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

Shirko Ma'arefi

About

Age: 33
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Unknown

Case

Date of Killing: November 4, 2013
Location: Saqqez, Kordestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Acting against state's security; Sympathizing with anti-regime guerilla groups; War on God
Age at time of offense: 28

About this Case

Even at the time of my arrest, I was not willing to use my gun and shoot. The feelings I carried within me were not terror, fear and violence; on the contrary, my heart was filled with love for humanity and a desire for freedom

Mr. Shirko Ma’arefi’s execution was reported by several sources including Bultan News (November 5, 2013), The Campaign to Defend Political and Civil Prisoners (November 4, 2013), Kurdpa (November 4, 2013), and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (November 5, 2013). Additional information regarding this matter was obtained from a voice message and open letters by Mr. Ma’arefi from prison, the interviews of his lawyers, his father’s interviews, his friend’s interview with the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center (ABC Interview) and other sources*.

Mr. Ma'arefi was a single young Kurd from Baneh in Kurdistan. He was from a middle class family who would go to villages for farming in the spring and summer and would come back to Baneh in the fall. Mr. Ma'arefi studied up to high school. According to one of his friends, he was funny and lively; he always laughed and would do whatever he could for his friends.He joined Komala Party in 2004 and was a Peshmerga for four years. During his membership in Komala, he was reprimanded several times due to disruption of the party's order. He was once expelled temporarily during which time he worked at a bakery in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq for two months (ABC Interview).

Several remaining members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran established the Revolutionary Organization of this party in Iraq in the mid-1960s. Esma’il Sharifzadeh, Abdollah Mo’ini, and Molaavareh were among the leaders of this organization who, inspired by the Cuban Revolution, began an armed guerrilla struggle in Kurdistan. When this group was defeated in 1969 and several of its members were arrested, armed struggle was criticized and the Maoist trend was overcome. When some of its leaders were released in 1978, the Revolutionary Organization of Working People in Kurdistan – Komala was established. Based on Marxist theory, Komala was against the capitalists and landlords and encouraged workers and peasants in Kurdistan to an armed uprising against them and the central government. This organization considered the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (PDKI) to be the party of the wealthy and campaigned against it, resulting in several armed conflicts and hundreds dead. In 1982, Komala joined another Marxist group, Sahand, which was primarily concerned with theory, and established the Communist Party of Iran. Then it became the Kurdistan Organization of the Communist Party of Iran – Komala. Years later, this organization separated from the Communist Party of Iran and faced several schisms. The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, led by Abdollah Mohtadi, Komala, and the Kurdistan Organization of the Communist Party of Iran led by Ebrahim Alizadeh are some of these factions. 

The issuing and implementation of the death sentence against Mr. Ma’arefi provoked many reactions. A number of Kurd representatives of Islamic Consultative Assembly wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Iran demanding that he stop the execution of some young Kurds including Mr. Ma’arefi and expressed concern about the “negative national and international impacts” of their execution and “resentment of Kurds against the system” (Radio Farda, November 17, 2009). The current president of Iraq at the time, Jalal Talabani, demanded that the Chief Justice of Iran stop the execution of Mr. Ma’arefi and another Kurd activist during his trip to Iran in December, 2009 (Radio Farda, November 25, 2009).

Amnesty International (March 30 and May 13, 2011; November 25, 2013) and Human Rights Watch (July 28, 2010) issued a statement and called for urgent action demanding annulment of the death penalty of Mr. Ma’arefi. Coalition Against the Death Penalty (November 4, 2013), the largest coalition against the death penalty in the world issued a statement condemning executions including the execution of Mr. Ma’arefi, while demanding that the European Union, the United Nations, and the international community address the issue of the death penalty in any negotiations with Islamic Republic authorities (Rooz Online, October 26, 2015).

Arrest and detention

While carrying out campaign activities, Mr. Ma’arefi was arrested by the Revolutionary Guards in a village named “Dara Qal’e” near Saqez, and he was transferred to the detention center of the Revolutionary Guards headquarters on July 30, 2008. Although he was armed when arrested, he surrendered himself to the Revolutionary Guards without using his gun. This was confirmed by his lawyer (Iran Emrooz, January 30, 2010). After a week, security guards transferred Mr. Ma’arefi to the Ministry of Intelligence detention center of Sanandaj and transferred him to Saqez Central Prison after two months. He was tortured physically and mentally in the Ministry of Intelligence detention center of Sanadaj. In a voice message from the prison he stated, “They tortured me every night, they beat me every night, they interrogated me asking questions in a way that I had to respond to questions that I didn’t have any information about, they threatened my family, they threatened me that if I didn’t answer their questions they would arrest my sister and my brother and they would bring them here. The situation here was terrifying, we didn’t know what to do. They gave us some mystery pills and forced us to take them every night” (voice message from prison).

Mr. Ma’arefi was imprisoned in Saqez Central Prison for five years. He was deprived of the rights of an ordinary prisoner. For instance, although the prison doctor determined that his peptic ulcer disease had to be cured outside the prison, the prison security officials didn’t approve. According to Mr. Ma’arefi, he wasn’t allowed to use the public library of the prison for some time and he had to show the books he read to the prison security guard. He spent two days in solitary confinement as punishment for carrying a Kurdish-language poetry book (Mr. Ma’arefi’s voice message).

In March, 2012, in protest of his death sentence and his uncertain situation, Mr. Ma’arefi went on a hunger strike.

Trial

Early in the winter 2008, branch one of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Saqez tried Mr. Ma’arefi in a closed session (The Campaign to Defend Political and Civil Prisoners, November 4, 2013). According to Mr. Ma’arefi, he didn’t have a lawyer in the court and the judge’s insistence that Mr. Ma’arefi admit his charges led to a confrontation between them. The judge didn’t allow Mr. Ma’arefi’s statement and defense to be recorded in the case (Mr. Ma’arefi’s voice message). According to Mr. Ma’arefi’s family’s letter, his trial took only a few minutes (Student Committee for Defending Political Prisoners).

Charges

Mr. Ma’arefi’s charges were “Waging war against God, conspiring against the national security by being a member of Komalah” (the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran). No information is available on the defendant’s charges in detail.

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.

Evidence of guilt

There is no information regarding the evidence presented at trial against Mr. Ma’arefi. According to his lawyer, based on the case, the report given by the Intelligence Ministry Officials was written according to the ruling of the court (Rooz Online, May 1, 2011).

Defense

Based on the available information, Mr. Ma’arefi was not allowed to defend himself effectively. According to Mr. Ma’arefi, he was not allowed to choose a lawyer in the Islamic Revolutionary Court and, in addition, the judge didn’t permit the defendant to defend himself and made him fingerprint his verdict by force. He was only allowed to choose a lawyer after being sentenced to execution (voice message).

Mr. Ahmad Sheikhi and Mr. Khalil Bahramian were the two lawyers who represented him in the court after the trial and issuance of the ruling by the lower court. Both lawyers considered the verdict of the defendant and the ruling illegal and illegitimate. Mr. Bahramian rejected the charges of waging war against God (Moharebeh) and said: “The root of the word Moharebeh is Harb which means ‘war.’ It refers to a person who starts a war against the Islamic Republic. Simply possessing a gun is not Moharebeh but using a gun against the Islamic Republic of Iran constitutes Moharebeh. Despite this, Mr. Ma’arefi wasn’t a member of Komalah but only a Komalah sympathizer. and he didn’t use his gun even when he was being arrested. He believed that the judges were being extreme in issuing these rulings and the Chief Justice of Iran shouldn’t give this case to less experienced judges. According to him, based on article 167 of the constitution, the trial should be carried out with the presence of a jury and just and educated judges” (Radio Koocheh, November 14, 2009).

Mr. Ma’arefi’s family rejected the charge in an open letter: “Shirko is convicted of waging war against God only because he sympathized with a party which hasn’t participated in an armed attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran for years and was active with it its promotional and cultural activities. He was sentenced to execution in a trial that took a few minutes” (Student Committee for Defending Political Prisoners).

According to Mr. Ma’arefi’s lawyers, the lower court issued a ruling based only on the Ministry of Intelligence agent’s report. The lawyers asked why the case was tried in court in the first place if Ministry of Intelligence agents would be the ones issuing the verdict (Rooz Online, November 5, 2015). According to Mr. Sheikhi, because of the fundamental principle of this justice system, the court could not give preference to the report of an Intelligence agent over the testimony of witnesses, but the court did not consider this matter and issued a ruling based on the report of the Intelligence agent alone. Mr. Sheikhi made clear that, “Shirko put his gun down and turned himself in as soon as he knew that the Revolutionary Guards had come to the village, contrary to the claim in the report of the Intelligence agent. They asked his family about this and his family said the same and also said that every resident of the village saw what happened. More than twenty villagers wrote affidavits testifying that Shirko’s claim was true. Further, during the time that Shirko spent outside of the country in Iraqi Kurdistan, he was working in a pastry shop to earn a living and had an official certificate of approval from the Ministry of Labor of Iraq’s government” (Interview with Iran Emrooz, January 31, 2002). Mr. Ma’arefi, in a letter from prison, emphasised that he did not use his gun at the time of his arrest, “Even at the time of my arrest I was not willing to use my gun and shoot. The feelings I carried within me were not terror, fear and violence; on the contrary, my heart was filled with love for humanity and a desire for freedom” (The Campaign to Defend Political and Civil Prisoners, October 7, 2013).

In an another letter and in defense of his right to fight for his ideas, he wrote to the Human Rights Activists, “As an heir to this vigilant nation, among this nation which is alive only because of their Ahura songs, I fought from my mother’s skirt to the foothills from the very beginning when I was only a child, by knowing how to fight and knowing my lost identity, and in my bones I constantly suffered brutal repression over and over again. I chose fighting without any desire for the pleasures of modern life only for humanity to live. This is the path that was started before me and will continue after me. This resistance was formed many years ago and it is beyond borders altogether: it covers the body of this injured nation and all corners of human geography. We, political prisoners of every party and variety, whatever our convictions, have continued our path and will continue it. Our only hope is people and your resistance and fight, human rights activists and civil and social institutions, and we count on you as our voice to continue our fight …” (Student Committee for Defending Political Prisoners, April 15, 2011).

In the defense of their client, Mr. Ma’arefi’s lawyers asked for implementation of Article 18 after which the Chief Justice of Iran declared their client’s verdict of “execution and waging war against God” against Sharia and sent the case to the Public Prosecution Office in Saqez for reinvestigation. According to Mr. Bahramian, “When the case was sent to the Public Prosecution Office in Saqez by the Chief Justice of Iran, the Public Prosecutor of Saqez found some problems in the case. Although he had issued the indictment himself and had demanded execution, this time he found five problems in the case and stated that they did not correspond with articles 186 and 190, which refer to “waging war against God” and that distribution of CDs and notices conform to article 500, and article 500 indicates a maximum of three years of imprisonment.” Explaining the five problems that the Prosecutor of Saqez found in Mr. Ma’arefi’s case, Mr. Bahramian said, “As for the problems, he has formally written that distribution of CDs and notices, bodyguarding, and working at a bakery are not influential activities. He had only distributed CDs and printed announcements; the claims that he was involved in a clash with the Revolutionary Guards and that he tried to fire his weapon, as stated in the Revolutionary Guards headquarters’ report, are not correct. [Claims of] attempted beatings and intimidation of villagers are not right. Moreover, he has written that it is not correct that the accused has confessed to the conflict and that he has not made such a confession” (Rooz Online, November 5, 2015).

Both Mr. Ma’arefi’s lawyers considered the process of the trial against the law and didn’t believe that the Supreme Court of Iran was qualified to examine this case. According to Mr. Ma’arefi’s lawyers, although the Chief Justice of Iran had ordered reinvestigation and modification of the indictment by the Prosecutor, instead of ordering a retrial, the case was sent to the appeal court, which was against the law. However, the court legally made a mistake and disqualified itself and sent the case to the Supreme Court of Iran. According to Mr. Bahramian, the reinvestigation and issuance of a ruling by the Supreme Court of Iran was not legal: “The Supreme Court of Iran was basically not qualified to examine this case. This court only examines cases superficially and does not have the right to examine them substantively. In fact, the Supreme Court of Iran is responsible for appeals or investigation of one aspect of a retrial, that is either acceptance or rejection of a retrial, and considering the fact that the retrial of Shirko was already accepted by the Chief Justice of Iran, even a superficial examination of the case was unnecessary and the case should have been sent to another lower court or an appeal court to be examined” (Rooz Online, November 5, 2015).

According to Mr. Sheikhi, the problem was when the province’s appeal court disqualified itself and sent the case to the Supreme Court of Iran when the case should have been examined by the province’s appeal court, not by the Supreme Court of Iran. According to Mr. Sheikhi, despite the fact that based on article 18, the retrial was ongoing, had not been  rejected, and the Public Prosecutor of Saqez had acknowledged his mistakes in the first court in a written form, the case was not examined (Rooz Online, November 5, 2015).

Judgment

Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Saqez charged Mr. Ma’arefi with “waging war against God” and sentenced him to execution. The verdict was confirmed by Branch 4 of Kurdistan’s appeal court and then Branch 27 of the Supreme Court of Iran (The Campaign to Defend Political and Civil Prisoners). After the Chief Justice of Iran demanded application of “Article 18”, the case was resent to Branch 27 of the Supreme Court of Iran and was confirmed again.

Mr. Ma’arefi was hanged in the visitation hall of Saqez Central Prison on November 4, 2015 without his family being notified, while the warden and the head of prison security of Saqez were present (the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran). Even he himself was not given advanced notice of  the execution. According to the available information, he was transferred to solitary confinement from the general ward the night before the execution, under the pretext of being punished for smoking, and was transferred from solitary confinement to the execution site the next morning under the pretext of being transferred to Sanandaj prison (Kurdistan Human Rights Network, November 4, 2015). Earlier, in November 2009, Mr. Ma’arefi had been transferred to solitary confinement for execution but the execution was stopped due to the objections and the request of the current president of Iraq at the time, Jalal Talebani (voice message).

Mr. Ma’arefi’s body was transferred to Baneh’s hospital from Saqez prison and was delivered to his family after obtaining their assurance that they wouldn’t hold a memorial service (Rooz Online, November 5, 2015).

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*Other sources: Human Rights Watch News of Kurdistan (November 23, 2009), Radio Farda (November 25, 2009, November 26, 2015), Student Committee for Defending Political Prisoners (March 26 and April 15, 2011), Nedaye Sabze Azadi (April 24 2012), The Campaign to Defend Political and Civil Prisoners (October 7, 2013), Rooz Online (October 26, 2015, May 1, 2011), Radio Koocheh (November 14, 2009), Kurdistan Human Rights Network (November 4, 2015), Iran Emrooz (January 31, 2002).

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