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

Safieh Ghafuri

About

Age: 28
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: July 12, 2012
Location of Killing: Central Prison (Adelabad), Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder
Age at time of offense: 19

About this Case

She was an avid reader. She read The Little Prince, for example, and knew Ahmad Shamlu’s poems by heart.

News of Ms. Safieh Ghafuri’s execution was published in Iran and Sharq newspapers (July 14, 2012). Additional information about this case was obtained from the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center’s interview with a person with knowledge of the case (June 13, 2018), Sharq newspaper (July 1 and 11, 2012), Iran newspaper (July 14, 2012), Mehr News Agency (July 11, 2012), Rahsa News Website (July 10, 2012), and Mr. Mohammad Mostafai’s weblog (July 12, 2012).

Ms. Ghafuri was 28 years old and from the village of Chahvarz, Lamard County, Fars Province. She was a married homemaker, and was pregnant at the time of her arrest. She was a beautiful and intelligent woman, born into a large family. Ms. Ghafuri had an eighth grade education but was a very good writer and an avid reader. She read The Little Prince, for example, and knew Ahmad Shamlu’s poems by heart. She was a very hopeful person and very much wished to change he life conditions. (Boroumand Center interview).

When she was 16 years old, she was forced to marry a man from the opposing clan as “Khunbass” (literally meaning “enough bloodshed”, a tradition among the Bakhtiari tribes, among others, whereby the killer’s/killers’ daughter or close female relative is married off to the victim’s family as a means of putting an end to ongoing grudges and bloodshed), following a long and protracted tribal conflict which had resulted in the killing of 20 people over the years. Ms. Ghafuri then became friends with an influential man, a government employee who was the region’s Friday Prayer Imam’s son-in-law. (Boroumand Center interview).

Ms. Ghafuri’s case is related to a murder committed in one of Fars Province’s towns in 2006.

Arrest and detention

The authorities arrested Ms. Ghafuri in 2006, about 15 days after the discovery of a burnt body in her home. (Boroumand Center interview).

The authorities took Ms. Ghafuri to the prosecutor’s office in [the town of] Beyram , Fars Province where she was detained for approximately one month. (Boroumand Center interview). Other reports have stated that she was detained in a detention center in [the town of] Lameh, and for about 2 months. (Rahsa News, Mohammad Mostafai’s weblog).

According to a person with knowledge of the case, Ms. Ghafuri had initially (during the first phase of interrogations) stated that she had not committed the murder, and had named another individual as the principal killer. The interrogators subsequently tortured, beat, and repeatedly raped her to force her to confess to committing murder. According to the information provided by the person with knowledge of the case, she was repeatedly raped by different men while in detention undergoing interrogations, which resulted in severe internal bleeding, a miscarriage on the spot, and the loss of her two or three months old fetus. Ms. Ghafuri was deprived of hygienic and medical attention, even of feminine pads. After a month, a man and a woman went to visit her in detention and told her they would support her if she confessed to having committed the murder. Ms. Ghafuri, who was only 19 years old at the time, believed their promises, and in order to free herself of rape and torture, confessed to the murder. (Boroumand Center interview). According to another report, the individuals who went to visit Ms. Ghafuri (without a legal warrant) to convince her to confess to murder, were [the city of] Shiraz Governor and Fars Province Governor General. (Rahsa News).

She was repeatedly raped by different men while undergoing interrogations in detention, which resulted in a miscarriage and the loss of her baby.

Ms. Ghafuri was transferred to prison after her case was completed. In the 6 years that she was incarcerated, she was moved back and forth several times between Shiraz’ Adelabad Prison and Shiraz’ Reform and Education Center; she spent the last years of her incarceration at the Shiraz Reform and Education Center. She had taken up acting in the prison theater group and had even received several prizes. (Boroumand Center interview).

According to available information, since Ms. Ghafuri’s family believed that she had “dishonored” the family, they considered her and the man with whom she was in a relationship, worthy of death, and they had made plans to kill them. One of her brothers fired seven shots at the man when he was in the street but the man was only wounded, and did not bring a complaint against Ms. Ghafuri’s brother afterward. Another one of her brothers fired a shot at Ms. Ghafuri’s heart at the prison visitation hall with a gun that had been made to look like a pen. (Boroumand Center interview, Rahsa News, Mohammad Mostafai’s weblog, Sharq newspaper). After undergoing surgery, she recovered relatively well but the bullet remained in her heart tissue until her death sentence was carried out. Ms. Ghaffuri once attempted suicide at Adelabad Prison because she had been ostracized by her family, but was saved because the other prisoners reacted quickly and got her swift medical attention. (Boroumand Center interview).

Mr. Ghafuri’s husband divorced her while she was in prison. Ms. Ghafuri subsequently married a wealthy prisoner who was sentenced to death for “drug trafficking”. Her spouse made great efforts to obtain her release. (Boroumand Center interview).

Trial

Fars Province Criminal Court tried Ms. Ghafuri in the course of several sessions. Ms. Ghafuri had a court-appointed lawyer at trial. No further information is available about the trial sessions.

Charges

Ms. Ghafuri was charged with “murder”.

Ms. Ghafuri was accused of setting fire to her home while there was a corpse in it, fleeing the burning house by jumping over the wall, and of leaving the scene of the crime by getting into a passing cab.

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

The evidence against Ms. Ghafuri was stated to be “discovery of the murder victim’s burnt body in the defendant’s home, as well as the defendant’s confession during the preliminary investigations stage”. (Boroumand Center interview, Sharq newspaper, Mehr News Agency).

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

Ms. Ghafuri initially (during the preliminary investigations stage) denied that she was the principal in the commission of murder, and stated that she had helped the murderer but had not killed the victim. In later stages of preliminary investigations, however, she confessed to the charge brought against her under torture and while she did not have access to an attorney. According to available information, after the court issued its ruling, Ms. Ghafuri named that region’s Friday Prayer Imam’s son-in-law as the principal killer; she also named individuals whom she claimed were members of the Revolutionary Guards, as well as prison officials and prison guards as people who had repeatedly raped her. According to available information, Ms. Ghafuri, who was pregnant at the time, was tortured, beaten and repeatedly raped for a month after her arrest, resulting in a miscarriage. She was subsequently forced to confess to murder upon being promised support by influential people who were related to her accomplice. Those individuals had promised her that they would help her if she cooperated with them (confessed to the murder). (Boroumand Center interview, Rahsa News).

According to a person with knowledge of the case, Ms. Ghafuri had stated in preliminary investigations that she had pre-planned and lured a 16-year-old girl with whom she had some personal issues to her home, and had put sleeping pills in her drink so that the man accompanying her could have sex with her while Ms. Ghafuri filmed the whole thing, with the intention of blackmailing her later. The girl had woken upin the middle of the act, however, and the man had pushed her; her head had struck the bed and had started bleeding.  The man had then asked Ms. Ghafuri to bring a rope so he could strangle the girl. From that moment on, Ms. Ghafuri had resisted the man and had said “that was not our plan”. But the man had paid no attention to her and had taken a rope from the yard and had strangled the girl. The man had then told her “I will come back tonight so we can take the body out of the house”. Ms. Ghafuri had then hidden the body under some bedding and some clothes so that her husband would not see it when he came home. 24 hours later, however, there was still no sign of Ms. Ghafuri’s accomplice. The entire town had started looking for the lost girl at that point. Ms. Ghafuri had then set her house and her belongings and the body on fire and had fled over the wall. She did not know that the identity of the body could be determined by doing medical tests; she had thought that once the burnt house and body were discovered, they would think it was she herself who had perished and burnt in the fire. (Boroumand Center interview).

There are conflicting accounts regarding Ms. Ghafuri’s personal issue with the murder victim. According to a person with knowledge of the case, the victim had been the cause of one of Ms. Ghafuri’s relatives’ ruined reputation, and that was why Ms. Ghafuri wanted to take revenge by videotaping her in the act of having sex. The relative (person close to Ms. Ghafuri) was present at the scene at the time of the murder. (Boroumand Center interview). Based on other reports, however, the murder victim was supposed to marry Ms. Ghaffuri’s husband and that was why she had an issue with her. One of Ms. Ghafuri’s husband’s relatives was present at the scene at the time of the murder. (Rahsa News).

According to a person with knowledge of the case, Ms. Ghafuri’s court-appointed lawyer lodged a complaint with the Government Employees Tribunal as well as the Judges Disciplinary Tribunal for what had happened to his client during and concerning the adjudication of her case, but the complaint was not heard. Further, Ms. Ghafuri’s own hired attorneys prepared an affidavit signed by locals which they presented to the court along with other documentation, asking for a new trial, and the request was accepted. (Boroumand Center interview, Sharq newspaper).

Her court-appointed lawyer lodged a complaint with the Government Employees Tribunal as well as the Judges Disciplinary Tribunal for what had happened to his client during and concerning the adjudication of her case. 

According to available information, Ms. Ghafuri wrote a letter to the Head of the Judiciary in which she claimed that she had retracted her confession based on promises made to her by her accomplice’s family. She requested that the lower court ruling be overturned, and stated that she wanted an opportunity to tell the truth. (Boroumand Center interview, Sharq newspaper, Mehr News Agency).

According to a report, numerous letters had been written by the Shiraz Prosecutor to the Head of the Judiciary asking for his permission to implement the Qesas (“retribution”) sentence (death penalty). (Rahsa News).

According to available information, Ms. Ghafuri’s family put together a team to punish her and her accomplice. One of Ms. Ghafuri’s brothers shot her during visitations but she was saved after being taken to the hospital. Another one of her brothers fired seven times at her accomplice in the street, but he too was saved a short while later. (Boroumand Center interview).

One of the points that Ms. Ghaffuri’s attorneys made for a new trial was the following: Why did the man who had been shot by Ms. Ghafuri’s brother not bring a complaint against him if he had nothing to do with the murder? (Boroumand Center interview, Rahsa News). According to available information, the court did not take that into account, neither did they ask why the man whom Ms. Ghafuri had said was the main culprit and had committed the murder, had continued to live under a fake identity after the assassination attempt? (Rahsa News).

According to published reports, Ms. Ghafuri’s family had ostracized her and wanted her to be executed: They had asked her to say that one of her husband’s relatives was the person behind the whole thing so they could take revenge on him but she had refused. (Rahsa News).

A Summary of the Legal Defects in Ms. Safieh Ghafuri’s Case

According to available information, Ms. Ghafuri had named a person during preliminary interrogations and in court as the murderer and her accomplice; this person was a relative of Fars Province’s Chahvarz County Friday Prayer Imam. Nevertheless, the court found him not guilty. Ms. Ghafuri’s attorneys presented the court with an affidavit signed by persons with knowledge of the case that was indicative of another person having committed the murder. Based on available evidence and documentation, the court did not conduct serious investigations into Ms.  Ghafuri’s accomplice, and based its decision on her confession made at the prosecutor’s office, whereas, pursuant to Iranian law, a confession is valid only if it is true and accurate. In other words, the adjudicating authority has the duty of investigating the accuracy and truth of the confession and, if it finds in the slightest that there is a claim as to the confession having been made under duress or other factors, it must continue investigations until it gets to the truth. According to Ms. Ghafuri’s statements, several people had come to her after her arrest and had proposed that she take on the murder in return for their support. Furthermore, according to Ms. Ghafuri’s statements, she had been tortured and raped during the interrogation phase. Pursuant to Iranian law, admissions and confessions made under torture have no legal validity and credence. The adjudicating court did not conduct any investigations into any of these claims, whereas carrying out such investigations was not difficult, and what’s more, proving torture and forced confession would have played a major role in the outcome of the case.

Subsequent to the issuance of the court ruling, Ms. Ghafuri named their region’s Friday Prayer Imam’s son-in-law as the principal murderer. In its review of the case and the request for a new trial, however, the Supreme Court disregarded that claim. It does not seem as though the prosecutor’s office and the trial court have conducted thorough investigations in this regard. In other words, a court ruling is valid when the necessary and sufficient investigations have been conducted into all existing issues and claims.

According to available information, upon a request by the attorneys for a new trial, the case was sent to Supreme Court Branch Four. As the Branch was reviewing the case, however, the case was referred to Branch Seventeen, contrary to legal precedent and custom. This unusual action was taken under the pretext that Branch Seventeen had previously heard the case, which is an argument that lacks any legal basis since it is not mandatory for a Branch that has previously heard the case to be the one the case must be referred to, except in cases where the ruling has been overruled due to defects in investigations.

According to Ms. Ghafuri’s statements, she had been raped by the authorities during detention, resulting in a miscarriage. Her attorneys had provided the court with documentation proving the veracity of that claim but the judges did not investigate the matter. After the court issued its ruling, Ms. Ghafuri named the individuals she claimed were members of the Revolutionary Guards who had raped her when she was in the prosecutor’s office’s detention center, but no action was taken by judicial authorities in this regard either, whereas the adjudicating authority had the legal duty to open a separate case and look into that allegation and try to get to the truth.

Judgment

The court sentenced Ms. Safieh Ghafuri to death (Qesas). Upon reviewing the procedural aspects of the case, Supreme Court Branch 17 upheld the lower court’s ruling. The Head of the Judiciary issued his approval of and authorization to proceed with the sentence. On the morning of July 12, 2012, Ms. Ghafuri was hanged at Shiraz’ Adelabad Prison without the usual formalities being observed, and without a doctor being present.

Ms. Ghafuri was taken to the gallows twice in June 2012, but the hanging was postponed each time with the unofficial intervention of certain influential people. She spent every day waiting to be taken for the implementation of her sentence. A few hours before her execution, her friends at the Reform and Education Center called her attorney on the phone and told him that she had been taken away to be executed and asked him to “do anything you can for her”. After the court issued its ruling, Ms. Ghafuri named that region’s Friday Prayer Imam’ son-in-law as the principal killer; she also named individuals whom she claimed were members of the Revolutionary Guards, prison officials, and prison guards as people who had repeatedly raped her. (Boroumand Center interview).

According to available information, contrary to the usual course of affairs at Adelabad Prison, where death sentences were carried out on Sundays and Wednesdays, Ms. Ghafuri was taken to the gallows on a Thursday. Ms. Ghafuri’s attorney, the next of kin, and the Prison’s supervising judge were present at the hanging. (Boroumand Center interview). According to available information, Ms. Ghafuri had stressed even at the gallows “I did not kill that girl and everyone knows it, including her next of kin! But I ask their forgiveness for having lured their daughter to my house”. (Sharq newspaper).

According to the person with knowledge of the case, the reason for the precipitous implementation of the sentence was that the Friday Prayer Imam’s son-in-law was implicated and there were allegations of the defendant having been raped by members of the Revolutionary Guards. The media kept supporting her cause, and, with her attorneys following up constantly with the Supreme Court, there was a chance that the case could be re-opened at a moment’s notice and a new ruling could be issued. The interested influential people in question, however, wanted the whole thing to go away as quickly as possible because they did not like even the possibility of their names being divulged in the case. (Boroumand Center interview).

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