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

Ebrahim Lotfollahi Mirehki

About

Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: January 15, 2008
Location: Sanandaj, Kordestan Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Death in custody
Charges: Unspecified counter-revolutionary offense

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.

 

About this Case

He knew poverty and discrimination too well to be indifferent. He worked to pay for his law studies. His hope to be a lawyer and fight injustice was shattered in an Intelligence detention center in Sanandaj

Information about death in custody of Mr. Ebrahim Lotfollahi Mirehki son of Afsaneh and Mohammad has been published by Rooz Online (January 28, 2008, January 16, 2010), Amir Kabir newsletter (January 20, 2008), Human Rights Reporters Committee (January 14, 2011), Rooz website (February 19, 2008), and Radio Zamaneh (January 19, 2008). Additional information was obtained from interviews with the lawyer of Mr. Lotfollahi’s family, interviews with his family, and interviews with human rights activists.

Mr. Ebrahim Lotfollahi Mirehki was a senior law student at Payam-e-Noor University in Sanandaj. According to one of his closest friends, he was an intelligent person with a talent for painting and cartoons. Mr. Lotfollahi was against injustice, discrimination, and inequality. Mr. Lotfollahi also paid much attention to his religious duties (Rooz Online, January 16, 2010). Mr. Lotfollahi was interested in social activism prior to his arrest, he volunteered for the Red Crescent Society in Sanandaj for more than two years. He also actively participated in Kurdish language classes held by Mamousta Sharif Hussein Panahi, a well-known poet in Kurdistan, and after finishing the courses he mentored new students.

Available information regarding Mr. Lotfollahi's political views and activities is contradictory. According to Mr. Ammar Goli, a friend of Mr. Lotfollahi from high school, Mr. Lotfollahi’s family previously supported the the Democratic Party in Kurdistan. In accordance with the predominant political climate subsequent to the February 22nd, 1999 Kurdish protest, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) achieved popularity through their organizing and campaigning work. As a result, many people in Sanandaj, including Mr. Lotfollahi, tended to support the party. Mr. Lotfollahi also was a member of the Maaf Student Association at his university and was involved in student publications (Boroumand Foundation interview with Mr. Ammar Goli, January 12, 2015).

Mr. Lotfollahi lived with his family in a very small home in a slum and he had no choice but to work for his living and study expenses. Observing and understanding the deprivations, inequalities, and discrimination in his social class gave him the motivation and desire to pursue law studies so that in the near future, by working as an attorney, he would be able to not only end the poverty that he himself and his family faced, but also to solve some of his community’s problems (Rooz Online, January 16, 2010).

Observing and understanding the deprivations, inequalities, and discrimination gave him the motivation and desire to pursue law studies 

Pursuant to release of news regarding Mr. Ebrahim Lotfollahi’s suspicious death in Sanandaj detention center, five institutions along with 600 social activists in various areas reacted by issuing a statement condemning his death. The International Organization for Defense, Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, Cha’k Human Rights Organization, the Kurdish Writers' Association, and the Women's Society of Azar Mehr in Sanandaj, along with 600 civil, political, press, student, and women’s rights activists, strongly condemned Mr. Lotfollahi’s suspicious death, denied the claim of his suicide, and demanded judicial investigations and punishment of the individuals involved in his death (Rooz Online, January 28, 2008).

The protests regarding Mr. Lotfollahi's suspicious death were widespread. According to a report by Human Rights Activists in Iran, on January 14, 2010, at least 10 people were arrested during an event commemorating the second anniversary of Mr. Lotfollahi’s death which was held at the invitation of Mr. Lotfollahi’s family and Democratic Union of Kurdish Students. The spokesperson of the Kurdish United Front and a group of major members of the Democratic Union of Kurdish Students were among the arrestees. Those arrests took place while some of the detainees from the first anniversary memorial ceremony were still in jail, despite having finished serving their sentences (Rooz Online, January 16, 2010). 

Arrest and detention

Mr. Lotfollahi was arrested by officers of the Intelligence Ministry of Sanandaj on January 6, 2008, at the gate of his university. Two days after his arrest, following Mr. Lotfollahi's phone call from Central Prison in Sanandaj, his family was informed of his condition and was able to visit him (Rooz Online, January 16, 2010).

He was arrested by officers of the Intelligence Ministry of Sanandaj on January 6, 2008, at the gate of his university

All the family’s subsequent attempts to visit Mr. Lotfollahi again were rejected by the Central Prison and Intelligence Office in Sanandaj. Both institutions subsequently claimed that they did not have him in their possession.

According to his brother, on the ninth day of his arrest (January 15, 2008) at around 6:00 PM, someone called the family’s home and asked his parents to be present at the office of Intelligence Ministry in Sanandaj. After hours of wait in the office, one of the officers informed the family of Mr. Lotfollahi’s death, which the officer said had been a suicide.

Trial

There was no trial in connection with Mr. Lotfollahi’s arrest.

Charges

No information is available regarding Mr. Ebrahim Lotfollahi’s charges. His family reports they had had no information about the charges he faced, and no official had informed them in this regard.

Some sources reported that Mr. Lotfollahi possessed several declarations from the Kurdistan Human Rights groups and Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK). According to his brother, they did not belong to Mr. Lotfollahi (Amir Kabir newsletter, January 20, 2008).

Some sources reported that Mr. Lotfollahi possessed several declarations from the Kurdistan Human Rights groups and Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK)

A close friend of Mr. Lotfollahi, citing the family and case lawyer, stated that Mr. Lotfollahi was charged with acting against national security, support for PJAK, and possession of PJAK declarations (Boroumand Foundation interview with Mr. Ammar Goli, January 12, 2015). 

Evidence of Guilt

There is no detailed information available on the evidence used against Mr. Lotfollahi. According to one of his close friends, officers took some of his personal documents and belongings from his home during an unsuccessful attempt to arrest him (Boroumand Foundation interview with Mr. Ammar Goli, January 12, 2015). 

Defense

Since no trial ever took place to consider the charges brought against Mr. Lotfollahi, he never had an opportunity to defend himself. 

Judgment

No official sentence was issued for Mr. Lotfollahi because his death occurred during the preliminary investigation phase and before any trial took place. 

Reactions and statements of authorities

The office of the Intelligence Ministry in Sanandaj claimed that Mr. Lotfollahi’s cause of death was suicide (Human Rights Reporters Committee, January 14, 2011). One of the officers of the Intelligence Ministry told Mr. Lotfollahi’s family that his body had been transferred to forensic medical authority. The forensic medical authority informed the family about the transfer of the body to Behesht-e Mohammadi Cemetery. The cemetery’s guard told them that the cemetery was closed and assured them that there would be no burial until the next morning. When morning came, cemetery officials informed them that the body had been buried by armed officers the previous night and that nobody, even the mortician, had been allowed to see it (Rooz Online, January 16, 2010). A grave shown to the family and said to be Mr. Lotfollahi’s had been covered in concrete. The family never saw the body, and they are uncertain whether or not Mr. Lotfollahi was indeed buried there (Rooz Online, January 16, 2012).

Regarding the complaint of Mr. Lotfollahi’s parents against the perpetrators of their son’s death, the Third Branch of the Revolutionary Public Prosecution Office in Sanandaj issued an acquittal order.  The Third Branch also repeatedly rejected the request of Mr. Lotfollahi’s family’s lawyer for the exhumation and medical examination of the body and for further investigations to be conducted into the ultimate cause of death, basing their decision on the fact that exhumation is against sharia law.

The attorney of Mr. Lotfollahi’s family requested a review of the acquittal order issued by the Third Branch of the Revolutionary Public Prosecution Office, and the case was referred to the Criminal court of Kurdistan province, where the decision was ultimately upheld (Human Rights Reporters Committee, January 14, 2011). According to the attorney, the Criminal Court confirmed the investigator’s opinion regarding Mr. Lotfollahi’s suicide and stated that no murder had been committed. The Criminal Court did not pay any attention to the forensic medical authority’s report which mentioned signs of beating, breaking, and bleeding of his nose, and rejected the request for exhumation (Rooz Online, January 16, 2012).

According to Mr. Lotfollahi's family, the Intelligence Ministry has brought suit against them on charges of disturbance of public order (Rooz website, February 19, 2008). 

Family, friends, and lawyer’s reactions

Despite the Intelligence Ministry in Sanandaj’s claim that suicide was the cause of Mr. Lotfollahi’s death, it some claim that Mr. Ebrahim Lotfollahi’s death was due to severe torture (Human Rights Reporters Committee, January 14, 2011).

The repeated requests made by Mr. Lotfollahi’s family and their lawyer to determine the cause of his death (e.g. for autopsy, exhumation, and the release of documents substantiating the suicide claim) have been rejected. The family still has many concerns and unanswered questions regarding to the ultimate cause of Mr. Lotfollahi’s death, the reasons for his suicide, documents relating to the suicide claim, reasons for not delivering the body, overnight burial of the body, and the covering of his grave with concrete (Rooz Online, January 16, 2012).

The repeated requests made by Mr. Lotfollahi’s family and their lawyer to determine the cause of his death (e.g. for autopsy, exhumation, and the release of documents substantiating the suicide claim) have been rejected. The family still has many concerns and unanswered questions regarding to the ultimate cause of Mr. Lotfollahi’s death, the reasons for his suicide, documents relating to the suicide claim, reasons for not delivering the body, overnight burial of the body, and the covering of his grave with concrete

Mr. Lotfollahi's family filed a complaint against the perpetrators in the Third Branch of the Revolutionary Public Prosecution Office in Sanandaj. In this complaint, they requested exhumation and further investigation into his death, the reasons for not delivering his body to the family, and the reasons for the secret burial of his body at night.

Mr. Lotfollahi's family’s lawyer, referring to the closure of their complaint file, stated that the prosecutor of the Third Branch of the Revolutionary Public Prosecution Office in Sanandaj had repeatedly rejected his requests for documentation of the suicide scene (i.e. film and photos regarding the scene of Mr. Lotfollahi’s alleged self-hanging; Human Rights Reporters Committee, January 14, 2011). He added that the forensic medical report mentioned the torture of Mr. Ebrahim Lotfollahi and recorded a broken nose and skull and signs of bruises on the body (Amir Kabir newsletter, January 20, 2008).

Mokhtar Zarei, a student activist from Sanandaj, stated in this regard: “In the initial report from forensic the forensic medical authority, the cause of death was not specified, but in their second report, which was read in the court, the cause of death was cited as asphyxia by way of a cord or rope-shaped object. The point is that there is a contradiction between the report of the Intelligence Ministry and the opinion of the forensic medical authority. The Intelligence Ministry officials have claimed that Ebrahim hanged himself with his shirt, but according to the forensic medical report, there were signs of a cord-like object one centimeter in diameter, like a rope or wire, on his neck. On the other hand, there is no way to commit suicide using only a shirt unless a hook or clamp was there as well, and we all know that the detention center should not have such facilities, and of course it does not have them. [The cells] only have four walls and that is all. It’s not possible to commit suicide [in that situation]” (Rooz website, February 19, 2008).

According to a friend of Mr. Lotfollahi who cited his family, the authorities only gave the family a torn undershirt of Ebrahim’s which had three or four blood stains on it, and initially claimed that he had used this to hang himself in the shower. However, on video recorded of his cell that later was shown to his father, there is an undershirt hanging from the small window of the cell at a height of four meters – a height which some have noted would be out of reach without the use of some others means, e.g. a ladder. Authorities subsequently claimed that he hanged himself in his cell rather than the bathroom (Boroumand Foundation interview with Mr. Ammar Goli, January 12, 2015).

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Notes

Human Rights Watch urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to investigate detainees’ deaths in custody:“The United Nations ‘Principles on Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions required that prompt, complete, and impartial investigations take place for all illegal deaths, including cases where a victim’s family requested one. These principles state that if the body is buried, but further investigations is needed afterward, exhumation and autopsy should be done” (Radio Zamaneh, January 19, 2008).

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