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

Vahid Heidari


Age: 23
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Single


Date of Execution: January 5, 2018
Location: Arak, Markazi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Death in custody
Age at time of offense: 23

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.


Human rights violations

Based on the available information, the following human rights may have been violated in this case:

  • The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.

  • The right not to be punished for any crime on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time it was committed.

UDHR, Article 11.2; ICCPR, Article 15, Article 6.2.

  • The right not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation.

UDHR, Article 12, ICCPR, Article 17.1.

  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest one’s religion or belief.

UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2; Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.

In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one’s religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.

  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.

  • The right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 21.

  • The right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of one’s interests.

UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.

  • The right to equality before the law and the right to equal protection of the law.

UDHR, Article 7; ICCPR, Article 26.

The right to due process

  • The right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a competent and impartial tribunal in accordance with law.

ICCPR, Article 14.1 and Article 14.2.

Pre-trial detention rights

  • The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.

UDHR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a

  • The right to counsel of one’s own choosing or the right to legal aid. The right to communicate with one’s attorney in confidence

ICCPR, Article 14.3.b and Article 14.3.d; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1, Article 2, Article 5, Article 6, and Article 8.

  • The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.b.

  • The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess to guilt.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.g.

  • The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.

Trial rights

  • The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.

ICCPR, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

  • The right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one, and the right to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on one’s behalf under the same conditions as prosecution witnesses.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.d and Article 14.3.e.

  • The right to have the decision rendered in public.

ICCPR, Article 14.1.

Judgment rights

  • The right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.

ICCPR, Article 14.5.

  • The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

ICCPR, Article 6.4.

  • The right not to be tried or punished again for an offence for which one has already been

convicted or acquitted.

ICCPR, Article 14.7.

Capital punishment
  • The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.

  • The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.

About this Case

He was an honest, healthy, and well-built young man who worked hard in cold and hot weather just to make ends meet

Information regarding the death of Mr. Vahid Heidari was published by ISNA News Agency (January 6, 2018), and on Mr. Mohammad Najafi, attorney at law in the city of Arak’s facebook page (January 7, 2018). Additional information about this case was obtained from the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center’s interviews with two individuals with knowledge of the case (January 9, 2018), from ISNA and Mizan news agencies, BBC Persian website (January 9, and February 2, 2018), Iran Campaign for Human Rights website (January 9, 2018), Euronews (February 2, 2018), Voice of America (January 7, 2018), and Aftab and Young Reporters Club websites (January 10, 2018).

Mr. Vahid Heidari, Child of Hassan, was single, 23 years old, from the village of Takieh near the town of Shazand, and resided in the city of Arak in Markazi Province. He was a street vendor and spread his items at the entrance to the city of Arak’s bazaar, in the same place where other street vendors gathered to sell their things. He came from a poor family and had two brothers and three sisters. His father was an injured Iran-Iraq war veteran, and several of his relatives had also been killed in the war. According to his friends, Mr. Heidari was an honest, healthy, and well-built young man who worked hard in cold and hot weather just to make ends meet.

This case is related to Mr. Heidari’s killing in detention; he had been arrested in the first days of nationwide demonstrations.


Nationwide Protests

Popular public protests began on Thursday, December 28, 2018. On the first day, thousands of people in Mashhad, Kashmar, Birjand, and Neishabur in Khorassan Razavi Province participated in the “No To Rising Prices” demonstrations. In videos of these demonstrations disseminated online in social networks and in the media, the protestors chanted slogans of “Death To Rohani” and “Death to the Dictator”, “You’ve destroyed Islam, The people have had enough”, and “Nothing is in its right place when Iran doesn’t have a Shah”. On the second day, protests spread to other cities in Iran including Esfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, Rasht, Sari, Ghouchan, Sabzevar, and Khorramabad, and the protestors’ slogans turned against the institutions of the Islamic republic and the Leader himself. With the city of Qom joining other protesting cities, slogans were chanted in support of Reza Shah Phalavi. Videos of the days protests disseminated on social media show that in the cities of Qom, Hamedan, Qazvin, Qaemshahr, and Bojnurd, slogans of “Death to the Dictator”, “Reza Shah, joy be upon your soul”, “Let go of Syria, think of a solution for us” were chanted. On the third day, simultaneous with government sponsored demonstrations celebrating Dey 9th(December 30) in Tehran’s Mosalla (“Prayer Place”), protests continued across Iran in Kermanshah, Dezful, Karaj’s Gohardasht Neighborhood, Rasht, Arak, Shiraz, Shar-e Kord, Khorramabad, Zanjan, Bandar Abbas, Semnan, and Hashtgerd, with skirmishes breaking out between protestors and government forces; at least two people were killed in the town of Dorud in Lorestan Province. On December 31, 2018, protests continued in Tehran, Mashhad, Kermanshah, Rasht, Arak, Tabriz, Maragheh, Behshahr, Chahbahar, Hashtgerd, Orumieh, Dorud, amd Malayer. Iranian Television reported the death of 10 people in the protests, and [the town of] Izeh’s representative announced 2 individuals had been killed in that town. Hamedan Governor’s office also reported the death of 3 people. In a cabinet meeting, Iranian President Hassan Rohani addressed the protests for the first time and while reiterating the people’s right to peaceful protests, stated that the government would not tolerate chaos and disorder. On the fifth day, January 1, 2018, the protests became more violent, with a police precinct in the town of Qahdarijan in Esfahan Province set ablaze, following which 6 people were killed. The Iranian President, Hassan Rohani said that the protestors were not people who had received orders from abroad, and had come onto the streets because of [the pressure of] their problems and [based on] their feelings. The next day, however, the Iranian Leader of the Revolution [Ayatollah Khamenei] announced that the recent events were “the work of foreign enemies of the Islamic regime”, [directly contradicting President Rohani]. At the end of the sixth day of protests, the number of deaths stood at 21, according to Iranian officials. Seven days after the protests had begun, the regime’s supporters started demonstrations in various cities at the government’s invitation, and condemned the popular protests. On that same day, even though smaller protests occurred in Malayer, Noshahr, Gohardasht, and Amol, the protests generally began to subside. The head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps held “a former official” responsible for the protests and announced the end of “the new sedition”. On the eighth day the country’s Prosecutor General announced that the unrest was the result of “a three-way project by America, Israel, and Saudi Arabia”, and said that the principal planner of the protests was an American named Michael Andrea who was the former person in charge of CIA counter terrorism. Iran’s Information Minister also stated in an announcement that three of the Ministry’a personnel had been killed in skirmishes with armed persons in the town of Piranshahr. Social networking apps, Instagram and Telegram were filtered during the protests and the filtering of Telegram continued after they had ended. (Euronews, January 3, 2018, Voice of America, January 7, 2018). One Majless (“Parliament”) representative, quoting the head of the Iran Prisons Organization, stated that 4,972 people had been arrested in the course of the protests. At least two of the individuals arrested by the names of Sina Qanbari and Vahid Heidari died under suspicious circumstances while in detention (BBC Persian, February 2, 2018) but Iranian officials did not accept responsibility for their deaths. Nationwide protests that had started with slogans demanding better economic conditions, and subsequently evolved into criticism of government corruption as well as domestic and foreign policy, thereby questioning [the legitimacy of] the religious regime, continued in the following months without any particular leadership.

Arrest and Detention

There is conflicting information regarding the time and manner of Mr. Heidari’s arrest. According to his family and a person with knowledge of the case, he was arrested by the Police Force during the protests on December 31, 2017, at the entrance to Arak’s bazaar where he had spread his things for sale, and was taken Arak’s 12thRazavi Police Precinct. (Borumand Center interview). According to the Province Police’s announcement published one day after his death, however, Mr. Heidari had been arrested on January 1, 2018.

According to persons with knowledge of the case, a large number of people were arrested on December 31, 2017, and because of their large number, they were distributed among different detention centers in Arak, including the 12th Precinct. A number of the individuals arrested at the same time as Mr. Heidari had testified that they too had been subjected to beatings at the detention center. (Boroumand Center interview).

Mr. Heidari died at Arak’s 12thPrecinct on Friday, January 5, 2108, only a few days after his arrest; and according to persons with knowledge of the case, there were marks of fracture and a deep depression on his skull, which seemed to indicate that he had been hit with a blunt object. (Boroumand Center interview).

Officials’ Reaction

Officials informed Mr. Heidari’s family on January 5, 2018 that he had died. They announced the cause of death as “suicide”. They forced Mr. Heidari’s family to bury his body in a pre-determined grave in Arak’s Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery’s Section 34 on the morning of January 6, 2018. According to persons with knowledge of the case, quoting eyewitnesses, there were a large number of police and security agents at Mr. Heidari’s burial. (Boroumnd Center interview).

After Mr. Heidari’s death, officials denied that his arrest had anything to do with the nationwide protests and stated that he had been arrested on drug charges. Official authorities provided conflicting accounts of Mr. Heidari’s background and the manner of his death. Regarding his background, Markazi Province Police announced that he had “three prior criminal cases on charges of harassment and assault”. (ISNA, January 6, 2018). Markazi Province General and Revolutionary Prosecutor said that Mr. Heidari had “multiple criminal priors, and priors of drug trafficking and of inflicting harm on himself” in his file (Mizan News Agency). Meanwhile, Markazi Province Head of the Judiciary announced that he had “a history of [attempting] suicide and inflicting harm on himself”, without making any references to a criminal record. (ISNA, January 9, 2018). Regarding Mr. Heidari’s manner of death, Markazi Province Police issued an announcement one day after his death without mentioning his name, where it stated that the guard making the rounds had noticed that the defendant had committed suicide by tying his clothes around his neck. (ISNA, January 6, 2018). Four days after Mr. Heidari’s death, The Province’s head of the Judiciary alluded to signs of self-inflicted [wounds] observed on Mr. Heidari’s body, and announced that a final [determination of the] cause of death must be made by the Medical Examiner’s Office. (ISNA, January 9, 2018).

Markazi Province Police denied that Mr. Heidari’s arrest had anything to do with the public protests and announced that he had been arrested following reports of drug sale on one of Arak’s streets to the relevant police precinct. According to that announcement, Mr. Heidari was arrested while selling drugs and engaging in a fight with several petty drug dealers, and 10 grams of Heroin were discovered on him at the time of the arrest. Markazi Province Police denied the news that he had died following a blow to the head with a club during public protests and said that such news was the work of “certain enemies and haters” “who have ill will” and spread “false” news and have “hostile intent with the objective of sewing divisions”. The Police also threatened the disseminators of such false news with “swift action”. (ISNA, January 6, 2018).

Mr. Heidari’s body was buried on the morning of January 6, 2018, at Arak’s Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery, Section 34, in the grave designated by the authorities, under pressure and threats from police and security forces.

Familys’ Reaction

Mr. Heidari’s family held services for him in the afternoon of that same day at Imam Hassan Asgari Mosque in Arak’s Rudaki neighborhood. Following threats made by the authorities, Mr. Heidari’s family and relatives did not particularly want to discuss his case but denied the officials’ claim that his arrest had to do with drug addiction or possession of drugs, and stated that those allegations were not true. (Boroumand Center interview, Iran Human Rights Campaign).

There was a deep fracture measuring approximately 4 inches on the upper left hand side of his skull, at the extremity of which there was a bump that seemed to have been caused by a blow with a heavy object

According to friends and acquaintances, Mr. Heidari’s family is under tremendous pressure from security officials to keep silent about his death. People who knew Mr. Heidari have given testimony that Mr. Heidari was neither an addict nor a drug dealer, and that he was a healthy, hard-working young man. According to them, such allegations are an outrage and a blatant injustice to him and his family. (Boroumand Center interview). According to Mr. Heidari’s uncle (his father’s brother), he was not an addict and the family does not know what has happened, but what [the officials] are saying is not true. (Iran Human Rights Campaign).

According to persons with knowledge of the case, based on the account of some of Mr. Heidari’s relatives who have witnessed his body, there were signs of beatings on his body, and there was a deep fracture measuring approximately 4 inches on the upper left hand side of his skull, at the extremity of which there was a bump that seemed to have been caused by a blow with a heavy object. Mr. Heidari’s body had been sent to the Medical Examiner’s Office prior to burial but there is no information regarding the Medical Examiner’s report. (Boroumand Center interview).

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Heidari’s Legal Proceedings

Based on statements made by persons with knowledge of the case, Vahid Heidari was beaten by law enforcement officials, and the beating was the cause of death. Those statements alone should be enough to prompt the prosecutor to open a [criminal] case and conduct the necessary investigations in order to discover the truth. The Medical Examiner (Coroner’s Office) can certainly determine whether the cause of death was suicide or murder at the hands of another person. Although the authorities have stated that the victim’s body has been examined by the Coroner’s Office, no report of said examination has been seen or announced thus far. In an interview with Mizan News Agency, the Arak Prosecutor stated that there was footage of the moment Vahid Heidari committed suicide in prison. The footage has not been put at the disposal of Vahid Heidari’s family thus far; if such footage does exist, his family and his attorney should have access to it.

Pursuant to Iranian law, torture and beatings are strictly prohibited and the perpetrator will be charged with a crime. If the accused dies as a result of torture, the perpetrator will be charged with intentional murder. Based on available information, judicial authorities dismissed the charge of murder from the get go and without conducting the necessary investigations, whereas the proper course of action would have been to first conduct the necessary investigations at the prosecutor’s office and then render an opinion on the case.

The authorities claim Vahid Heidari was arrested for transporting and dealing drugs, and not for partaking in demonstrations and gatherings. In spite of the existence of serious doubts about the accuracy of this claim, it must be noted that the reason(s) for an individual’s arrest has no bearing on his/her treatment [at the hands of law enforcement officials] and on the course of investigations and adjudication. In other words, even assuming that Vahid Heidari was arrested on drug charges, it was still necessary to observe the law as stated above, and to conduct investigations into murder.

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