, the Judiciary Branch’s news agency announced the charges against the six defendants as being “Acting against public security and armed attack against a law enforcement special unit, and also intentional homicide.”*** (Mizan Online, March 4, 2015)

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 the evidence presented at trial. According to the defendants’ statements, however, their confessions constituted the basis for the sentence. According to Mr. Ahmadi, the spokesman for Sunni prisoners in Rajai Shahr Prison, these confessions consisted of a few pages that had been signed by the defendants in Sanandaj Information Administration Detention Center, while they were blindfolded. According to the defendants, the interrogators considered proselytizing religious beliefs to be efforts to overthrow the regime, and not accepting [the principle of] the Primacy of the Religious Leader (“Velayat-e Faqih”) to be “Moharebeh.”

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

Based on available information, the defendants in the case, including Mr. Dehqani, were not given an opportunity for an effective defense. According to Mr. Ahmadi, the spokesman for Sunni prisoners, judicial authorities did not allow the defendants to retain an attorney of their choice for six years after their initial arrest, and when they finally did, they did not allow the attorney to read the case file on the pretext that it was confidential; ultimately, they forced the attorney to resign by threatening him. (ABF Interview)

According to the defendants’ testimony, legal procedures were not observed at trial and the defendants were not given permission to speak and the opportunity to defend themselves. On the day of the trial, the court-appointed attorney encouraged them to accept the charges by making the false promise that they would return home to their families in Sanandaj and would be freed if they did so. The defendants noted that after months of solitary confinement and torture, they were in an extremely distressed mental state and that was why the promises that were made to them, especially the hope of returning to Sanandaj, caused them to accept the charges. According to the defendants, the judge had not asked them any specific questions and his treatment of them was extremely offensive. (ABF Interview)

Mr. Dehqani emphasized that their only crime was that they were Sunni and members of a minority, “otherwise we did nothing but promote our own belief, [distribute] a CD that talks about the Koran, about the monotheism verses.”

Once they were transferred to a general prison and the pressure of the interrogations was off, the defendants found the opportunity to deny the charges brought against them time and time again, through writing numerous letters and conducting audio and written interviews from inside the prison. They denied the charge of armed combat and contact with armed groups, and emphasized that they had been arrested and sentenced to death solely for activities such as participating in religious meetings, distributing religious materials, and defending what adherents of the Sunni religion hold sacred (Sunni prisoners’ representative’s interview with Kalemeh Global Network, published on September 22, 2013, Youtube). These defendants considered themselves adherents of the Shafe’i religion and denied any contact with Salafi and extremist groups: “We have declared time and time again that we do not belong to any particular group or organization, that we are not heretics and radicals, and that we did not even know each other outside of prison; that we were in society and among regular people, and that we were all arrested either at home or at work. Our only crime is contact with our mosque, holding our beliefs, and peacefully protesting the insults hurled at the adherents of the Sunni faith in 2008 by the cleric Bijan Daneshmand, by Ebrahim Hatamikia in the Sabz Magazine Volume 13, and by the cleric Juybari; it is the right of every minority [group] to protest so long as their beliefs are being insulted.” (Letter from prison, July 21, 2013)

In multiple audio and video messages sent from inside prison, the Dehqani brothers demanded an open trial in the presence of the media, and protested the violation of the rights of the defendants in the case. For instance, Mr. Jamshid Dehqani said in one video message: “If we are Mohareb, tell us the reason why you want to execute us. Why don’t they film and broadcast an open trial… so that it will be clear to both the people and to ourselves why we are sentenced to death… why we don’t have the right to hire an attorney. We asked a lot of lawyers to [represent us] but they threw all of them out of the court. They wouldn’t even let them [read the file]. They said out file was secret and confidential. What kind of file is this that even an attorney can’t look at it? In what kind of court not even an attorney is allowed to look at the file?” He emphasized that his and his co-defendants’ only crime was that they were Sunni and members of a minority, “otherwise we did nothing but promote our own belief, [distribute] a CD that talks about the Koran, about the monotheism verses.” (Video message from inside the prison, YouTube June 2014)

In addition to official charges, state-run radio and television and other state-run media brought other charges against the defendants through broadcasting multiple reports and programs, including “assassination of high-ranking Sunni clergymen, possession of arms and explosives, and drug trafficking.” Mr. Dehqani and the other defendants considered these charges baseless and emphasized that “not even the judge or the interrogation team ever leveled such charges against us.” Denying the charge of assassination, Mr. Ahmadi, the spokesman for Sunni prisoners said in his and the other defendants’ defense: “The assassinations we are accused of occurred on September 19, 2009, whereas the date of our arrest is very clear. Jamshid and Jahangir Dehqani who are brothers were arrested on June 17, 2009; Kamal Molai was arrested on July 14, 2009, and Hamed Ahmadi was arrested on July 30, 2009. When the assassinations occurred we were in the Information Administration Detention Center; how could we have carried out those assassinations when we were detained at the Information Administration?” (HRANA, Septemer 15, 2013, Interview with prisoners’ representative)

The Sunni prisoners’ representative accused the regime of taking advantage of the assassinations to oppress young Sunni Kurds and asked in a letter:

Where is this warehouse full of arms that has been confiscated from the prisoners? Why haven’t they video recorded and broadcast it? After all, it is the Information Ministry’s modus operandi to create a documentary at the smallest thing they confiscate from somebody and show it to the entire world.

“… 3. Through broadcasting film on social networks and media, which can be seen on Youtube even now, as well as in letters to all international organizations asking for help, these prisoners have repeatedly denied the charges brought against them and have asked why their trial was not open [to the public] so that the truth can be clear for the entire world to see, if they had done something.

4. These four individuals have expressly stated that they did not know each other outside prison, and that they didn’t even live in the same neighborhood in Sanandaj, that they have been put at the center of a scheme and a sham, trumped-up case and were forced to sign and seal a few pieces of paper through physical and psychological torture, that [the regime] had kept this case quiet [and under the radar] for a few years by falsely promising them and their families to free them and also by threatening their families. But now that the defendants’ voices have reached human rights and international organizations, [the regime] has panicked and doesn’t know how to cover up its crimes.

5. Where is this warehouse full of arms that has been confiscated from the prisoners? Why haven’t they video recorded and broadcast it? After all, it is the Information Ministry’s modus operandi to create a documentary at the smallest thing they confiscate from somebody and show it to the entire world.

I will now leave it to the world’s intellectuals and humanitarians to decide why such a case was not adjudicated openly, why the regime did not do this to show [and prove its case] to the world.” (HRANA, the prisoners’ representative’s letter, 2013)

According to these prisoners’ representative, their death sentences were issued pursuant to Islamic Penal Code, Article 186; considering the Islamic Penal Code was changed, [then] pursuant to Article 10 of the new Code, the previous sentence must be revoked and a new sentence consisting of between 3 and 15 years imprisonment must be issued (ABF Interview). As written by four of the defendants in this case, Supreme Court Branch 32 had considered implementation of the sentences without legal merit: “Because of the changes made to the Islamic Penal Code in 2013, they cannot find us Mohareb and sentence us to death even based on the false charges against us and the confessions obtained under torture, because, pursuant to Article 10 of the new Code, in the event that, after commission of the crime, a new law is passed that is in some ways more lenient to the criminal, the new law must be the basis [of a ruling]. Therefore, as Supreme Court Branch 32 has stated, invoking this same Article, implementation of these sentences is without any legal merit.” (HRANA, November 22, 2014)

Judgement

On February 12, 2011 (the day of the trial), Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 28 found Mr. Jamshid Dehqani and 9 other defendants guilty of Moharebeh and sentenced them to death. This sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court. He and three other defendants were taken four times to solitary confinement cells awaiting execution, which was postponed for reasons including dissemination of the news, and pressure from various media and human rights organizations. (Mr. Dehqani’s interview from inside the prison, Published on Social Media, June 2014)

Ultimately, on March 4, 2015, Mr. Jamshid Dehqani was hanged along with his brother, Jamshid, and four other Sunni defendants in Rajai Shahr Prison. According their families’ letter, one day before execution, prison officials asked the families to go from Sanandaj to Karaj for a last visit. They were able to visit with Mr. Dehqani for 10 minutes from a distance of a few yards. He was in a “large cage, handcuffed and shackled,” but the officials did not even allow them to get close to him.

Judicial and security officials did not turn Mr Dehqani’s body over to his family and denied their wish to be present for his burial to [perform] religious rituals and [exercise] their legal rights. They only allowed one family member to be present at burial and to view the body. Security officials buried him at Karaj’s Behesht Sakineh cemetery and prohibited the family from holding a funeral wake. (Families’ letter, March 6, 2015)

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*Sources:
HRANA (September 15, November 15, December 11, 2013, March 16, July 21, November 22, 2014, March 3, March 6, 2015); Kalemeh Global Network (September 9, 2013); Iran Human Rights Organization (June 14, 2014); Rooz Online (December 31, 2012, March 4, 2015); Jaras (September 8, 2013) Al-Arabiya Persian (September 21, 2013); Sunni Prisoners’ Representative’s Interview with Kalemeh Global Network (Youtube, September 22, 2013); Center for Supporters of Human Rights (May 4, 2014); Baluch Activists Campaign (March 4, 2015); Zamaneh Tribune (March 6, 2015); Saham News (March 6, 2015); Kordpa (March 9, 2015); Parseh Dar Shahr Weblog (March 4, 2015); Sunni News (September 26, 2013); Mr. Dehqani’s Interview (YouTube, September 2013); Interview with Vesal Haq Global Network September 26, 2013).
**The Shafe’i sect is one of Islam’s Sunni sects that follows the teachings of Abu Abdollah Mohammad Edris Shafe’i, one of the four Imams of Sunnah and Jama’ah. From a historical perspective, the Shafe’i sect is the third oldest religion of adherents of Sunni Islam that are followers of AbuBakr, Omar, Osman, and Ali.
***On March 14, 2014 and November 15, 2014, Islamic Republic of Iran’s state-run radio and television broadcast reports and special programs in which the defendants were charged with “assassinating Mamusta Sheikhol-Eslam, member of the Assembly of Experts,” “possession and warehousing of arms,” and “contact with PEJAK.”

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