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

Hadi Hosseini


Age: 31
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Married


Date of Execution: March 4, 2015
Location: Gohardasht Prison, Karaj, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Hanging
Charges: Religious offense; Murder; Acting against state's security

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

Mr. Hosseini was a simple laborer and had a poor family. He suffered epilepsy, and carried a special red card reserved for mental patients, issued by [the city of] Kermanshah’s Farabi Hospital.

News of Mr. Hadi Hosseini’s execution along with five 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 one of his cellmates and 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 and other sources*.

Mr. Hosseini was a young Sunni Kurd from [the town of] Javanrud Kermanshah, married with an eight-year-old son. He was a simple laborer and had a poor family. He suffered from mental illness and epilepsy, and that was why he carried a special red card reserved for mental patients, issued by [the city of] Kermanshah’s Farabi Hospital.

Mr. Hosseini was a religious man and an adherent of the Shafe’i** branch [of Islam]. He engaged in religious activities in the town of Javanrud, including distributing religious CD’s and printed materials. According to his prison mate, in spite of his own numerous problems, he helped people in need and especially newly arrived prisoners. In addition to daily chores and cooking, he was studying and reading religious materials. (ABF Interview)

Mr. Hosseini 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)


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 13, 2009, Mr. Hosseini was arrested at his father’s home in Javanrud by Information Ministry agents who did not have an arrest warrant, and taken to the Information Administration Detention Center. He spent over 15 months in solitary confinement cells at Sanandaj Information Administration Detention Center, and at Evin Prison’s Ward 209.

According to available information, he was continually subjected to physical and psychological torture during his detention. He was also denied the right to visit and contact with his family, as well as the right to an attorney. In February-March 2012, Mr. Hosseini and the other Sunni prisoners were transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison, and on November 14, 2012, to [the city of] Karak’s Qezel Hessar Prison, Ward 4, Unit 3, reserved for drug addicts and other criminals suffering from dangerous illnesses such as AIDS and Hepatitis.

In protest of the adjudication process and the treatment of Sunni defendants, Mr. Hosseini went on a hunger strike with five of his Sunni prison mates sentenced to death on three occasions, the last of which in November 2013 lasted 55 days. After the hunger strike ended and four of the striking prisoners were transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison, the two remaining ones at Qezel Hessar Prison, including Mr. Hosseini, were subjected too much harsher treatment, and even their food ration decreased. On January 7, 2015, Mr. Hosseini was returned to Rajai Shahr Prison. (HRANA, January 7, 2015)

He was continually subjected to physical and psychological torture during his detention. He was also denied the right to visit and contact with his family, as well as the right to an attorney.

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 2010-2011, Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 28, tried Mr. Hosseini and one other defendant in the case in a closed session. Based on available information, Mr. Hosseini was not permitted to retain an attorney. No precise information is available on trial session(s), including whether a court-appointed attorney was present or not.

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


Based on available information, Mr. Hosseini was charged with “Moharebeh through contact with a Salafi group” and propaganda against the regime through proselytizing Sunni beliefs at the university and participating in out of town Sunni collective prayers (ABF Interview). In a news piece published on the day of execution, the Judiciary Branch’s news agency announced the charges against the six co-defendants as being “acting against public security, armed attack against 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.


Based on available information, the defendants in the case, including Mr. Hosseini, 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)

“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."

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)

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)

A Summary of the Legal Defects in the Adjudication of Mr. Hadi Hosseini’s Case

Based on available information, interviews given by the individuals executed, as well as their families’ statements, the defendant in this case underwent the most severe forms of torture while in detention. He was forced to make self-incriminatory admissions under torture, whereas, under Iranian law, torture and duress of the defendant is illegal and considered a crime, and confessions obtained in this manner are without credibility and legal value. Principle 38 of the Iranian Constitution, as well as certain domestic laws and international instruments to which Iran is a signatory, specifically so state, and go as far as to consider obtaining a confession through torture a crime and the perpetrators, criminals. It was therefore incumbent upon the court to conduct the necessary investigations regarding the accuracy and authenticity of the defendant’s confession. Although a confession is the single most important piece of evidence in proving the commission of a crime in criminal law, it has value and credibility only when it is true. Therefore, the court relying on a confession that was obtained under duress and torture was in utter violation of the law.

In accordance with religious law as well as the Islamic Penal Code, in the event that an individual confesses to a crime for which the Hadd punishment of death has been prescribed, the death penalty shall not apply if he/she later denies the confession for any reason. Pursuant to Article 173 of the Islamic Penal Code: “The denial after confession shall not result in removal of the punishment except for confession to an offense which is punishable by stoning or by the Hadd punishment of death, in which case, at any stage, even during the execution, the aforementioned sentence shall be removed and, instead, one hundred lashes in the cases of Zena (adultery) and Lavat (sodomy), and a fifth degree ta’zir prison sentence shall be issued for other offenses.” The defendant in this case was tried on the charge of Moharebeh (which carries the death penalty) and the court cited his confession as evidence for the issuance of the death sentence. It could not have legally issued such a sentence, however, given the defendant’s repeated denial of the confession; the denial of the charge and of the confession was enough to prevent the court from sentencing him to death on the charge of Moharebeh.

In accordance with religious law as well as a provision of the new Islamic Penal which was in force at the time of the implementation of the defendant’s sentence and could have applied to him, in crimes that carry Hadd punishment, if a defendant declares that his/her confession was obtained under threats, duress, or torture, such declaration shall be accepted without any need to provide supporting evidence, and the confession shall become null and void. Islamic Penal Code Article 218 provides: “In the cases of offenses punishable by Hadd, if the accused claims that… his/her confession was obtained under threat or intimidation or torture, the claim shall be accepted without requiring supporting evidence and oaths.” It was therefore necessary for the implementation of the sentence to be halted considering that, subsequent to the issuance of the sentence, he had stated in various ways that his confession was obtained under torture and had repeatedly denied what he had confessed.

Based on available reports, the defendant in this case was solely engaged in religious activities and had never participated in any armed action. Pursuant to Iranian law, an individual is considered to be Mohareb when he/she takes up arms with the intention of fighting the regime and/or instilling fear and terror in the public. In other words, armed action is the principal element of the crime of Moharebeh, whereas the defendant’s activities were peaceful. In other words, attributing the crime of Moharebeh to the late defendant was in utter violation of the law and devoid of any legal considerations. Additionally, the statements of some of the officials regarding this case were ambiguous and contradictory. For instance, certain officials accused the defendant and his co-defendants of being involved in the assassination of the city of Sanandaj’s Friday Prayer Imam and Assembly of Experts Representative, whereas these individuals were in detention at the time of the assassination. Furthermore, no information has been provided regarding this case and concerning the nature of the actions taken by the convicted individuals.

Based on available reports, the defendants in this case were not able to have access to an attorney. The judicial officials authorized the presence of an attorney only in the short trial session conducted at the revolutionary court. The attorneys were not permitted to read the case file under the pretext of the content being security-related and confidential. The defendants’ right to a defense was therefore severely hampered.


Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 28, sentenced Mr. Hadi Hosseini and one other defendant in the case to death. According to his court-appointed attorney, the Supreme Court revoked the death sentence against him on December 30, 2011 “because of his client’s mental problems and serious psychological dysfunctions”, but on May 9, 2014, his court-appointed attorney announced that the death sentence had been upheld by the Supreme Court.

On March 4, 2015, Mr. Hadi Hosseini was hanged along with five 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. Hosseini for a few 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. According the families, their children were injured. During the visit, in response to his mother’s question as to the state of his illness, Mr. Hosseini said: “I’m fine, and I’ll be better in a few hours.” (Letter of the families of the five executed prisoners, Zamaneh Tribune, March 6, 2014).

Judicial and security officials did not turn Mr Hosseini’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)


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); Amnesty (March 3, 2015); Campaign to defend civil and political prisoners in Iran ( February 23, 2015); Parseh Dar Shahr Weblog (March 4, 2015); Sunni News (September 26, 2013); Mr. Dehqani’s Interview (YouTube, September 2013); Taghato (March 6, 2015); Khodnevis (September 4, 2014); Sunni Prsisonres Iran (October 31, 2013, October 28, 2014, and January 7, 2015)
**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.

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