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

Habibollah Riginezhad Shuraki

About

Age: 33
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: October 26, 2013
Location: Zahedan Prison, Zahedan, Sistan Va Baluchestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Membership of anti-regime guerilla group; Corruption on earth

About this Case

News of the execution of Mr. Habibollah Riginejad Shuraki and 15 other people was reported by several sources including the Ministry of Justice of Sistan and Baluchistan Province (October 27, 2013), Fars News Agency (October 26, 2013), Central News Agency (October 26, 2013), and HRANA (December 11, 2013). Additional information was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation with one of Mr. Riginejad’s relatives (ABF interview), his brother interview with the Baluchi Activists Campaign, and Mr. Riginejad’s letter from Zahedan prison addressed to United Nations special rapporteur (October 22, 2012), and other resources*.

Mr. Riginejad was a young Baluch who lived in Zahedan. He had a middle-school education and made his living selling textiles (ABF interview). Mr. Riginejad was married and had a three-year-old daughter (Riginejad’s letter).

Background

Following the armed attack by Jaish ul-Adl* on a border station in Sarvan, Sistan and Baluchistan (Friday night, October 25, 2013), as a result of which at least 14 border guards were killed and seven injured, the Ministry of Justice of the province reported the execution of 16 prisoners on Saturday, October 26. The Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Zahedan referred to the execution of the 16 “villains connected to enemy groups” as “retaliation”. According to the Chief Justice of Sistan and Baluchistan, the execution of these convicts had been “postponed due to Islamic compassion” but due to Jaish ul-Adl’s assault on provincial border guards and “continued cowardly terrorist attacks”, the sentences were at last carried out (Asrehamoon, Fars News Agency). The convicts had been arrested during the few preceding years and were not connected to Jaish ul-Adl’s armed attack, which took place only a few hours before their execution. They faced various charges across different cases: according to provincial judicial authorities, eight of them had been accused of drug dealing (Ministry of Justice of Sistan and Baluchistan).

Human rights organizations and activists called this mass summary execution a “reprisal” and protested against the execution of the prisoners who were not directly connected to the armed attack. Ahmad Shahid, United Nations Special rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in Iran, called the execution of these people a kind of retaliation in-kind and an illegal act according to international human rights laws. Shirin Ebadi, lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch expert, also considered the execution of the 16 prisoners in retaliation for border guards’ killing as a violation of legal norms and an example of the lack of independence of Iran’s judiciary. Both experts condemned the executions. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, human rights activists, and the International Federation for Human Rights also issued announcements protesting the reprisal.

Arrest and detention

Agents of the Zahedan Ministry of Intelligence arrested Mr. Riginejad in Zibashahr, Zahedan on August 31, 2009. They did not possess a warrant. Mr. Riginejad was then sent to the detention center of the Ministry of Intelligence in Zahedan. Here he was held in solitary confinement for a duration of 15 months (Riginejad’s letter). During this time he was not allowed to call or meet with his lawyer; his only family contact was a five-minute meeting with his mother granted after three months of detention (ABF interview). After the 15-month solitary detention, Mr. Riginejad was transferred to Zahedan Central Prison and finally allowed to meet his wife and daughter for the first time in a year and a half (ABF interview).

Mr. Riginejad reported in his letter from prison that he was subjected to regular physical and mental tortured by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence during his initial 15-month solitary detention. He explained the details of the abuse accordingly: “The tortures included the miracle bed (one of the most brutal forms of torture,) pulling off my toenails, electric shocks, lashing with a cable, and mental tortures. Besides this, some soldiers would kick and punch me every time I was taken away for interrogation. I was in solitary confinement at the Ministry detention center for 15 months, during which time I was questioned by the interrogator and the judge himself while on the miracle bed.” He stated that the purpose of all these tortures was to obtain false confessions: “In that situation, I had to accept everything they said to me. Being in a bad physical and mental condition, I agreed to say what they wanted me to in front of the camera. They would give me a text to memorize and repeat out loud in front of the camera. They would ask me questions and I would answer them” (Riginejad’s letter). Mr. Riginejad was also denied his rights as a prisoner at Zahedan Central Prison. He was transferred to solitary confinement on a number of occasions for various reasons such as staying in the prayer room of the prison for too long, attempting to incite unrest, and going on hunger strike. He was held incommunicado for 2-3 months (ABF interview).

Trial

Branch 1 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Zahedan tried Mr. Habibollah Riginejad in a closed session. According to Mr. Riginejad, the trial took 20 minutes and the plaintiff and one other defendant were also present in court (Riginejad’s letter). Mr. Riginejad was represented by a lawyer of his choosing (ABF interview).

Charges

Mr. Riginejad was charged with “kidnapping, membership in Jundullah, and crossing the border illegally” (ABF interview and Riginejad’s letter). Based on the announcement of the Ministry of justice of Sistan and Baluchistan, Mr. Riginejad and seven other prisoners were found guilty on charges of “Moharebeh, corruption on earth [Efsad fel-Arz] through membership of and cooperation with the Jundalsheytan group, and effective participation in the terrorist incidents in the province during recent years” (the Ministry of Justice of Sistan and Baluchistan, October 27, 2013).

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of basic guarantees of fair trial.

Evidence of guilt

According to one of Mr. Riginejad’s relatives, the evidence provided against him in court included the confessions he made during interrogation and evidence pertaining to an illegal border crossing. The person who had been kidnapped and one of the accused kidnappers were present in the court as witnesses (ABF interview and Riginejad’s letter).

Defense

Mr. Riginejad called the proceedings a “show trial” and emphasized that the charges brought against him were unfair, biased, and religiously prejudiced. He denied the charge of cooperation with Jundullah and stated that there was no evidence against him regarding this accusation, claiming that he was sentenced to death only because he was related to Abdolmalek Rigi. He requested a meeting with Abdolmalek Rigi** after his arrest in order to prove his own innocence, but the authorities refused to grant it (Riginejad’s letter). According to Mr. Riginejad’s brother, he was the next-door neighbor, friend, and relative of Abdolmalek Rigi’s older brother (The Baluch Campaign (Baluch Activists)).

As for the charge of kidnapping, Mr. Riginejad explains that the victim was present in the court and had testified that he wasn’t blindfolded at the time of abudction, that he had known the kidnappers, and that Mr. Riginejad had not been among the abductors and was therefore not guilty. Moreover, one of the kidnappers who had confessed to his crime in court himself confirmed that Riginejad was absent at the time of the incident. According to Mr. Riginejad’s letter, however, the judge failed to consider the testimony of the plaintiff and the main defendant and stated that “They (the other defendants) have come, received immunity, and cooperated with us: therefore, we don’t have anything to do with them; you should accept the charges” (Riginejad’s letter).

As for the charge of illegal border crossing, Mr. Riginejad emphasized that he had travelled to Pakistan legally with a passport and visa for business purposes. The passport and visa were made available to the court (Riginejad’s letter).

The families of some of the executed prisoners including Mr. Riginejad’s brother addressed a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei. Referring to the statement of the Deputy Prosecutor of Zahedan in his meeting with the families, they wrote “You killed 16 of us, so we will kill 16 of you, too”. Referring to instances of torture including “connecting electric wires to the bodies of the defendants, drawing hot irons against their bodies, hanging weights from sensitive body parts, and suspending them from their arms or legs”,They protested the violation of the rights of the defendants and asked for “a special team to be sent to investigate the issue, to talk to the prisoners about their torture and to the families of the executed prisoners and find out why their children had been executed.” They believed that the execution of their children was related to ethnic and religious discrimination in Sistan and Baluchistan and stated, “They don’t care about people’s complaints; as soon as people complain, any investigation is linked with religion and ethnicity and is therefore terminated. Cruelty, tyranny, and torture will increase and everybody accepts that they should not complain, that they should be prepared to be arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and executed and think they deserve it… [in our province] articles 19, 32, 36, and 39 of the Constitution have been replaced by the principles of arrest, torture in prison, and execution. People don’t have a voice and if they speak out…they are members of Abdolmalek’s group and have helped the enemies, so the complaint would be halted right away.” The letter mentions that Mr. Habibollah Riginejad was sentenced to eleven years in prison based on verdict No. 8909975416100829. Despite the formal verdict, Mr. Riginejad was executed in an act of retaliation (HRANA, December 11, 2011).

Judgment

Branch 1 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Zahedan sentenced Mr. Habibollah Riginejad to execution. The verdict was confirmed by Branch 14 of the Appeals Court in Tehran (ABF interview). According to one of Mr. Riginejad’s relatives, the ruling was issued verbally and Mr. Riginejad’s family and lawyer never saw a written verdict.

Mr. Riginejad was hanged along with fifteen other prisoners on October 26, 2013 in Zahedan Central Prison. His execution was conducted in secret and without the observance of proper legal procedures: his lawyer was not provided with prior notification and his family was not granted a final visitation. Riginejad’s body was not turned over to his family. In response to further questioning from family members, the Zahedan Intelligence Office stated that Riginejad and eight other executed prisoners had been buried in a distant location. The family has not been informed of the precise location of the grave (ABF interview.)

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*Sources: Human Rights Activists for Democracy in Iran (September 14, 2013), Asrehamoon (October 26, 2013), Jaish ul-Adl weblog (October 26, 2013), ISNA (October 26, 2013), HRANA (September 13, 2012; October 27, 2013), Radio Farda (October 27, 2013), Deutsche Welle (October 30, 2013)
** The Popular Resistance Movement of Iran, known as Jondollah, was established in 2003. This group declared its goal as the struggle for achieving the religious and national rights of Baluch and Sunni people in Sistan Va Baluchestan province in Iran and emphasized that it is not a separatist group. In 2005, this group began a series of military operations against Islamic Republic forces during which dozens of the regime’s forces were captured or killed. In response, the Islamic Republic arrested and executed dozens of members of this group; military operations continue in Sistan Va Baluchestan. In an interview with the media outside of Iran, the leader of this group, Abdolmalek Rigi, rejected the government’s labels of “terrorist” and “foreign agent” and claimed that they began their struggle against the Islamic Republic to replace it with “a popular regime that recognizes the rights of all humans.” The news of this arrest was published by the Intelligence Ministry of Iran on February 23, 2010, and the circumstance of his arrest is yet unknown. Abdolmalek Rigi was hanged in the Evin prison on June 20, 2010. In early 2011 a number of Jondollah’s members under the leadership of Sallahudin Farroughi established the Jaish ul-Adl organization, implementing organizational and structural changes and reconsidering some of their former methods. Jaish ul-Adl describes itself as a Sunni group emphasizing “federalism for Iran and self-rule for Baluchistan” as well as “armed struggle against the Islamic Republic.”

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