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

Ali Reza Molla Soltani

About

Age: 17
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: September 21, 2011
Location: Karaj, Alborz Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder
Age at time of offense: 17

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 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 seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

ICCPR, Article 6.4.

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.

  • The right of a person not to be subjected to the capital punishment for an offence committed before the age of eighteen. The right not to be deprived of life while pregnant.

ICCPR, Article 6.5; Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37.a.

About this Case

Does the fame of a murdered athlete justify a death sentence for a 17-year-old boy? 

News of Mr. Ali Reza Mollasoltani’s execution was published on Alborz Province Judiciary’s website, ISNA, and Fars News Agency (September 20, 2011), Mehr News Agency (September 21, 2011), and on Mohammad Mostafa’ee’s weblog “Modafe”. Additional information was obtained from various sources, including Alborz Province Judiciary’s website (August 6, August 28, and September 19, 2011), Fars News Agency (September 5, 2011), Karaj General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office’s website (August 18, 2011), Mellat Online (August 8, 2011), and other sources.* Human rights organizations, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (September 22, 2011) and Amnesty International (September 20 and 21, 2011) condemned this execution. Some information has also been obtained from Mr. Mollasoltani’s family’s interview with Asseman weekly, cited on the Vista website.

Mr. Mollasoltani, son of Abolqassem, was born on December 25, 1993. He was his family’s youngest child and continued his studies until eighth grade. He then started to do manual labor in various cities along with his older brother. According to his brother, he was a hard-working person without any history of violence (Mehrdad Mollasoltani’s interview with Asseman Weekly). His case, along with that of two other defendants, is related to the murder of an athlete known as “Iran’s strongest man” which occurred at midnight on July 16, 2011, in the city of Karaj’s Golshahr neighborhood, on Puneh Street.

Mr. Mollasoltani, who had not yet reached the age of eighteen, and two of his friends were engaged in a verbal argument with the passengers of another car while driving. The argument turned into a physical altercation. The person gravely injured in the scuffle was Ruhollah Dadashi, Iran’s strongest man, who died on the way to the hospital.

Owing to Mr. Dadashi’s fame and popularity, the media and the authorities paid unusual and one-sided attention to this case and worked to provoke public opinion against Mr. Mollasoltani.

Following an official announcement, thousands of people showed up for a teenage boy’s execution 

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International both condemned this execution and considered it contrary to human rights standards and a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Prior to the implementation of the sentence, Amnesty International had issued a declaration asking Iran’s judicial authorities to stop the execution.

International law strictly prohibits the death penalty for individuals who have not yet reached the age of 18 at the time of the commission of the crime. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran is obligated not to execute individuals who have committed a crime when they were children.

Arrest and Detention

According to the Karaj Police Chief, Mr. Mollasoltani was arrested on July 19, 2011, through the efforts of Tehran and Alborz Provinces’ specialized, security, information, and criminal investigations agents. His two companions were arrested on July 17, 2011 (IRNA, July 20, 2011). There is conflicting information regarding the way Mr. Mollasoltani was arrested. In explaining the indictment, the Karaj Prosecutor’s representative stated that Mr. Mollasoltani was arrested on July 19, 2011, when he intended to leave town. However, according to Mr. Mollasoltani’s testimony in court, he surrendered himself to the Criminal Investigations Bureau in Karaj; he said that the police’s claim of arresting him was a lie. His attorney also stated in court that Mr. Mollasoltani had surrendered himself (Mellat Online, August 8, 2011). Mollasoltani’s brother also stated in an interview that he was with him and had coordinated with the Criminal Investigations Bureau to deliver his brother to them (Mehrdad Mollasoltani interview with Asseman Weekly).

Mr. Mollasoltani’s case was reviewed in a meeting in Karaj on Wednesday, July 20, with the country’s Prosecutor General, the Karaj Prosecutor, the Prosecutor’s Office’s homicide investigation judge, and Alborz Province and the head of the City of Karaj’s Criminal Investigations Bureau’s Homicide Division in attendance. The case even reached the Islamic Consultative Assembly’s (Majless’) Councils and Internal Affairs Commission’s Security Committee, and the athlete’s murder was reviewed in the presence of judicial, security, and Alborz Province’s police officials (Karaj General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’ Office July 20, 2011). Mr. Mollasoltani’s case was taken up exclusively by Karaj General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’ Office Branch 21, and an indictment was issued against him (Karaj General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’ Office August 18, 2011). He was in detention for two months, during which his family visited him several times. His last visitation with his family was one day prior to his execution on September 20, 2011.

Trial

Alborz Province Criminal Court tried Mr. Mollasoltani. His case was taken up out of turn by the judiciary. His first and last trial session was convened on August 6, 2011, 18 days after the fight. Province Criminal Court judges and the chief judge, Karaj Prosecutor’s representative, and another plaintiff who had gotten into a fight with Mr. Mollasoltani on the day of the incident, were present at trial. His attorney was court-appointed. According to his brother, no attorney would agree to take on Mollasoltani’s representation. The trial lasted two hours. At the close of the session, the judges announced that they would issue a ruling within a week (Mellat Online, August 8, 2011).

Mr. Mollasoltani’s family was not present at trial. Law enforcement officers had told the defendant’s family that it was best if they left the premises because they could not guarantee their safety due the people’s anger at the death of their athlete (Mehrdad Mollasoltani interview with Asseman Weekly).

Charges

Alborz Province Criminal Court declared the charge against Mr. Mollasoltani to be “intentional murder”.

How did judicial authorities turn a 17-year-old boy’s manslaughter charge into premeditated murder? 

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 against Mr. Mollasoltani was “discovery of the murder weapon, discovery of the victim’s blood on the defendant’s car, defendant’s identification through a [police] sketch, the medical examiner’s evidence, statements of eyewitnesses, victim’s brother’s complaint, a complaint filed by another plaintiff, and the defendants’ confessions.”

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. Mollasoltani was not given the opportunity to present an appropriate defense. Mr. Mollasoltani did not have a prior criminal record and he had not reached the age of eighteen at the time of commission of the crime. Not only did the atmosphere of anger and fear that had been created result in independent attorneys not accepting his representation; the media’s inaccurate and conflicting information provoked public opinion against him and had a negative effect on the case, expediting the adjudication. Official published accounts regarding the events that resulted in Mr. Dadashi’s death are also conflicting. In the days after the murder, the authorities dismissed the notion of prior intent to commit murder on the part of the defendants. The head of the Islamic Consultative Assembly’s (Majless’) Councils and Internal Affairs Commission’s Security Committee stated in an interview that, upon reviewing the murder case in the presence of judicial, security and Alborz Province police officials, he  had reached the conclusion that the victim and the attackers did not know each other beforehand, and that the fight was the result of anger on both sides (IRNA, July 20, 2011). The Alborz and Tehran Provinces Chief of Police also denied any rumors concerning prior planning and said: “The Police Force declares that the crime was definitely an accident” (Mehr News Agency, July 21, 2011). The pressure exerted by public opinion to find him guilty as soon as possible (the result of media reports that also included inaccurate information) increased in an unprecedented fashion, and caused the officials to change their statements to Mr. Mollasltani’s detriment. For instance, according to Mr. Mollasoltani’s brother, the knife that was used in the murder had been purchased three months earlier, but the media soon changed that period to three and even five years prior to the murder. Mr. Mollasoltani had nonetheless never even carried a knife, and the knife in question had been left in the car after their trip to the city of Ardebil the day before. Additionally, there were stories of Mollasoltani being a “child of divorce, and wicked”, the falsity of which could have been proven through some field investigation (Mollasoltani family’s interview with Asseman Weekly).

How did a 17-year-old boy under the influence of alcohol defend himself against “the strongest man in Iran”?

In court, Mr. Mollasoltani said in his own defense that at first, the victim (who was a bodybuilding champion, 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 275 pounds according to Wikipedia) slapped him in the face, bloodying it. In response to the judge, who reminded him that the medical examiner had not confirmed that claim, Mr. Mollasoltani said that he had never been taken to the medical examiner’s office in the first place. Mr. Mollasoltani (who, according to his brother, weighed 130 pounds,) was frightened by the victim’s build and realized that he could not put up any resistance. He said that he did not intend to kill the victim but had attacked him out of fear. According to available information, Mr. Mollasoltani only stabbed the victim once, in his throat, which caused bleeding and a blood clot that blocked his air ways. In defense of the defendant, Mr. Mollasoltani’s brother alluded to the possible effect the decision to take Mr. Dadashi to Karaj’s Madani Hospital (which was very far from the scene of the crime, about a thirty-minute drive) had on the victim dying (Mollasoltani family’s interview with Asseman Weekly). Mr. Mollasoltani’s attorney said in court that the defendant had resorted to using a knife in self defense and that his self defense had been legitimate because if he hadn’t stabbed Dadashi, Dadashi would surely have killed him with his blows, that there were no police for miles from the place the event occurred, and that there was no one to help them. Mollasoltani therefore had no choice but to defend himself, argued the lawyer, who also objected to the special attention given to Mr. Mollasoltani’s case.

Another issue is that Mr. Mollasoltani and his friends had consumed alcohol, but the charge of “drinking alcohol” did not come up at trial even though it had been presented at the investigation stage with the investigating judge; this could have refuted the intentionality of the murder. According to a report of the Police Chief for Alborz and Tehran Provinces Information Headquarters, defendant number 2 was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and 80 lashes for participating in an altercation that resulted in murder, and defendant number 3 was sentenced to 80 lashes for consumption of alcohol (Fars News Agency, September 6, 2011). However, judicial authorities did not provide an explanation regarding the deletion of the charge of “drinking alcohol” from the charges brought against Mr. Mollasoltani. There was another plaintiff at trial who stated that, prior to the murder, Mr. Mollasoltani and his companions had gotten into a fight with him as well at an intersection, but that no knife was used.

According to Mr. Mollasoltani’s brother, he was deprived of an appropriate defense due to the negative media influence. Mr. Mollasoltani’s court-appointed lawyer was also under pressure and was not able to defend him the way he was supposed to.

A Summary of the Legal Defects in Mr. Alireza Mollasoltani’s Case

The most noteworthy aspect of the late Ruhollah Dadashi’s murder case is the timeframe within which the case against the defendant was adjudicated. The murder took place on July 16, 2011, and the execution occurred on September 21 of that same year. In other words, the entire process of adjudication lasted two months. The defendant was interrogated by the police, preliminary investigations were conducted at the prosecutor’s office, the Province Criminal Court tried the case, upon issuing a ruling the case was sent to the Supreme Court for mandatory review, the Supreme Court issued a ruling, the case was sent to the Head of the Judiciary for confirmation of the death sentence, and the necessary steps were then taken for the implementation of the death penalty. All of these actions were completed in just two months. This is while it takes years to adjudicate similar cases. The reason for the brevity of the process was the victim’s fame. Adjudication in such a short period raises doubt as to whether there was ample time to conduct a thorough investigation and whether the defendant had ample opportunity to defend himself. Was the defendant tried in a fair trial? In murder cases, Iran’s judiciary usually delays the implementation of the death penalty in order for the next of kin’s anger to subside and for them to forgive the murderer; such opportunity was not, however, afforded to Mr. Mollasoltani. In other words, the judicial authorities’ haste in executing Mr. Mollasoltani due to the victim’s position was not acceptable. Had there not been such haste, the next of kin might have forgiven him.

Following an official announcement, thousands of people showed up for a teenage boy’s execution 

Another noteworthy aspect is the claim that the defendant committed murder in self defense. The defendant’s attorney also mounted his client’s defense based on self defense. Regardless of the veracity of such a claim, it was incumbent upon the court to conduct the necessary investigations in this regard. In light of the defendant’s age (less than 18 at the time of the murder) and the physical shape of the man who was slain (one of the strongest men in Iran,) it appears that the victim’s conduct at the time the fight broke out frightened the defendant. On account of his age, Mollasoltani acted in an emotionally fraught way with the intention of defending and freeing himself from this fear, killing Dadashi without appreciating what he was doing. The court should have thus taken Mollasoltani’s age into consideration and investigated his mental state at the time of the murder. 

According to available information, Mr. Alireza Mollasoltani was hanged in public and his body was left hanging for 45 minutes. An individual dies within a few minutes after being hanged. The objective of the death penalty is to take the life of the subject and it is necessary for the process to cease after his/her death. The authorities keeping Mr. Mollasoltani’s body hanging after he had died was a violation of the laws and of his dignity as a human being.

Judgement

Alborz Province Criminal Court Branch One sentenced Mr. Ali Reza Mollasoltani to death. This sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court and confirmed by the Head of the Judiciary. One day after the execution, the prosecutor’s representative said in an interview that from a religious standpoint, Mollasoltani had attained the age of 18 and that by law, the standard to apply is the religious age of majority, which is calculated according to lunar months. According to available information, the judge had told Mr. Mollasoltani’s family that they had until the defendant turned 18 to obtain the next of kin’s forgiveness. However, the sentence was so quickly implemented (only two months after the murder) that they did not have a chance to obtain the forgiveness of the victim’s family. According to Mr. Mollasoltani’s brother, the victim’s family waited until the mourning period was over. In interviews on TV and with the media, Mr. Mollasoltani’s family expressed their sorrow and sympathy to the victim’s family for their loss, but these statements were not broadcast. On the morning of September 21, 2011, Mr. Mollasoltani was hanged from a crane in public, on Karaj’s Golshahr neighborhood’s West Puneh Street, in the presence of the victim’s family and thousands of people. Although Karaj’s prosecutor had issued orders prohibiting media presence as well as picture taking and video cameras, a special spot was provided to reporters, and many regular people videorecorded the hanging.

The authorities kept Mr. Mollasoltani’s body up on the crane for 45 minutes, in public view, and before his father, mother, sister, and brother’s eyes. His body was turned over to his family.

A 17-year-old’s body was kept hanging from a crane for 45 minutes as his mother and sister looked on 

Mr. Mollasoltani’s family fell into distress after his execution. His sister said this about the condition of her family: “My father is 70 years old, and up until now, he never complained about anything in spite of all of life’s hardships. But ever since he saw his son’s hanging, he’s been fading away. How can a father and a mother witness such a scene… He was hanged before my mother’s eyes. Did anyone ever wonder, even for an instant, what was in this mother’s heart? All the “Ya Hosseins” that she uttered made everybody feel for her.” (Mollasoltani family’s interview with Asseman Weekly).

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*Other sources: Ebtekar (July 25, 2011), Karaj General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’ Office (July 24, 2011), Borna News (July 24, 2011), Jam-e-Jam, IRNA (July 23, 2011), ISNA Alborz (July 22, 2011), Mehr News Agency (July 21, 2011), Karaj General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’ Office, IRNA, Borna News (July 20, 2011), Mehr News Agency (July 19, 2011), Karaj General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’ Office, IRNA, Borna News, Mehr News Agency (July 18, 2011), IRNA (July 17, 2011), Iran Human Rights Home – RHANA (September 23, 2011). 

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