Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Karim Zargar


Age: 64
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: January 30, 2018
Location of Killing: Raja’i Shahr (Gohardasht) Prison, Karaj, Alborz Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Rape; Corruption on earth
Age at time of alleged offense: 61

About this Case

was the founder of the “Rah-e Ma’refat” organization, faced the charge of “corruption on earth by way of promoting and spreading the novel mystical sect Eckankar,” and executed

News of the execution of Mr. Karim Zargar was published in Iran Newspaper (February 12, 2018). Further information about the case was taken from reporting by HRANA (news service of the Human Rights Activists in Iran) on February 12, 2018.

Mr. Zargar was born in the city of Ahwaz in 1952. He had a Master’s Degree in law from the University of Tehran’s law school and received a Doctorate in the law of the sea from the University of Strasbourg in France. He had held positions such as Director General of Iranian state broadcasting abroad, Director General of state media’s Channel One, head of the state broadcasting faculty, licensed publisher and editor-in-chief of the monthly Gozaresh-e Film, and had a history in cinema work as an actor and producer. On June 20, 2002, Branch 1410 Public Court in Tehran presided over by Judge Said Mortazavi revoked Gozaresh-e Film’s publishing license and shuttered it for a year. It also sentenced Zargar to five years of suspension from press-related duties (as an alternative to five months in prison) on the charges of “renting the publication license to persons lacking legal qualifications and associated with the banned Tudeh party, printing and publishing materials contrary to public morals, promoting and disseminating falsehoods, advertising obscene films, using objectifying images of women, and propaganda against the government” (HRANA).

Mr. Zargar was the founder of the “Rah-e Ma’refat” organization which promoted a strain of mysticism called “Eckankar”. Eckankar is a novel spiritual doctrine founded in the United States in 1965. Eckankar followers believe that God communicates with human spirits by way of sound and light, and their primary aim is to arrive at self-knowledge and finally knowledge of God. They believe that when knowledge of God is achieved, the individual knower becomes an “authentic coworker with God.”

Arrest and detention

Following the closure of Rah-e Ma’refat and arrest of its leaders in September/October 2015, Mr. Zargar and was taken into custody and transferred to Ward 209 of Evin Prison. His wife, Marjan Davari, was also arrested (HRANA). No information is available regarding the details of the arrest.


Judge Abolqassem Salavati at the Branch 15 Revolutionary Court in Tehran tried Mr. Zargar across five sessions on October 16, 17, and 18 and December 11 and 12, 2016.

Apart from the Revolutionary Court, the Branch 6 Criminal Court of Tehran Province also tried Mr. Zargar for a separate case in a closed-door trial (HRANA).

No further information is available regarding the trial of Mr. Zargar.


The charges entered against Mr. Zargar were “corruption on earth by way of promoting and spreading the novel mystical sect Eckankar” and forced rape (HRANA). Charges entered against his wife included “corruption on earth,” adultery, gathering and collusion against the regime, and membership in the Eckankar mystical sect (HRANA).

The validity of the criminal charges brought against these defendants cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial. International human rights organizations have drawn attention to reports indicating that Islamic Republic authorities have brought trumped-up charges against their political opponents and executed them for alleged drug trafficking, sexual, and other criminal offences. Each year Iranian authorities sentence to death hundreds of alleged common criminals, following judicial processes that fail to meet international standards. The exact number of people convicted based on trumped-up charges is unknown.

Evidence of guilt

The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against the Mr. Zargar.


No information is available regarding Mr. Zargar’s defense.


Branch 15 Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentence Mr. Zargar to death for the charge of “corruption on earth” per Article 286 of the Islamic Penal Code*. Besides the Revolutionary Court’s verdict, the Branch 6 Criminal Court of Tehran Province issued separate death sentence for the charge of “forced rape.” Branch 47 of the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, though it overturned the death sentence which had been issued for his wife.

Mr. Karim Zargar was hanged at Raja’ishahr Prison on January 30, 2018. He was 64 years old. Iran Newspaper published news of his execution without mentioning his name.


*Article 286 of the Islamic Penal Code: “Any person, who extensively commits felony against the bodily entity of people, offenses against internal or international security of the state, spreading lies, disruption of the economic system of the state, arson and destruction of properties, distribution of poisonous and bacterial and dangerous materials, and establishment of, or aiding and abetting in, places of corruption and prostitution, [on a scale] that causes severe disruption in the public order of the state and insecurity, or causes harsh damage to the bodily entity of people or public or private properties, or causes distribution of corruption and prostitution on a large scale, shall be considered as mofsed-e-fel-arz [corrupt on earth] and shall be sentenced to death.”

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