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

Abolfazl Chazani Sharahi

About

Age: 18
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Killing: June 27, 2018
Location of Killing: Central Prison, Qom, Markazi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder
Age at time of offense: 14

About this Case

He was only 15 when he got involved in a brawl. He used to comfort his mother: Mum, don’t be scarred. Nothing will happen to me.

News of Mr. Abolfazl Chazani Sharahi’s execution was published on the Jam’iat-e Imam Ali Facebook page on June 27, 2018. Additional information about this case was obtained from an Abdorrahman Boroumand Center interview with a person close to him and from the Center’s own research (July 7, 2018), Ghanoon News Website (July 8, 2018), Amnesty International website (January 19, 2018), and a European Union statement (June 27, 2018).

Mr. Abolfazl Chazani Sharahi, child of Asghar and Simin, was born on January 16, 1999, in the city of Qom. According to a person close to him, he was a child with a small and weak build and was mostly ill until the age of seven. He would mostly play soccer at school or go the Atari club. Mr. Chazani was a compassionate child, with a lot of love; he was also very determined and just had to work when there was a public gathering. For instance, on the occasion of the Middle of Sha’ban (the Twelfth Shi’a Imam’s birthday), he would decorate the entire alley way with paper and strings. He loved Imam Hossein Ta’zieh ([annual] mourning ceremonies set to music for the fourth Shi’a Imam). (Boroumand Center interview).

Mr. Chazani was born into a poor family that lived on the outskirts of the city of Qom, and had four brothers. He stayed in school until seventh grade and subsequently started to work at a Sohan (a type of hard candy for which Qom is famous) making shop. He would give his daily earnings to his mother every night when he came home from work. (Boroumand Center interview and Ghanoon News Website).

Mr. Chazani’s case is related to a murder that occurred in a street fight in Qom. He was 14 at the time of the event.

Amnesty International demanded that the execution be halted. (Amnesty International Urgent Action, January 19, 2018). Noting Iran’s international obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Union also objected to the implementation of this juvenile criminal’s execution. (European Union Statement, June 27, 2018).

Arrest and detention

On the night of December 26, 2013, police officers went to Mr. Chazani’s home to arrest him but he was not there. He went to the police precinct with his father when he came home that same night and gave himself up. That night, a fight had broken at 8:30 PM between several youths, one of whom had been stabbed. Mr. Chazani had fled the scene out of fear, and the injured individual died at the hospital a few days later. (Boroumand Center interview and the Court Decision, available at the Boroumand Center).

Mr. Chazani spent four years and six months at the city of Qom’s Kanun-e Eslah va Tarbiat (“Reform and Education Center”). According to a source with knowledge of the case, with his extroverted personality and sociable demeanor, he soon drew a lot of attention in prison. He was well-groomed and religious, and committed [to religious practice]; he did his prayers and fasts. He quickly became the ward representative and tended to the prisoners’ affairs. The Reform and Education Center had issued him a “good character” letter. According to a published report, he had not engaged in a single fight in prison. (Ghanoon News Website). According the source with knowledge of the case, he had changed a lot in prison and had actually matured. (Boroumand Center interview).

Based on available information, during his incarceration, Mr. Chazani was called on four times for the implementation of his sentence. According to a person close to him, he was taken to quarantine when he was 15 (so that the sentence could be carried out) where he spent the night with several other prisoners; he was taken back to the Reform and Education Center the next day after the others were executed. The second and third times were when he was 16: The second time, he was taken to quarantine by himself where he spent the night alone, and the third time he was with several others who were subsequently executed. (Boroumand Center interview).

Trial

Mr. Chazani’s trial took place on July 16, 2014, at Qom Province Criminal Court, Branch One, in the presence of the Prosecutor’s representative, the plaintiffs, the defendant, along with his court-appointed lawyer. The prosecutor’s representative asked that the defendant be punished and the victim’s next of kin demanded Qesas. On July 20, 2014, Mr. Chazani’s attorney submitted his brief in defense of his client to the Court.

Charges

The Court charged Mr. Abolfazl Chazani with “intentional murder”. He was accused of having murdered a 20-year-old man in a street fight when he was 14 (three weeks before turning 15).

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

Mr. Chazani’s statements at various phases of adjudication, including at trial, the Medical Examiner’s report attesting to his full mental development and maturity, and witness statements, were among evidence presented against the defendant.

According to the Court Decision, Mr. Chazani had stated at his last trial session: “It was R. H. who was in a fight and I got involved; but R. didn’t tell me to stab the murder victim, I did that on my own. I did not intend to stab him.” He had also said in court: “R. H. had already gotten into a fight with the murder victim. Then I took part in the fight. I took the knife from my house and wrapped it around my waist. When M. (the murder victim) and R. started to fight, I went in too. I took the knife from my belt and stabbed him once in the chest. Then R. made me flee. He was on the scene but did not get himself involved. He tried to separate us.” At his last defense, Mr. Chazani accepted the facts of the case at the scene reconstruction, and, emphasizing his young age at the time of the event, stated: “I accepted the charge, but I did not intend to kill the victim. I beg for forgiveness.” (Court Decision, available at the Boroumand Center).

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic use of severe torture and solitary confinement to obtain confessions from detainees and have questioned the authenticity of confessions obtained under duress.

Defense

Mr. Chazani declared in court that he did not intend to kill the murder victim. He expressed remorse and asked the next of kin and the court for forgiveness. Mr. Chazani had not reached the age of maturity at the time of the commission of the crime and did not possess the faculty of discerning Islamic rules and what was allowed and what was forbidden from a religious standpoint. (Court Decision, available at the Boroumand Center).

Based on available information, Mr. Chazani’s court-appointed attorney asked that his client be examined [by a professional] to determine the level of his mental maturity. (Court Decision, available at the Boroumand Center).

Based on available information, Mr. Chazani was repeatedly interrogated without his parents and his attorney being present, and was forced to make incriminating confessions. His statements were contradictory at different stages of the investigation; in spite of that fact, however, his case was adjudicated in a hasty manner. (Documents available at the Boroumand Center). According to a person close to him, the prosecutor’s office and the court did not conduct sufficient investigations about the role of Mr. Chezani’s friend who was with him at the fight. Mr. Chazani’s 19-year-old friend who accompanied him at the fight was also arrested. Prior to the victim’s death [at the hospital], he had told Mr. Chazani while they were both in detention: “Say you stabbed him; I’ll get you out.” Mr. Chazani, who wasn’t even 15 years old, obeyed and accepted the charges. Ten days later, however, the stab victim died at the hospital. According to a person close to Mr. Chazani, he was so small at the time of the incident that they had just bought him pants with a belt (officially a belt) for the first time. (Boroumand Center interview).

In the memorandum dated August 26, 2015, when Mr. Chazani had been taken to be executed for the first time, Sentence Implementation Bureau, Branch One, stated that the defendant had not reached the age of 15 at the time of commission of the crime and that the Medical Examiner’s Office did not have any physicians specialized in juvenile cases on hand when the defendant’s mental condition was being assessed, and that the trial had been conducted in haste. (Documents available at the Boroumand Center).

According to an affidavit by the people in Mr. Chazani’s neighborhood, he did not have any history of fighting and altercations. (Ghanoon News Website). According to a person close to Mr. Chazani, his family had gone everywhere to follow up on his case, from the Qom Prosecutor’s Office to the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office, to the State Prosecutor General’s Office. According to this person, the victim had severely beaten Mr. Chazani in the first group altercation. Influenced by his friend, who had instigated him to continue the fight, Mr. Chazani, who was a small-framed child, had returned to the scene of the fight accompanied by his friend. This time, encouraged by his friend, he had gotten into an altercation with seven people and had stabbed one of them in self-defense. (Boroumand Center interview).

According to Mr. Chazani’s brother, the fight between the murder victim and Abolfazl’s friend had been going on for two weeks prior to the incident. On the day of the event, his friend had gone to get another person and when he hadn’t found him in the alley way, had taken Abolfazl along on his motorcycle, otherwise Abolfazl  did not even know how to ride a bike. According to Mr. Chazani’s statements, there were guys who had witnessed the whole thing but the court did not allow them to testify at trial. Furthermore, Mr. Chazani’s family intended to bring a complaint against Abolfazl’s friend as a co-conspirator, and went to court accompanied by the neighborhood elders, but the court did not allow that. (Ghanoon News Website).

A Summary of the Legal Defects in Mr. Chazani’s Case

Abolfazl Chazani was under 15 solar years of age at the time of the commission of the murder; since the age of criminal responsibility in Iranian criminal law is calculated based on lunar years, however, he was considered to be of legal age and hence criminally responsible. Although the age of criminal responsibility in Iranian law is the age of full maturity and Abolfazl was considered legally mature, a change was made to the Islamic Penal Code in 2013 whereby juvenile criminals under the age of 18 are given the opportunity to escape the death penalty. Pursuant to Article 91 of said law, “In crimes requiring Hadd or Qesas, if the individuals under the age of 18 who have attained puberty cannot comprehend the nature of the crime or the prohibition thereof, or if there is doubt as to their mental development [and capacity] and maturity, they will be sentenced to the punishments prescribed in this chapter on a case by case basis. In order to ascertain mental development and maturity, the court may obtain the medical examiner’s opinion, or utilize any other method it deems appropriate.” In the present case, judiciary officials did inquire with the Medical examiner’s Office regarding the defendant’s mental state [for purposes of Article 91] and the Medical examiner confirmed his maturity. However, according to the Supreme Court Branch 24’s Assistant Investigating Judge, whose opinion is written in the Court’s Decision, although the defendant had reached puberty from a religious standpoint, his mental maturity was in doubt. In his opinion, the Assistant Judge argued that the defendant was dispatched to the Medical Examiner’s Office a year after the murder, and examinations and tests conducted at that point in time were no indication of maturity at the time of the commission of the crime. The Assistant Investigating Judge therefore asked the Supreme Court to overturn the trial court’s decision on that basis, which request was denied by the Branch Judges. Subsequent to the upholding of the lower court decision and the issuance of a final order, it was the prosecutor’s office’s sentence implementation bureau’s turn to state that the Medical Examiner’s Office did not have a pediatrician at the time the defendant’s case was being investigated. Aside from that, it can generally be said that it would be very hard for a 15 year old person to understand the nature of his/her actions as well as an adult would. However, even though there was a legal possibility for Abolfazl not to be executed, judiciary officials did not consider that the rule applied in his case.

 Judgment

On September 17, 2014, Qom Province Criminal Court, Branch One sentenced Mr. Abolfazl Chazani Sharahi to death (Qesas of life). On November 26, 2014, Supreme Court Branch 24 upheld the ruling and the decision was confirmed by the Head of the Judiciary. On Wednesday, August 19, 2015, Qom General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office made preparations for Qesas to be carried out but the implementation process was halted by the Sentence Implementation Bureau, Branch One. On October 25, 2015, Supreme Court Branch 33 denied the request for a new trial and the Branch upheld the defendant’s death sentence once again. (Documents available at the Boroumand Center).

Mr. Abolfazl Chazani was hanged at Qom Central Prison (Langrud Prison) on June 27, 2018. The murder victim’s father personally pulled the stool from under the defendant’s feet and carried out the sentence of Qesas himself. (Ghanoon News Website).

According to Mr. Chazani’s brother, his case was still in the adjudication stage, and had they allowed the process to reach its conclusion, perhaps he would not have been executed; and even if they had kept the case open, there was a possibility that the plaintiff’s family would forgive him. They could have delayed this haste in hanging him. (Ghanoon News Website).

Right up to the time of his execution, Mr. Chazani was hopeful he would be saved; he had told his mother the previous day: “Don’t worry, nothing will happen!” When the prison social worker brought him a Koran the night before his execution, Mr. Chazani had laughed and said: “They won’t kill me, I will be forgiven.” (Ghanoon News Website).

According to a person close to him, Mr. Chazani’s family stated after his hanging: “We died with him. Abolfazl did not deserve to be executed; we would have been fine had he been sentenced to life in prison, but executing a 14-year-old child is simply inhuman.” (Boroumand Center interview).

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