Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Mohammad Rajabi Sani


Age: 41
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: November 9, 2004
Location of Killing: Karaj, Alborz Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Death in custody
Charges: Unspecified offense
Age at time of alleged offense: 41

About this Case

Mohammad Rajabi Sani paid a heavy price serving his country in the Iran-Iraq war. The state rewarded his sacrifice with poverty and death. 

News of the death of Mr. Mohammad Rajabi Sani was published by Mehr News Agency on November 20, 2004. Additional information was gathered from the Mehr News Agency on December 3, 2004; the Sharif News website on December 5, 15, 2004, January 4, 2005, and April 4, 2006; the newspaper Iran on December 30, 2004; the newspaper Hamshahri on January 5, and April 21, 2005; the newspaper Kayhan on July 27, 2005; and from the website of Shahid Avini on November 28, 2004.

Mr. Mohammad Rajabi Sani, son of Safar’ali, was born in Tehran on January 10, 1965. He was married with two children. When he was 13 years old, he first lost his father and then his mother shortly after. He went to the front of the Iran-Iraq war as a volunteer when he was 17 years old, and then remained at the front as a conscript in the army. Mr. Rajabi Sani was a veteran with 35 percent neurological and psychiatric disability covered by the Islamic Revolutionary Veterans Foundation. His life was characterized by poverty and hardship and he made a living by driving passengers in the city.

Mr. Rajabi Sani had been injured several times during the war. The first time, he temporarily lost his ability to speak due to an explosion shock wave. Later on, the explosion of an aircraft rocket lodged shrapnel inside his shoulder and arm. After a successful operation, he was sent back to the front and injured by a truck explosion during an ammunition run to an area under siege. His psychological health faltered after this incident. According to existing information, Mr. Rajabi Sani suffered from psychotic breaks and was hospitalized at mental hospitals many times. According to his family, his psychological health worsened with every hospitalization. For over 11 years, he consumed a daily dosage of more than 25 pills for his neurological and psychological illness (Hamshahri newspaper, January 5, 2005).

The case of Mr. Rajabi Sani related to a complaint by two brothers regarding the breaking of their cars’ windows following a fight in a local supermarket. This incident occurred about one and a half months before his death. According to the existing information, Mr. Rajabi Sani was shopping when the two brothers, both residents of Sani’s neighborhood, mocked him. During the course of an altercation, Mr. Rajabi Sani lost his temper and smashed the windows of their cars (Hamshahri newspaper, January 5, 2005; Shahid Avini on November 28, 2004).

Media reports regarding Mr. Rajabi Sani’s case resulted in several statements and follow-up from authorities.

Arrest and detention

Following a complaint filed by a private plaintiff, agents of Police Station 128 in Niru-Hava’i District arrested Mr. Rajabi Sani and transferred him to the station’s detention center. One week later, on September 29, 2004, his case was sent to Branch Two of Resalat Court in Tehran where he was interrogated by Mr. Karimian (the investigating judge) without the presence of an attorney.

The investigating judge set bail for Mr. Rajabi Sani in the amount of 100 million Rials (around 3,000 USD). His family could not afford the bail and the investigating judge ordered his transfer to the police station detention center. Mr. Rajabi Sani was sent on to Evin Prison and, one day later, to Qezelhesar Prison.

Mr. Rajabi Sani’s wife reported that on the day of the investigation she had reminded Karimian that her husband suffered from psychological breakowns and would face trouble if unable to take his medicine. However, the investigating judge ignored Rajabi Sani’s medical history. Mr. Rajabi Sani’s family visited him in prison three times. Their fourth attempt to visit him was not allowed. During his detention period, Mr. Rajabi Sani’s family warned the authorities about his psychological problems several times. According to them, he had access to his medications while detained at the police station detention center, though he was denied medical attention in prison and his health deteriorated and his behavior became abnormal without access to his pills.

Mr. Rajabi Sani’s wife reported that during her first visitation six days after his transfer to Qezelhesar Prison, Mr. Rajabi Sani’s hands were trembling and his speech was unbalanced. She described his health as “horrible” during the third visitation and stated: “His whole body was trembling and he could not speak properly. I asked him if he took his pills and he replied: ‘No, they don’t give me any pills here and I want to see the prison’s physician” (Mehr news agency on November 20, 2004).

According to existing information, Mr. Rajabi Sani’s wife visited him three times on October 5, 9, and 16, 2004. She had warned the prison authorities regarding her husband’s psychological health and his daily need for pills several times. Prison officials refused to dispense the medicine without a judge’s order, however (Hamshahri newspaper, January 5, 2005).

According to published reports, following the lack of attention of the judge and prison authorities Mr. Rajabi Sani’s mood became abnormal. He behaved strangely, going to the restroom with bare feet, talking all the time about the war to prisoners, and at turns falling into fits of laughing and anxiety. According to his wife, he was trying the patience of his cellmates. Some prisoners who thought that Rajabi Sani was sane and was just harassing them beat him up. Instead of paying attention to his health, authorities transferred him from Section 2 to Section 12 of Qezelhesar Prison, the section allocated for prisoners deemed insane.

In Qezelhesar, Mr. Rajabi Sani’s health deteriorated and he slipped into a coma. Details of what happened to him in the Qezelhesar Prison after his last visitation with his family on October 16, 2004 have not been published. The only existing information is that the prison authorities transferred him to the Shahid Raja’i Hospital while he was in critical condition, likely comatose, on October 22, 2004. Mr. Mohammad Rajabi Sani died at the Shahid Raja’i Hospital in Karaj on November 9, 2004 (Hamshahri newspaper, January 5, 2005).


Mr. Rajabi Sani was not tried because his case was still under investigation and did not reach a court by the time of his death.


The charges brought against Mr. Rajabi Sani were announced as “harassment and breaking windows” (Shahid Avini on November 28, 2004).

Evidence of guilt

The evidence presented against Mr. Rajabi Sani were the broken windows of a Peykan car and a Pride car belonging to the two plaintiffs (Shahid Avini on November 28, 2004).


No information is available on Mr. Rajabi Sani’s defense.


Mr. Rajabi Sani’s case did not go to trial and therefore there was no ruling against him.

Acts and Statements by Authorities

Authorities did not pay any attention to Mr. Rajabi Sani’s problems and his family’s statements during his detention at Qezelhesar Prison between the 1st and 20th of November, 2004. In response to Rajabi Sani’s wife’s pleas, the prison officials stated: “We are not allowed to give prisoners any pills unless the judge indicates in the case that he is allowed them.”

After Rajabi Sani’s wife took his medical records and a letter from the Veterans Foundation indicating that Mr. Rajabi Sani would have breakdowns and need hospitalization without his 25 daily pills, the investigator threatened her with arrest and stated: “He must stay in prison to learn his lesson.”

In addition, when Mr. Rajabi Sani’s family attempted to visit him for the fourth time, officials delayed them, finally telling his son that he had been transferred to another section and that the visiting day had changed. At the insistence of the family, the prison Deputy finally told them two days later that he had been hospitalized.

Weeks later, under pressure for further investigation, the Central Prison Administration sent two teams to Qezelhesar Prison to investigate the treatment and death of Mr. Rajabi Sani. The judiciary announced that the results of these investigations indicated that “no failure or negligence occurred” in regards to the defendant (Mehr news agency on December 3, 2004).

Official reports state that based on the legal procedure, the prisoner was detained in the quarantine section of Qezelhesar Prison for 24 hours with a physician, a psychologist, and a staff member in attendance. On October 2, 2004, he was settled in the ward. According to the medical record created by the prison treatment team, he was visited by the prison’s general physician for his neurological and psychological problems on October 5, 2004. The next day, the prison psychologist counseled him and an expert psychiatrist visited him on October 7, 2004. This psychiatrist’s diagnosis was Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He prescribed him medicine to be administered daily in prison. It is not clear if medication given to a patient who himself is not psychologically well will be properly taken. Additionally, the judicial statements did not point out why Mr. Rajabi Sani’s detention continued after the prison physician diagnosed his illness. Mr. Rajabi Sani’s case became a medical emergency and he was taken to the prison clinic on October 21, 2004. After preliminary care, he was transferred to the Shahid Raja’i Hospital in Karaj at midnight. He remained under treatment here for 19 days. He died on November 9, 2004.

The judicial statements indicated no reason for keeping Mr. Rajabi Sani in prison after his illness had been diagnosed. In addition, no explanation has been given regarding the reason for his hospitalization and death.

On December 3, 2004, the Central Prison Administration announced that the visitation of the prisoner with his family had not been recorded in the prison computer, meaning that he had no visitations with his family and no medication had been given to the clinic or prison. Nonetheless, the prison clinic began his treatment according to procedure. In reaction to this statement, Mr. Rajabi Sani’s wife gave the media documents recording visitations, money receipts for the prisoner, a letter sent by the Islamic parliament indicating that Mr. Rajabi Sani was covered by the Veterans Foundation and confirming his health situation for the prison supervisory judge, and a letter by the prison judge sent to Branch Two of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Mehr news agency on December 3, 2004).

In a statement, the Minister of Justice announced the cause of death of Mr. Rajabi Sani as “internal infection,” stating that this may have been caused by his handcuffs in the hospital (Iran newspaper, December 30, 2004). However, according to the family’s attorney who cites a prison official who accompanied Rajabi Sani to the hospital on the first night, the defendant had not been handcuffed owing to the condition of his hands and officials were forced to transfer him using foot shackles (Shahid Avini on November 28, 2004). Mr. Shushtari, the Minister of Justice, also stated that there had been no marks of torture or assault on his body.According to the Minister of Justice, some individuals failed their duties, but such failures did not constitute negligence. One assistant judge, one interrogator, and four clerks have been fired and their cases given over to the Violation Committee. Regarding Mr. Rajabi Sani’s lack of access to his medication, the minister stated: “It is not correct that they did not give him his medication. After entering the prison, each prisoner is asked if he is ill. [Mr. Rajabi Sani] did not mention anything about his illness and use of medication [at this time]. He mentioned it three days later” (Iran newspaper December 30, 2004).

During a meeting of heads of provincial courthouses, Ayatollah Shahrudi, the Head of Judiciary at the time, expressed regret about the death of Mr. Rajabi Sani, contacted his wife, and ordered an investigation of his case.

Kazem Jalali, representative of Shahrud in the parliament, asked the Ministry of Health about the death of Mr. Rajabi Sani. He was not convinced by the response and the issue became a matter of parliamentary discussion. In addition, the explanations offered by the head of Shahid Raja’i Hospital in Karaj regarding Mr. Rajabi Sani’s situation failed to convince Representative Jalali, leading to an argument between them. As a result, Morteza Ashrafi, the Head of Shahid Raja’i Hospital in Karaj, filed a complaint against Kazem Jalali. Based on this complaint, Dr. Nurodin Pirmo’azen, (Health Commission Reporter,) Dr. Anushirvan Mohseni Bandpay (Deputy Head,) and Dr. Hossein’ali Shahriari (member of the commission) were summoned to Branch Two of the Judicial Building as informed sources along with the defendant, Dr. Kazem Jalali. This was the first time a parliament representative had been summoned for questioning a minister (Sharifnews website, April 4, 2006).

Ayatollah Shahrudi, the Head of Judiciary at the time, ordered the payment of Dieh (blood money) to the family of Mr. Rajabi Sani. Authorities followed up on the decision, and in early 2005 Mr. Karimi Rad, the Public Prosecutor of Judges, sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice insisting on the Dieh payment. There is no indication, however, that the investigating judge was held accountable for his neglect. On July 20, 2005, a check in the amount of 25 million Tumans (around 7,500 USD) was deposited in the account of the Office Administration to the names of Mr. Rajabi Sani’s children (Kayhan newspaper on July 27, 2005).

Additionally, the following figures and institutions reacted publicly to the death of Mr. Rajabi Sani: Hojatoleslam Alizadeh, the Head of Tehran Courthouse at the time, the Forensics Organization, the Public Prosecutor of Judges, the Deputy of Prisons Affairs and Supervision of the Revolutionary Public Prosecutors Office in Tehran, the Prisons and Security and Rehabilitation Organization, the National Security Commission of the Parliament, the Head of Shahid Foundation and Veterans Affairs, the Judiciary’s  spokesperson, the First Deputy of the Head of Judiciary and the Health Ministry, and Eshrat Shaqayeq, a parliament representative (Hamshahri newspaper, January 5, 2005).

In a letter to the Head of Judiciary, Eshrat Shaqayeq, the representative from Tabriz, stated that personal hatred influenced the case of Mr. Rajabi Sani and questioned the justice and impartiality of the judiciary (Sharifnews website on December 15, 2004).   

Objections and Statements by the Family

Regarding Mr. Rajabi Sani’s situation during his detention, his wife stated: “My husband was sent to prison for breaking two cars’ windows and they labeled him a criminal. They sent his dead body from the prison to the hospital. Who is responsible now? I told the prison authorities that if he did not take his pills, his health would deteriorate. They said that they were not allowed to give prisoners pills unless the case judge mentioned it in his ruling. However, I already told the judge during the trial that my husband suffers from psychotic breakdowns and that if he did not take his pills, he would have problems. But the judge told me that the forensic medical expert must approve this. In spite of the fact that psychotic breakdowns were written in Mohammad’s medical record, the judge disregarded my request and issued his imprisonment.”

Referring to the fact that prison authorities had said the only way for Mr. Rajabi Sani to take his pills was with the judge’s permission, his wife said: “I went again to the judge along with my son and reported my husband’s condition, pleading with him. We told him that without his permission Mohammad’s condition would worsen, and showed the judge his medical record and a letter by the Veterans Foundation indicating that he would require hospitalization without his 25 daily pills. Nonetheless, in response to my repeated appeals, the [investigative] judge told me that he must stay in prison to learn manners. Then he threatened me, saying that if uttered another word he would have me sent off to be near my husband [in prison]”.

According to Mr. Rajabi Sani’s wife, his behavior ended up negatively affecting the others in the prison. Some prisoners beat him up. Rather than pay attention to his health, authorities subsequently transferred him from Section 2 to Section 12 of Qezelhesar Prison, a section allocated for insane prisoners. Authorities took him to be deliberately harassing other inmates. Ultimately, these other inmates beat him up. His condition then worsened, and he passed into a coma upon being taken to Shahid Raja’i hospital. Mr. Rajabi Sani’s wife said: “I think they burned my husband’s hands intentionally and a blow to his head caused him to go into the coma” (Mehr news agency, November 20, 2004).

According to Mr. Rajabi Sani’s son, the family wandered for some time before finding out that he had been transferred to the hospital on October 25, 2004. He was kept in the hospital in a room resembling a storage area. His whole body was injured, his hands were burned up to elbows, and he had big blisters. His face was black and blue and his lips had swelled in such a way that his son did not recognize him. He was chained to the hospital bed while comatose. Despite the insistence of the soldiers accompanying him, nobody paid attention to him during the first four days of his hospitalization (Hamshahri newspaper, January 5, 2005; Sharifnews website on December 5, 2004).

Regarding his father’s situation in the hospital, Mr. Rajabi Sani’s son stated: “My father was hospitalized in a room without proper facilities. After our follow-up through the Veterans Foundation and a phone call by a high-ranking authority to the hospital, he was sent to ICU. I recognized my father only by his curly hair and the shrapnel mark on his ear. His damaged face made it hard to identify him. His hands were so swollen that they looked like pillows with big blisters. When I asked the hospital physician what happened to him, he said: ‘These hands have been burned’”(Hamshahri newspaper, January 5, 2005).

Rajabi Sani’s son further stated: “On October 25, we were informed that our father was in the hospital and went to visit him. After about five days, my father became conscious and opened his eyes. Then he went back into a coma that night. The next morning, he was better and could speak. But he was not normal psychologically. When we asked him what happened to his hands, he cried. Every time we asked about his hands, he cried. Sometimes he became nervous and said: ‘Don’t throw stones at me. Untie my legs. It’s enough. Don’t hang me up anymore.’ Rope marks were evident on his ankles. They tied it so hard that we could see bruising. The skin under his eyes was black and blue. His teeth were broken. Marks of battery were evident on his body” (Hamshahri newspaper, January 5, 2005).

In an interview with the media, Mr. Rajabi Sani’s son stated: “They announced my father’s illness as blood poisoning. Where in the world does this kind of disease burn hands and raise blisters? Why were the undersides of my father’s eyes black and blue? Why were his teeth broken? Why did his body show signs of beatings? Is this all caused by blood poisoning?” The son reported that in addition to taking pills such as Artan, Terixafidil, fluoxetine, etc. three times a day, Rajabi Sani took other pills when he felt worse, without which he would need hospitalization to normalize. Mr. Rajabi Sani’s son asked: “Someone tell me what happened to my father, who went to prison healthy. Authorities must tell me what horrible thing they did to my father for his corpse to be taken out of the prison and hospital” (Hamshahri newspaper, January 5, 2005).

After Mr. Rajabi Sani’s death in detention, his family filed a complaint against the responsible authorities. It was investigated by two institutions, the Public Prosecutors Office for Clergy and the Investigation Unit Seven of the Public Prosecutors Office for State Employees.

During the first session which investigated Mr. Karimian, Rajabi Sani’s investigating judge at Branch Two of Resalat, the Assistant Public Prosecutor initially accepted only the guardian of Mr. Rajabi Sani’s children, refusing to allow the family’s attorney to enter. After the attorney stated that the guardian of Mr. Rajabi Sani’s children only became involved with them after the death of their father and was uninformed about what had happened during detention and interrogation at Branch Two in Resalat (including the role of Mr. Karimian,) the Assistant Public Prosecutor allowed him to enter the investigation session. According to existing information, Mr. Rajabi Sani’s wife was not allowed to enter the session.

Ms. Manijeh Mohammadi, the attorney for Mr. Rajabi Sani’s family, characterized Mr. Assistant Public Prosecutor Zarandi’s role as good and stated in defense of her clients: “In the defense statement I wrote criticisms of Articles from the Islamic Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure. I petitioned for the family’s perspective on the basis of applying legal penalties and offered a copy of documents supporting my defense. One of the issues that I raised verbally and in writing was the fact that most of the conflicts had been between Mr. Rajabi Sani’s wife and Mr. Karimian, the interrogating judge: her statement must therefore be heard. In addition, I requested a hearing for the testimonies of other individuals who had accompanied Mr. Rajabi Sani from the police station to the Public Prosecutors Office and back again. One of them had been beside him at Branch Two in Resalat and was a witness to all of Mr. Karimian’s statements”. 

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Rajani Sani’s Legal Proceedings Two aspects of Mr. Rajabi Sani’s case should be examined. First: his arrest for destroying property and the steps taken by authorities. Second: then events that occurred during his detention.

Based on reliable published news and official statements, Mr. Rajabi Sani had been seriously harmed by injuries sustained during the Iran-Iraq war. He was mentally ill, had been under treatment for years, and was taking 25 pills daily. He was hospitalized and had a medical file in various institutions.  One of the symptoms of his mental disability was temporary insanity.  Regardless, after the arrest, the investigative judge started his inquiry without paying attention to the accused’s illness, even though he was required by Article 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for the Public and Revolutionary Courts to first investigate Mr. Rajabi Sani’s mental health and get the opinion of the medical examiner before moving forward.[1]Had the investigation focused on Mr. Rajabi Sani’s mental health and taken into consideration his posttraumatic stress disorder condition, he would not have been kept in detention in Evin Prison.

The bail set by the judge is by no means proportionate to the crime committed by Mr. Rajabi Sani and much higher than the value of the broken windshields. By requiring such exorbitant bail, the judge violated Article 134 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for the Public and Revolutionary Courts.[2] The detainee could not afford the bail and the investigative judge sent him to prison instead of lowering the bail and releasing him.

Once Mr. Rajabi Sani was sent to prison, authorities ignored the deterioration of his mental health and his need for medication, despite the family’s insistence and presentation of his medical records, and failed to transfer him to the appropriate medical facilities. In doing so, they failed to abide by the regulations. Per Article 107 of the Prison Regulations, the prison clinic is required to evaluate all new detainees’ health and write reports on their findings.[3] Article 39 defines a clear reporting protocol for prison clinic heads meant to keep judicial authorities informed of psychiatric patients like Rajabi Sani.[4] Article 108 contains specific requirements.


[1] Code of Criminal Procedure for the Public and Revolutionary Courts, Article 95: “If the examining magistrate discovers that the defendant was mentally ill at the time of the crime, he will perform necessary inquiries of the family, friends and relatives [of the defendant], and will take comments from the physician. The findings will be recorded in the minutes and the file will be sent back to the court. If the court finds the investigation of the examining magistrate and the experts sufficient, and the court assures its accuracy, he will issue a court order to pursue the case, and in cases of blood money or financial losses, will specify them accordingly. If the court does not trust the results of the investigations, it will continue with the investigation and experts’ comments until concluded. A mentally ill person will be transferred to special medical or accommodation services with their parent’s permission or if otherwise required.”

[2] Code of Criminal Procedure for the Public and Revolutionary Courts, Article 134: “The arrangement of bail shall conform to the importance of the crime, intensity of the punishment, reasons and evidence of the crime, possibility of the defendant absconding, destruction of evidence of the crime, background of the defendant and health condition, the age and the dignity of the defendant.”

[3] Prison Regulations, Article 107 of 2002 version in force at time of the case (Article 111 as of 2010): “Prison and institutional clinics are required to conduct complete medical examinations of incoming inmates. When necessary, they shall conduct diagnostic tests and make arrangements regarding the prisoner’s treatment or his/her referral to other relevant facilities. They are to record all medical actions taken in the prisoner’s file.” 

[4] Prison Regulations, Article 39 of 2002 version in force at time of the case (Article 41 as of 2010): “The heads of clinics in prisons and vocational centers are required to take actions regarding the hospitalization of psychiatric patients for the purposes of their treatment in collaboration with relevant specialists (i.e. psychiatrists, physicians, and psychologists.) In cases where the illness of the patient has been authoritatively diagnosed as psychosis or mental disturbance, they shall, as soon as possible, report relevant information by way of the prison or facility head to the forensic physician for the sake of informing judicial authorities. When necessary, they shall undertake fitting measures in accordance with the law for their transfer and treatment in a secure treatment facility.”

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