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

Habib Afrasiabi

About

Age: 25
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Unknown

Case

Date of Killing: April 16, 2003
Location: Qasr Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder

About this Case

News of the execution of Mr. Habib Afrasiabi, son of M., was published in the Iran and Jomhuri Eslami newspapers on April 17, 2003. Additional information was taken from the Iran newspaper on July 16, 2001. Mr. Afrasiabi’s case was related to a murder that took place in 1997.  

Arrest and detention

According to the Iran newspaper, Mr. Afrasiabi was arrested in relation to the death of a man, 54, whose naked body was found in his work place on March 6, 1998. He was 19 years old when arrested. The circumstances of his arrest and detention are not known.

Trial

According to the existing information, Mr. Afrasiabi was tried in various courts eight times. Branches 1603, 1601, 1602, and 1608 of the Criminal Court of Tehran tried him and his case went to Branch 27 of the Supreme Court several times. No information is available about the presence of an attorney during the trial sessions.

Charges

The charge brought against Mr. Afrasiabi was announced as “murder.” According to the existing information, the victim was murdered by blows of a knife to his neck.  

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

The evidence presented against Mr. Afrasiabi was his “confession.”  

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

Mr. Afrasiabi claimed his motive as defending his honor, endangered by the victim. The Head of Branch 1603 of the Criminal Court of Tehran, who had been at the crime scene, confirmed Mr. Afrasiabi’s claim when issuing his ruling based on the following six reasons:

1-      “The defendant went to the location of the incident based on the victim’s request.

2-      The victim asked of the defendant an inhumane request.

3-      The victim’s body was naked and this was not fabricated.

4-      The existence of alcohol at the scene confirms the defendant’s claims.

5-      The defendant had no premeditated motive to murder the victim.

6-      The defendant did not take anything except a cell phone and a car key when left the scene.” (Iran newspaper on July 16, 2001)

In spite of the fact that no report referred to Mr. Afrasiabi’s attorney, however, it seems that either he or his attorney requested an investigation into the contradictory and complex rulings issued by courts based on Article 31* of the Public and Revolutionary Courts. For this reason, the Judicial Inspector of the Judiciary Supervision Office asked the Head of the Special Criminal Court of Tehran to give him the case for investigation and to write a report for the Head of Judiciary. (Iran newspaper on July 16, 2001) The result of this request has not been reported.

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Afrasiabi’s Legal Proceedings 

Information about the late Habib Afrasiabi’s case is scarce and incomplete. It is not clear how he was interrogated and how the trial proceeded. Further, there is no information concerning the evidence, the various judges’ opinions, and court rulings. The one certainty is, however, that his case was adjudicated 8 separate times before four different criminal courts, and Supreme Court Branch 27, which rendered four separate and different opinions on the matter.

Based on information published in newspapers, [Criminal Court] Branch 1603 first issued a death sentence in spite of emphasizing the veracity of the defendant’s claims. Upon appeal by the late Mr. Afrasiabi, the file was reviewed by Branch 27, which reversed the ruling and remanded the case to a different [criminal court] branch. Branch 1601 rejected the charge of intentional murder, probably relying on a self-defense theory, and acquitted the Defendant. The victim’s next of kin appealed from this decision, and the case was re-submitted to Supreme Court Branch 27. Contrary to its initial ruling, the Branch reversed the acquittal and remanded to another branch. Criminal Court Branch 1602 sentenced the Defendant to death. The ruling was appealed a second time by Mr. Afrasiabi, reversed yet again by Branch 27, and remanded to a different branch. This time, Criminal Court Branch 1608 issued a mandatory guilty verdict and sentenced the Defendant to death. Upon appeal by the defendant, the case was submitted one more time to Branch 27, which, contrary to their previous ruling, the Supreme Court Branch judges, upheld the death sentence. Upon issuance of such contradictory rulings, the Defendant or his attorney appealed the same and asked for the implementation of the Law on the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts, Article 31, arguing that the decision was contrary to the clear tenets of the Shari’a and [prevailing] laws. The Prosecutor General or the Supreme Court rejected that argument, however, and upheld the death sentence.

Although the process was not in contradiction with the law [per se], the ruling issued in the Afrasiabi case can be critiqued from two standpoints:

1- Based on information from the [various] courts’ rulings, the Defendant claimed that the deceased intended to sexually assault him. Several judges determined the claim to be truthful and absolved the Defendant of the charge of intentional murder. Crime scene investigation and the presence of alcoholic beverages at the site of the event also proved that the Defendant’s statements were true. Relying on the same argument [and evidence], the Supreme Court Branch overturned the death sentence twice. Although the Defendant admitted the killing, he stated, however, that it was done in defense of his chastity [and reputation]. Pursuant to Iranian laws, defense of chastity is considered self-defense in certain cases and negates criminal responsibility.

Pursuant the previous Islamic Penal Code, Article 61, in force at the time of the proceedings in this case, “Whoever, in defense of one’s own or another’s person, [physical] reputation, chastity, and/or property, or in defense of the freedom of one’s own or another’s person from any present or imminent danger of assault [and/or rape], commits a criminal act, shall not be prosecuted or punished, if all the conditions below are met:

1-      The defense is proportionate to the assault [and/or rape] and the danger.

2-      The act is no more than necessary.

3-      Immediate access to governmental forces is not possible in practice and/or intervention by said forces will not be effective in repelling the assault and halting the danger.”

It seems that the various adjudicating branches did not conduct the necessary investigations in this case. If the Defendant claimed that he was defending his chastity, and there is evidence proving the veracity of the claim, which the judges themselves have confirmed, it was necessary that a more thorough investigation be conducted in order to shed light on the matter. Lack of such necessary investigations placed the case in an irregular process which caused the matter to be adjudicated 8 times.

2- Although adjudicating the late Mr. Afrasiabi’s case 8 separate times was not illegal, it was, however, contrary to judicial custom. Supreme Court Branch 27, alone, heard the case 4 times. First, from a judicial fairness standpoint, it was wiser and more reasonable that different Supreme Court branches hear the case. Secondly, rendering conflicting decisions in the same case by the same court is reason to pause. Supreme Court Branch 27 judges rendered completely different and conflicting opinions in the four times they heard the late Mr. Afrasiabi’s case: They reversed the death sentence twice by rejecting the intentional murder decision, and on two other occasions, agreed with the intentional murder finding and upheld the death sentence. Although this does not pose any legal issues and can be justified, the question does arise, however, as to the reason(s) why the Branch 27 judges issued thoroughly conflicting opinions and rulings. According to published reliable information, on one occasion, Branch 27 expressly declared Defendant’s claim of a “haraam” (“religiously prohibited”) act and consumption of alcoholic beverages to be accurate; on another occasion, however, it expressly stated that such a thing was not possible. It might be said that Branch 27 judges had changed in between the various hearings; the possibility for such a thing [to have happened] four different times is very slight. It is not acceptable that a judge render completely conflicting opinions in a particular case. Given the fact that there are multiple judges hearing cases in Supreme Court branches, it begs the question, how is it possible that multiple judges of the same branch hear a case four times and issue different and conflicting opinions. This shows that the case was not heard in an environment free from corruption and pursuant to principles of fair trial.

Judgment

Mr. Habib Afrasiabi was condemned to death by the last court ruling. He was hanged at the Qasr Prison yard in Tehran on April 16, 2003. The judge of Branch 1603 of the Criminal Court of Tehran, who had issued the first ruling and was in charge of the sentence enforcement, objected to the execution. However, based on another controversial ruling, Mr. Afrasiabi was condemned to death again.

Branch 1603 of the Criminal Court of Tehran first tried and condemned Mr. Afrasiabi to death. Branch 27 of the Supreme Court rejected the ruling based on the judge’s reasoning. In the Supreme Court ruling to reject the death penalty is written: “Habib Afrasiabi has accepted that a murder took place and the circumstance of the murder confirms his statements.” The report concluded “the trial was incomplete and needs to be referred to another branch.” The case was transferred to Branch 1601 of the Criminal Court of Tehran that ruled for “manslaughter” and exoneration. (Iran newspapers on April 17, 2003) Branch 27 of the Supreme Court rejected this ruling against its previous reasons for exoneration and rejection of the premeditative murder. Branch 1602 of the Criminal Court of Tehran condemned Mr. Afrasiabi to death.  However, during yet another appeal, for the third time, the judges changed their mind, rejected the death penalty, and wrote: “The premeditative murder is questionable and uncertain.” Once again the case was referred to another court and Branch 1608 of the Criminal Court of Tehran rejected the Supreme Court ruling and ruled for the death penalty for the last time. Ultimately, Branch 27 of the Supreme Court confirmed the ruling and it was carried out with the special permission of the Head of Judiciary.

-------------------------------------------

*Article 31 –The defendant can ask the Chief Public Prosecutor to investigate any final ruling by courts that is appealable during a month after the issued date. The Chief Public Prosecutor will ask the Supreme Court to nullify the ruling if he recognizes it as opposed to the Shari’a (religious laws) or the law. The Supreme Court will refer the case to a similar court [same level] if the ruling is nullified. Except for cases mentioned in Article 18, the court rulings are unobjectionable and not appealable.  

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