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

Akbar Mohammadi

About

Age: 37
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Killing: July 30, 2006
Location: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Death in custody
Charges: Acting against national security by creating unauthorized student or promoting civic associations on University campuses; July 9, 1999
Age at time of offense: 30

About this Case

was arrested and returned to jail, despite being released on an indefinite leave permission. To protest his arrest, he went on hunger strike. Nine days later, he died in Evin Prison.

Information regarding Mr. Akbar Mohammadi’s death in detention was announced by the websites of ISNA- Iranian Student’s News Agency (July 31, August 10, and September 17, 2006), IRNA- Islamic Republic News Agency (August 1, 2006), ILNA- Iranian Labour News Agency (July 31, 2006), Peyk-e Iran (August 8, September 8, 10, 11, and 14, 2006), Advar News (September 5, 2006), Jaam-e Jam (August 3, 2006), Aftab News Agency (July 31, 2006), Iran Press News (July 31 and August 3, 2006), Entekhab News Agency (August 12, 2006), Student Committee of Human Rights Reporters (July 31, 2006), and Kourosh News Agency (June 3, 2005). Additional information in this regard was obtained through Boroumand Center research and interviews with Mr. Omid Abasgholinezhad (September 16, 2017), Amnesty International Report (July 7, 2004), and “Thought and Whip”: Prison Memoirs of Akbar Mohammadi (Shahr-e-Ketab Publisher, LA, 2006).

Mr. Akbar Mohammadi was born in Amol, Mazandaran province in 1969. He was a social work student at the College of Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences of Tehran University and a member of the National Association of Students and Graduates. According to one of Mohammadi's cellmates in Evin Prison, he was very friendly, kind, and calm, and at the same time strong, patriotic, and sympathetic to the newly arrived prisoners (Boroumand Center interviews with Mr. Omid Abasgholinezhad, September 16, 2017).

The National Association of Students and Graduates (Anjoman-e Daneshjuyan va Daneshamukhtegan Melli), founded in 1997, was an independent secular nationalist student association. The group joined the United Students Front, a coalition of students and graduate groups formed in 1997, during the relatively open period that followed the presidential election. The group promoted democracy and cleared a way for independent student associations. The National Association of Students and Graduates was active in organizing meetings and protests to give visibility to students’ grievances and demands. During the July 1999 protests (the protests that were started peacefully in the University of Tehran's dormitories due to forced closure of the Salam newspaper and the adoption of the new press law, but were raided by riot police and Ansar-e Hezbollah (plain-clothes officers) the same night, and became the biggest challenge to the student movement in Iran after the 1979 revolution*) the leaders of the association were arrested and sentenced to death. Their sentences were later commuted. The organization was de facto dissolved inside Iran with the death of one of the founders in prison and the escape into exile of the other founder. The Islamic Revolutionary Court ultimately banned the United Students Front in 2004.

"He was very friendly, kind, and calm, and at the same time strong, patriotic, and sympathetic to the newly arrived prisoners", said one of Mr. Mohammadi's cellmates in Evin Prison.

The July 9, 1999 Incident

In the early morning hours of July 9, the day after students’ demonstrations to denounce the closing of the daily newspaper Salam, members of the Riot Guards, along with members of government supported militia in civilian clothes, known as Hezbollah’s Aides, raided the dormitories of the University of Tehran and began battering and seriously injuring many students, some of whom had been barely awake. The invaders then proceeded to savagely ransack the rooms and destroy or pilfer the students’ belongings.

The raid was apparently a reaction to the gathering of students to protest the closing of the reformist daily journal, Salam. The protests had flared up following the publication of a letter by Said Emami (one of the undersecretaries of the Ministry of Information who had been accused of complicity in the serial murders of opponents and critics of the regime). The letter disclosed a government plan to tighten control over newspapers. An announcement posted on campus bulletin boards, called on students to congregate in protest to the restrictions imposed on, and the closing of, dissident journals. Answering the call, several hundred students gathered in front of the campus gate and began to shout slogans in praise of freedom and condemnation of tyranny. The students continued their march from the campus area to an adjacent street and finally returned to their dormitories. Some of the students, however, noticing the presence of security forces and plain-clothes militia, remained in the street. Following a brief skirmish with the militia, they returned to their dormitories at the request of the president of the university.

Later on, following the raid of the dormitories by the riot police and plain-clothes militia, a number of students and the university president were arrested and taken away. Denouncing the violent and destructive police raid on their dormitories, a few thousand shocked and angry students continued their demonstrations for another day. According to a BBC report, nearly 20,000 students had participated in one of the street demonstrations. Protestors at Tabriz University were also brutally attacked.

Furthermore, according to the report of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations for the year 2000, nearly 1,500 individuals were arrested over the course of these demonstrations in Tehran, and, on the basis of the available evidence, at least eight persons were killed in the demonstrations and the campus raid. The authorities, however, confirmed the death of only one of the demonstrators by gunfire.

The Trial of the Accused in the Campus Raid

On March 4th 1999, pursuant to the complaint lodged by the injured students, the trial of the security forces personnel who had been accused and indicted for the injuries suffered by a number of students in the campus “incident” began. The trial was conducted in the 7th branch of the military court of the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The court dismissed the cases against Farhad Nazari, the commander of the uniformed soldiers and 17 plain-clothes security agents who had participated in the raid. Only a single conscript was convicted for the crime of stealing the electric shavers of some of the students. The court also ordered cash payment as compensation to the 34 students who had been severely beaten and some of whom had suffered broken hands, legs, jaws and other injuries during the raid. The compensation was to be determined according to the Islamic penal code for retribution. One of the students was paid half of the legal compensation for the loss of his right eye.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Akbar Mohammadi, along with a large number of students, was arrested and detained on July 9, 1999. Mr. Mohammadi was tortured and abused severely during his arrest, causing serious damage to his lumbar spine, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys (Boroumand Center interviews with Mr. Omid Abasgholinezhad, September 16, 2017; Amnesty International Report, July 7, 2004; “Thought and Whip”: Prison Memoirs of Akbar Mohammadi, 2006; and Kourosh News Agency, June 3, 2005).

He was arrested and detained on July 9, 1999 along with a large number of students and was tortured and abused severely during his arrest.

Mr. Mohammadi described in his book the various types of physical and mental tortures sustained during his detention such as violent beatings during interrogations, whipping on the soles of his feet with electric cables, hanging from the ceiling, sleep deprivation, mock executions, and threats of execution (“Thought and Whip”: Prison Memoirs of Akbar Mohammadi, 2006).

According to the Amnesty International report released in 2004, Mr. Mohammadi was subjected to “mock executions”, violent beatings, hanging from the ceiling by handcuffs, and whipping on the soles of his feet with electric cables, which resulted in severe physical injuries, including 40% hearing loss in his left ear (Amnesty International Report, July 7, 2004).

Trial

Since a secret trial was conducted for Mr. Akbar Mohammadi, no information is available on details of the trial.

Charges

The charges against Mr. Akbar Mohammadi were acting against national security, insulting, disseminating lies, and communicating with foreign countries’ media (IRNA, August 1, 2006).

Evidence of guilt

There is no information regarding evidence presented against Mr. Mohammadi.

Defense

No information is available on Mr. Mohammadi’s defense.

Judgment

Mr. Akbar Mohammadi was sentenced to death in September 1999. His sentence was subsequently commuted to 15 years’ imprisonment in 2001 (Amnesty International Report, July 7, 2004; and Peyk-e Iran, September 14, 2006).

The events causing Mr. Akbar Mohammadi’s death

Tortures and unsuitable conditions during detention caused Mr. Akbar Mohammadi severe spinal cord injury, lumbar degenerative disc disease, and acute gastrointestinal problems. According to forensic medicine and prison doctors’ reports, he was not physically suitable for incarceration. Five years after his arrest, in October 2004, he was released from jail under an indefinite medical leave permission for treatment (IRNA, August 1, 2006).

According to Mr. Mohammadi’s parents, after being released from prison, Mr. Akbar Mohammadi had four surgical operations and doctors suggested that he undergo two additional major surgical operations in another country. These never happened because of his financial hardship and the travel ban ordered by the court (Kourosh News Agency, June 3, 2005). Mr. Mohammadi’s parents also broke news of a failed assassination attempt on Mr. Mohammadi on May 31, 2005 in a letter addressed to the President. They believed the assassination attempt was related to Akbar’s efforts to publish Mr. Manuchehr Mohammadi's declaration from prison regarding the boycott of the presidential election (Same source).

In May 2006, Mr. Mohammadi was arrested in his hometown on the pretext of not returning to jail. The Deputy Prosecutor General of Tehran claimed that Mr. Mohammadi was arrested because he was absent at the time his leave period ended and had not returned to prison to complete his sentence. However, Mohammadi's family’s attorney rejected this claim and stated that Mr. Mohammadi's arrest was due to the publication of his book. The Deputy Attorney General of Tehran in prison affairs, explained: “Mr. Akbar Mohammadi was in prison based on a sentence of 15 years of imprisonment, and released from prison in November 2004 on a permission for leave. Although this permission was extended several times, he never showed up after February 2005, even after officials repeatedly notified his family that he should return to prison. After 600 days of absence, he was arrested on the prison judge’s order in June 2005 in his hometown, Amol, and transferred to Evin Prison” (IRNA, August 1, 2006). However, Mohammadi's family’s attorney denied the claims made by the Deputy Prosecutor, saying that Mr. Akbar Mohammadi was arrested and returned to jail despite being released on an indefinite leave permission. Mohammadi's family’s attorney added: “According to Article 27 of the prison regulations, the prison authorities are responsible for the protection of prisoners, and, in accordance with Article 108, the prison authorities must request pardon or conditional release for those prisoners who are released on a permission while suffering from a disease which is confirmed by prison doctors and the return of these prisoner back to prison is conditional on their health” (Entekhab News Agency, August 12, 2006). He described publication of Mr. Mohammadi’s book as a reason for his arrest (Iran Press News, July 31, 2006).

Mr. Akbar Mohammadi was sentenced to death in September 1999. His sentence was subsequently commuted to 15 years’ imprisonment in 2001.

After his arrest, Mr. Mohammadi wrote a letter to the head of Evin Prison protesting his arrest, demanding his release, and announcing that he would go on hunger strike if officials did not consider his demands. Prison authorities, however, threatened him with solitary confinement should he go on hunger strike. As a result, on Sunday, July 23, 2006, Mr. Mohammadi went on hunger strike (IRNA, August 1, 2006; ISNA, July 31, 2006; Iran Press News, July 31, 2006; and Peyk-e Iran, August 8, 2006).

Mr. Mohammadi's hunger strike coincided with the visit of some members of parliament to Evin Prison. Based on an order issued by the head of Evin Prison, Mr. Mohammadi was locked up with handcuffs and chains to his bed in the prison’s clinic in order to prevent members of parliament from hearing his protest. It was said that he had a mild heart attack the night before. After the visit, Mr. Mohammadi was transferred to his cell while he felt severe pain in his chest. According to other prisoners, signs of injuries on his body were clearly observable (Boroumand Center interviews with Mr. Omid Abasgholinezhad, September 16, 2017; Student Committee of Human Rights Reporters, July 31, 2006; Iran Press News, July 31, 2006).

After three days of hunger strike, Mr. Mohammadi's physical conditions deteriorated. On Thursday, Mr. Mohammadi was transferred to the prison’s clinic with the help of other prisoners. Mr. Bina Darabzand, a political activist who was in Evin Prison at the same time as Mr. Akbar Mohammadi, declared: “Akbar went on hunger strike on Sunday. His conditions deteriorated on Thursday and we took him to the prison’s clinic. When he returned, on Sunday, he told us that he had an infarction on Saturday night and doctors warned the head of the prison that he would die if the authorities did not respond to his demands. The head of the prison ordered that he be returned to the cell and left to die there” (Peyk-e Iran, August 8, 2006).

On the ninth day of the hunger strike, after Mr. Mohammadi had refused water for two days, he faced sudden cardiac arrest in the prison’s bath. The prison doctors' efforts to revive him failed. Mr. Akbar Mohammadi died on July 30, 2006 in Evin Prison (Iran Press News, July 31, 2006).

Mr. Akbar Mohammadi died at the age of 37. His body was buried in Chang-miyan village in the city of Amol.

Events after Mr. Akbar Mohammadi’s death

Mr. Akbar Mohammadi’s parents published a letter announcing that the signs of injury, bruising, and severe weight loss on Mr. Mohammadi’s body were quite visible. They also stated that security forces threatened to take Akbar's body to Tehran, bury it secretly, and leave his grave unmarked if the family held any funeral ceremony for Akbar (Iran Press News, July 31, 2006).

The head of Tehran Prosecutor's Office announced that he was present at the forensic medicine facility in person with the prosecutor and, along with forensic medicine experts, inspected the body of Mr. Mohammadi. He claimed that there were no signs of bruising on his body (Jaam-e Jam, August 3, 2006).

Mr. Mohammadi's attorney announced that he filed lawsuits against the Evin Prison authorities, prison clinic authorities, and also against the authorities of the Tohid Detention Center, where Mr. Mohammadi was detained and tortured in 1999.

The General Director of Tehran's Prisons stated that Mr. Mohammadi was under prison doctors’ treatment since he started the hunger strike on July 25, and according to the last medical report, his health condition was normal. After being transferred to his cell at his request, said the General Director of Tehran's Prisons, Mr. Mohammadi's physical condition got worse while he was showering, and he died in transfer to the prison’s medical center. It is worth noting that the General Director of Tehran's Prisons had previously denied Mr. Mohammadi's hunger strike (ISNA, July 31, 2006).

The spokesperson of the judiciary, and the deputy prosecutor of prison affairs in Tehran confirmed Mr. Mohammadi’s death in Evin Prison and stated that according to the prison doctors’ report, the cause of Mr. Mohammadi’s death was a heart attack (ISNA, July 31, 2006, and IRNA, August 1, 2006).

Mr. Mohammadi’s attorney, protested his client’s arrest despite his illnesses and unstable physical condition and declared that after he was informed about his client's hunger strike, he requested to visit Mr. Mohammadi in order to dissuade him from continuing the hunger strike. Unfortunately, prison officials prevented the visit contrary to international conventions and domestic laws (ILNA, July 31, 2006). In response to this claim, the spokesman of the Judiciary stated that he had not heard of the request, but had been informed that Mr. Mohammadi visited his brother during his hunger strike, and that he was under medical care of the prison doctors (Aftab News Agency, July 31, 2006).

Mr. Mohammadi's attorney was summoned to the second branch of the Public Prosecutors for State Employees after commenting on the questionable death of his client and charged with defamation of Evin prison and judicial authorities’ characters. “The statements made by the deputy prosecutor of prison affairs in Tehran and the director general of Tehran's prisons on the case of Akbar Mohammadi were contradictory, and I only recited them” he said (ISNA, September 17, 2006 and Peyk-e Iran, September 11, 2006).

Mr. Mohammadi's attorney also announced that he filed lawsuits against the Evin Prison authorities and prison clinic authorities based on their delinquency in causing Mr. Mohammadi’s death and also against the authorities of the Tohid Detention Center, where Mr. Mohammadi was detained and tortured in 1999. Heretofore, Mr. Mohammadi’s family’s attorney also filed a lawsuit against the Prisons Organization, the prison authorities, the prison's health center, and those who were responsible for Mr. Mohammadi’s arrest in spite of his physical condition (ISNA, August 10, 2006 and Peyk-e Iran, September 11, 2006).

The ceremonies that were held on the seventh and 40th days after Mr. Akbar Mohammadi’s death were controlled intensely by security officials and plainclothes agents. The security officials, with a significant presence on the roads toward Mr. Mohammadi’s grave in Chang-miyan village, stopped participants’ cars, investigated them, and seized their identification cards. Moreover, many people who were planning to attend the ceremonies were stopped by the intelligence officials and police forces and sent back to Tehran (Peyk-e Iran, September 8 and 10, 2006).

Mr. Akbar Mohammadi died at the age of 37. His body was buried in Chang-miyan village in the city of Amol.

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