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

Mohammad Rajabi Sani

About

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

Case

Date of Execution: November 9, 2004
Location: Karaj, Alborz, Iran
Mode of Execution: Death in custody
Age at time of offense: 41

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 liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.

  • The right not to be punished for any crime on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time it was committed.

UDHR, Article 11.2; ICCPR, Article 15, Article 6.2.

  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.

  • 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 appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.

ICCPR, Article 14.5.

  • The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

ICCPR, Article 6.4.

  • The right not to be tried or punished again for an offence for which one has already been

convicted or acquitted.

ICCPR, Article 14.7.

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).

Trial

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.

Charges

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).

Defense

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

Judgment

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.

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[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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