Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Hekmat

About

Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Unknown

Case

Date of Killing: August 2, 2016
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Membership of anti-regime guerilla group

About this Case

Mr. Hekmat Araqi was from Soleimanieh in Iraqi Kurdistan, and a member of the Islamist party “Kataeb Navadegan Salahuddin Ayyubi.”

News of Mr. Hekmat and 24 other individuals’ execution was published by various sources including IRNA (August 3, 2016), IRIB News Agency (August 3, 2016), Fars News Agency (August 2, 2016), Khorassan Newspaper (August 4, 2016), HRANA (August 3, 2016), Kurdistan Human Rights Defenders Center (August 3, 2016), and the Amnesty International Report (November 17, 2016).

Additional information about this execution was obtained from an Information Ministry Announcement (Islamic Republic of Iran Information Ministry website, August 3, 2016), Kurdistan Province Judiciary Announcement (Fars New Agency, August 2, 2016), and from other sources.*

Mr. Hekmat, known as “Hekmat Araqi”, was a Sunni Kurd from Soleimanieh in Iraqi Kurdistan. He was a member of the Islamist party Kataeb Navadegan Salahuddin Ayyubi in Iranian Kurdistan. (NRT Network, August 5, 2016).

Kataeb Navadegan Salahuddin Ayyubi

After the U.S. and Patriotic Union of Iraqi Kurdistan Party’s attack in 2003-04 against regions under the influence of the Islamist party “Ansar al-Islam” in the Uramanat regions of Iraqi Kurdistan, a number of this party’s members fled to Iranian Kurdistan. This group had been formed in 2000-01 with the coalition of several small Islamist groups. Based on available information, a number of Afghan Mujahidin participated in this group, which was also linked with al-Qaeda. Ansar-al-Islam was opposed to the influence and power of secular groups in Iraqi Kurdistan and demanded a return to the time of Islam’s inception. The group advocated [the Islamic concept of] “forbidding what is sinful.” Based on available information, Jihad (“Holy War”) against “secularism and apostasy” was this group’s priority. A number of previous members of the Islamist group “Kataeb Fathi”, linked with Ansar-al-Islam, established a group called “Kataeb Kurdistan” in Iran. Between 2005 and 2008, this group conducted several military operations against Patriotic Union of Iraqi Kurdistan forces in the Iran-Iraq border region. Thereafter, Iran’s Information forces arrested several of this group’s leaders and sentenced them all to 11 years in prison; they were released, however, in 2013-14. Some of “Kateb Kurdistan’s” members separated from the group in 2007-08 and established the Islamist group “Kataeb Navadegan Salahuddin Ayyubi” which held Jihadi and Salafi beliefs. (Boroumand Foundation research).

Background

Based on available information, in the years 2007 to 2009-10, Shi’a evangelists hurled numerous insults at Sunni beliefs and Sunni respected figures, with severe backlash from Sunni religious figures and activists. Following famous Shi’a movie director Ebrahim Hatamikia’s offensive statements about Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, in Khanevadeye Sabz (“Green Family”) Magazine (Volume 195, 2007-08), and statements made by several well-known preachers such as Hojjatoleslams Daneshmand, Juybari, and Ansari – whose speeches were covered by [IRIB,] state radio and television in certain instances – a number of religious Sunni youth from Kurdistan (who considered these insults as being organized) proceeded to hold classes, distribute books and CD’s in local mosques, universities, and their neighborhoods, protesting against these actions and raising awareness, as well as promoting and defending the tenets of the Shafe’i religion.**  These CD’s contained documented instances of offensive language used against Sunni beliefs, quoted from well-known religious sources of the Shi’a religion such as Bohar-ol-Anvar. The religious activities of these young people raised the security apparatus’ sensitivity.

Subsequent to Ayatollah Khamenei’s trip to Sanandaj in April-May 2009, several young Sunni Kurd religious activists were arrested in the name of fighting Salafi and Takfiri (term used to denote Sunni extremists such as al-Qaeda and ISIS) movements. Three months later, a number of assassinations were carried out in Sanandaj, including Mamusta Sheikh-ol-Eslam, member of the Assembly of Experts, and Molla Borhan Aali, a Sunni cleric. Security forces accused certain individuals of murder, who had already been arrested prior to these assassinations. Security forces also accused certain individuals of murder, who had been arrested after these assassinations. The arrestees denied any connection to armed, extremist, or radical groups, objected to the charges brought against them, and asked for a new and public trial, to no avail. Ultimately, six of the arrestees were executed in December 2012-January 2013, and six others on March 4, 2015. Also, continuing this process, 25 others, named “the Unity and Jihad Group”, were put to death on August 2, 2016.

The issuance and implementation of the death penalty for this group of Sunni adherents, was followed by the reaction of numerous domestic and international individuals and organizations. On June 12, 2014, eighteen human rights organizations, including the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation and a human rights lawyer, protested the sentences in a declaration and demanded that they be rescinded. Furthermore, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Defenders, and the Abdorrahman Borumand Foundation (December 31, 2014) issued several declarations and calls to action, demanding the rescission of the death sentences issued for the defendants of the case, and asking for a just, transparent, and public trial. Well-known Sunni figures such as Molavi Abdolhamid, Zahedan’s Sunni Friday Prayers leader, Hassan Amini, Sananadaj’s Imam Bokharai Seminary’s mufti and school director, and Molana Gergij, Azadshahr Sunni Friday Prayers leader, asked for the immediate rescission of the Sunni prisoners’ death sentences by sending open letters to the Islamic Republic’s Leader and the heads of the Judiciary, Legislative, and Executive branches. (Al-Arabiah, September 18, 2012). The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation and 21 other human rights organizations issued a declaration condemning the implementation of the prisoners’ death sentences and asked for the immediate abolition of the death penalty. (August 16, 2016).

Arrest and detention

The circumstances of Mr. Hekmat’s arrest and detention are not known, but according to a report by a Kurdish media outlet, between the years 2009 and 2011, Sanandaj Information Administration agents arrested Mr. Hekmat and several other individuals in Sanandaj’s Hassanabad neighborhood, all of whom were from Iraqi Kurdistan and members of the “Kataeb Navadegan Salahuddin Ayyubi” party. (NRT Network, August 5, 2016).

Trial

Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 28 tried Mr. Hekmat. (Iran Human Rights Organization, August 4, 2016). No information is available on Mr. Hekmat’s trial.

The trial took place outside the jurisdiction of the defendant’s residence and detention, contrary to usual judicial custom.

Charges

The charge brought against Mr. Hekmat is not known, but based on available information, the court charged Mr. Hekmat with having “Wahabi beliefs and with membership in Kataeb Navadegan Salahuddin Ayyubi party.” (NRT Network, August 5, 2016).

According to Kurdistan Province Judiciary’s announcement, the collective charges of these individuals were “establishing a Takfiri terrorist grouplet (Towhid and Jahad) for the purpose of Moharebeh and carrying out armed operations inside the country, terror and killing of innocent people and certain religious scholars including the martyrs Mamusta Sheikh-ol-Eslam and Mamusta Borhan Aali, killing a number of environmental protection enforcement agents in the city of Sanandaj, kidnapping and murder of several citizens including Khalifeh Farhadi from Qaraveh and Hedayat Hassankhani from Ilam, procurement of numerous weapons of war and manufacture of more than 50 bombs ready for explosion, bombing various targets in Sanandaj, several counts of armed robbery of jewelry stores in the towns of Qaraveh, Zanjan, and Hamedan, distributing poisoned food in order to assassinate certain Kurdistani citizens, attacking police and road police posts, attempted armed robbery of banks in the Province, and random shooting of firearms into the crowd at Sanandaj’s Azadi Square and killing and injuring 14 individuals.”*** (Fars News Agency). This announcement does not specify, however, who is charged with what crime. Furthermore, in describing these individuals’ charges, the Information Ministry’s announcement alludes to “limiting who is a Moslem and branding others as infidels based on personal interpretation of religion, low level of religious education of the principles members of the group, and religious interpretations based on their low level of understanding, being influenced by Wahabi and Takfiri thought, denying the basic tenets of the Shafei religion, calling well-known Sunni scholars infidels, adventurism, extremism in their belief, blind one-sidedness, and not accepting or standing the opinion of others, violent behavior.” (Information Ministry website, August 3, 2016).

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial. International human rights organizations allude to reports according to which, in certain cases, the Islamic republic of Iran’s officials bring false charges against their opponents (including political, civil, and union activists, as well as ethnic and religious minorities) such as drug trafficking or commission of public or sexual crimes, and execute them along with other regular criminals. Hundreds of people are sentenced to death in Iran every year; however, the number of those who are sentenced to death based on these false charges is not known.

Evidence of guilt

The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against the defendant. According to Kurdistan Province Judiciary’s announcement, however, the confessions of some of the defendants in the case, during interrogations and on camera, were used against them as evidence. The announcement stated: “In interviews with Press TV and Kurdistan Province Network subsequent to their arrest, a number of the defendants declared themselves to be ‘followers of the Salafi, Jihadi, and Takfiri thought’ and ‘have expressly described the details of their crimes.” (Khorassan Newspaper).

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. In the case of political detainees, these confessions are, at times, televised. The National Television broadcasts confessions during which prisoners plead guilty to vague and false charges, repent and renounce their political beliefs, and/or implicate others. Human rights organizations have also pointed to the pattern of retracted confessions by those prisoners who are freed.

Defense

No information is available on Mr. Hekmat’s defense, but he was not given the opportunity for a defense at trial. He was assigned a court-appointed lawyer but he was not given the opportunity to meet with or even speak with his attorney before trial. The defendants’ lawyers were able to read the case file only a few minutes before trial, and they were not given an opportunity to defend their clients. (Boroumand Foundation research, Amnesty International Report).

Based on files that were prepared in prison by cell phones, the defendants of this case had declared that the confessions had been made under severe torture. The file that was published after Mr. Hekmat’s execution and the other defendants by a government website, contained video clips of ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq, which had been combined with the forced confessions of some of the defendants. (Amnesty International Report). It is not clear why certain evidence such as “numerous weapons of war and more than 50 bombs ready for explosion,” which the Kurdistan Province Judiciary claims to have discovered, was not shown in the video file published by that government website.

According to the defense attorneys for some of the defendants, there are serious issues with the dispensation of these cases, and, given the change in the Islamic Penal Code, the conditions for Moharebeh were not met for most of the defendants, and the cases were not adjudicated in accordance with the new Islamic Penal Code. (Boroumand Foundation interview).

Mr. Osman Mozayyan, attorney for some of the defendants in the case said: “There are people in this case who have committed one or two counts of murder of citizens. Now, whether this can be considered Moharebeh is doubtful, but all the individuals are looked upon the same way, regardless of whether they were involved in those operations or not; and this is a problem that really exists… Many of these defendants did not use arms at all. We expected their request for a new trial be considered, given the change in the new law and the change in the definition of Moharebeh. However, since the revolutionary court does not provide lawyers with a copy of the court decision, lawyers are legally not able to [ask for] a new trial without the copy of the decision. They must either have a copy, or handwrite the entire decision. The decisions are long because each decision concerns 20 to 25 people and there is one page for each person. Another issue is that we told the defendants to request a new trial, but the officials have not considered their request in spite of the positive promise they gave us. Even in one case where I wanted to read the case file, the presiding judge of the court branch would not allow it, saying he was finished with the case, whereas the case was at the appeals stage and legally, I had the right to read his file.”

According to Mr. Mozayyan “all of these individuals had submitted a request for a pardon but neither their request for pardon, nor their request for a new trial was not considered and taken under advisement. Even when they were serving the court decision on the defendants, they were not given a copy; they were just told to sign under the letter. And when the court-appointed attorneys and the retained attorneys wanted to meet with their clients and obtain their signature, the court would not allow it and would not issue an order to allow us to meet with our clients. And when we wanted to obtain their signature at Rajaishahr Prison, they would tell us at the entrance that since these defendants were al-Qaeda, “you are not allowed to meet with them. Leave your retainer agreement or power of attorney here and come back tomorrow to get the signature.” The lawyers’ defense of these defendants was mostly done without meeting them and without speaking to them. And if they were able to talk to them at all, it was in the hallway of courtroom, in the short time they had been brought for trial. As for their trial, they would bring multiple people together and each was tried for tried for a few minutes. They would only ask them a few questions. In the cases that I defended, the court insisted that all the investigations and all the charges were correct, and they did not pay much attention to the briefs. And when the ruling was issued, the court would simply repeat its own justifications and the contents of the indictment, without any reference to the attorneys’ defense, not even dismiss the defense with its own arguments and/or evidence. I saw some of the briefs presented by both court-appointed attorneys (because all of them were introduced to the court by the bar association) and attorneys chosen by the defendants, and they had all presented very good and comprehensive defenses; they had even spent months to write those briefs and had done a very good job. Unfortunately, however, I believe, my professional belief is, that the court did not pay attention to the defenses mounted by the attorneys, and not all these people deserved the death penalty given their cases.” (Iran Human Rights Organization, August 4, 2016).

According to Mr. Osman Mozayyan “trial session or sessions took place without the prosecutor’s representative, contrary to the Islamic Penal Code, and lasted three, four, or five minutes, and the court did not pay the slightest attention to the defendants’ and their attorneys’ defense.” Mr. Mozayyan said: “I defended numerous times. Numerous times I said: ‘Mr. Moghisseh, I’m defending, please listen.’ He would just keep his head down and be on his phone and then he would say: ‘Hurry up; what is it you want to say?’ And then the rulings were issued in a few pages, almost identical. That is, the text of the decision would be generally exactly the same, and there were no references to any details. In a way, an identical decision was issued for everybody, whereas they did not all have the same conditions and had not all done the same things.” According to Mr. Mozayyan, the rulings for all of these individuals were issued at the time of the old Islamic Penal Code. In the new law, “Moharebeh is taking up arms in order to spread fear in the Islamic society” and there is no Moharebeh as long as there is no weapon; and if the cases are taken up again, many of these people would not be considered Mohareb.” He emphasized: “Most of these individuals are very young and have no experience with the law, don’t know how to defend themselves, and speaking Farsi in court was very difficult for some of them. In spite of all that, the court did not allow them to meet with their attorneys. None of them were able to meet with their attorneys, and if there was a conversation between attorney and client, it was either done on the phone or in the few minutes they were in court. Regarding court-appointed attorneys, Mr. Mozayyan said: “many of them presented very good defenses but unfortunately, the court did not pay attention to the defenses and punished all these people in one manner and in the same way; the death sentence was upheld at the Supreme Court as well.” According to Mr. Mozayyan, Mr. Nassiripur, the Sentence Implementation judge had thrown him out of his room numerous times, saying “Why are you defending the Daesh”, whereas he was defending the defendant not the charge.

Additionally, Mohammad Seifzadeh, jurist and member of the Human Rights Defenders Center, who had spent several years in Rajaishahr prison with these prisoners, said: “on enight the officer in charge said: ‘this morning the guys from Hall 10 were taken to court, more than 30 of them, and they returned them all, they issued death sentences at that session, please go talk to them.’ I went to Hall10, all the Sunni guys gathered around and we talked to each other warmly. We talked about Islam, the Koran, the Prophet Mohammad, human rights, etc. One or two of the guys said: ‘We’re not afraid of execution but what we saw today had nothing to do with a court of law, not even in the Middle Ages. We had no right to defend ourselves; they had already written down our names and our sentences. They took 37 people in, told them they were sentenced to death, and got their signature, all in about 15 minutes.’” Siamak Qaderi, a journalist who was in the same ward with the defendants, said that Messrs. Soltani and Sefzadeh, jailed attorneys, gave them legal advice and added: “These attorneys were their advisers in [aiding them to] recount the details of their arrest, investigation, and trial, and at times, would prepare [written] defenses or requests for them. I can say with the utmost certainty that, in spite of the very serious difference of opinion they had with these people, the attorneys considered the process of their adjudication completely against the Law on the Rules of Procedure, contrary to common sense, humanity, and against human rights tenets.” Sa’eed Madani, a political prisoner who was incarcerated with the defendants, alluded to the made up case against these individuals and said: “From the first days I was released from prison, I asked every human being with integrity who had a hand in the judicial and the executive system for help, to get them to reconsider their case with impartiality, disregarding the hoopla, so they could notice the multitude of contradictions and false reports in the file, and thereby prevent the continuation of this major and unforgivable injustice. It seems, however, that not even the slightest bit of conscience, humanity, honor, and piety remains in order to hear the cries of the oppressed.” (Euronews, August 8, 2016).

Judgment

Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 28 sentenced Mr. Hekmat to death. (Iran Human Rights Organization, August 4, 2016). But according one of his Ward mates, the sentence was served on the day of the trial. (Boroumand Foundation interview).

Based on available information, beginning at 7:30 PM on Monday, August 1, 2016, in order to prevent any news of the implementation of the death sentence against Mr. Hekmat and 24 other defendants from being disseminated, Rajaishahr Prison officials activated the machine that sends interference on cell phones, cut off the Prison’s main phone lines, and limited visitations and prisoners comings and goings to the yard and to the infirmary. (HRANA, August 3, 2016).

According to a person close to Mr. Hekmat, the night before the execution, the Prison’s special guards took Mr. Hekmat and the rest of the defendants from Ward 4 to solitary confinement cells, handcuffed, shackled, and with [tape over] their mouths, so that other prisoners would not be able to hear them and find out was going on. (Boroumand Foundation interview).

Mr. Hekmat and 24 other defendants were hanged at [the city of] Karaj’s Rajaishahr Prison in the morning of Tuesday, August 2, 2016, without due process regarding sentence implementation.  (IRNA, August, 3, 2016). Following Mr. Hekmat’s and the other defendants’ execution, Rajaishahr Prison Ward 7, Hall 21 prisoners who were mostly Sunni Moslems, went on a strike to protest their execution and to empathize with their families. (HRANA, August 3, 2016). His body was not turned over to his family for burial. (NRT Network). Mr. Hekmat was buried in Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Cemetery by security forces. (Boroumand Foundation interview).

According to the attorney for several of the defendants, “pursuant to the law, at the time of carrying out a death sentence, a number of officials as well as the condemned’s attorney must be present; none of their attorneys were asked to attend the execution, however. Most importantly, a person must be buries either according to his/her will, or to the wishes of his family. Naturally, the remaining family members want their dead to be buried in their city of residence and this is their personal right. This is contrary to religious tenets and principles as well as the wishes of the condemned and the will of the survivors.” (Iran Human Rights Organization, August 4, 2016).

____________________________________________________

*Other sources: Roj Halat (July 20, 2011), Boroumand Foundation (August 11, 2016), Fars News Agency (August 2, 2016), Amnesty International (November 27, 2016), Aljazeera (August 4, 2016), HRANA (November 12, 2013, December 14, 2013, January 3, 2014, January 29, 2014, February 1, 2014, February 21, 2014, March 4, 2014, March 17, 2014, August 3, 2016), Boroumand Foundation interview with Osman Mozayyan (August 22, 2016), NRT channel (August 5, 2016),  Boroumand Foundation interview with Hossein Ahmadi Niazi (September 2, 2016), and Boroumand Foundation research.

** The Shafei religion is the name of a branch of Sunni Islam that follows Abu Abdollah Mohammad Idris Shafei, one of the four Imams of Sunna and Jama’a. The Shafei religion is the third oldest religion of the adherents of Sunni Islam, that follows Mohammad, Abu Bakr, Osman, and Ali.

*** By broadcasting reports and special programs on November 15, 2013, and March 14, 2014, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (State radio and TV) hurled several accusations at the defendants in this case, including “the assassination of Mamusta Sheikh-ol-Eslam, member of the Assembly of Experts”, “keeping and storing weapons”, and “contact with PEJAK group”. Furthermore, on August 3, 2016, Kurdistan Province Network broadcast a four-part documentary entitled “Takfir and Terror” in which, in addition to accusing them of assassinating religious and judicial figures, including Mamusta Sheikh-ol-Eslam, Mamusta Borhan Aali, and Judge Kamiani, it accused them of various crimes such as “robbing jewelry stores”, “assassinating four environmental protection agents”, “attacking and opening fire on passersby and traffic police in Sanandaj’s Azadi Square”.

 

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