Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Sediq Mohammadi

About

Age: 28
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Single

Case

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

About this Case

Mr. Mohammadi was a young, single, Sunni Kurd, and a Gardening (Flowers and Plants) student at Tehran University.

News of Mr. Sediq Mohammadi’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. Mohammadi was a young, single, Sunni Kurd, residing in [the town of] Javanrud Kermanshah. He was a Gardening (Flowers and Plants) student at Tehran University, and the son of a middle class family.

Mr. Mohammadi was a religious man and an adherent of the Shafe’i** branch [of Islam]. He engaged in religious activities at the university and in his place of residence, including distributing religious CD’s and printed materials. According to his prison mate, he was a pleasant, patient, and forgiving man who helped other prisoners and, in addition to daily chores and cooking, he was studying, reading, and doing religious activities including conducting religious classes. (ABF Interview)

Mr. Mohammadi 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 May 24, 2009, Mr. Mohammadi was arrested in the town of Javanrud by Information Ministry agents who did not have an arrest warrant. 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 2012, Mr. Mohammadi 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. Because of the pressure he had endured during interrogations and in solitary confinement, he had developed mental and psychological problems.

In protest of the adjudication process and the treatment of Sunni defendants, Mr. Mohammadi went on a hunger strike with five of his Sunni prison mates sentenced to death on three occasions, the last of which in October-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. Mohammadi, were subjected too much harsher treatment, and even their food ration decreased. On January 7, 2015, Mr. Mohammadi was returned to Rajai Shahr Prison. (HRANA, January 7, 2015)

He spent over 15 months in solitary confinement cells at Sanandaj Information Administration Detention Center, and at Evin Prison’s Ward 209. He was continually subjected to physical and psychological torture during his detention.

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)

On August 12, 2014, following his objection to prison officials insulting Sunni beliefs, he was beaten by prison guards and was taken to the solitary confinement ward for 40 days and was barred from visitation. When his family was finally able to see him a few months later in November 2014, he still had marks on his body from having been severely beaten. One of his teeth, for instance, had been broken. (Sunni prisoners’ website, January 7, 2015)

Trial

In 2010-2011, Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 28, tried Mr. Mohammadi and one other defendant in the case in a closed session. Based on available information, Mr. Mohammadi 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.

Charges

Based on available information, Mr. Mohammadi 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.

Defense

Based on available information, the defendants in the case, including Mr. Mohammadi, 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. Sediq Mohammadi’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.

Judgement

Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 28, sentenced Mr. Sediq Mohammadi 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 disorder”, 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. Mohammadi 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. Mohammadi 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. Mr. Mohammadi told his crying mother during the visit: “When you cry, you make your son’s killers happy. Have patience, for your son will be executed for fighting for what is right.” (Letter of the families of the five executed prisoners, Zamaneh Tribune, March 6, 2014)

Judicial and security officials did not turn Mr Mohammadi’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); 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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