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

Hamid Reza Baqeri Darmani

About

Age: 51
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: December 22, 2018
Location: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Economic offenses; Corruption on earth
Age at time of offense: 47

About this Case

News of the execution of Mr. Hamidreza Baqeri Darmani, child of Mohammad Baqer, was published in the Tehran General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office website (December 24, 2018), in HRANA, the news arm of the Human Rights Activists in Iran’s website (December 22, 2018), and in ISNA, Iranian Students News Agency’s website, quoting the Tehran General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office’s News Website. Additional information about this case was obtained from the websites of IRNA, the Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency (December 9, and 20, 2018), Jam-e Jam Online (August 25, 2018), Alef News and Analysis Society (September 2, 2018), Mizan (August 25, 2018, September 3, 4, and 15, 2018, November 15, 2018), Afkar News (August 25, 2018), Bayan-e Ma (August 20, 2018), Fars News Agency (May 29, 2007), the State Radio and Television footage from Mr. Baqeri Darmani’s trial, and the BBC (December 22, 2018).

Mr. Baqeri Darmani was 51 years old, married, with one child. He started his work in 1988-89, selling home appliances. A few years later, he owned several gold production plants and a refinery in the city of Noshahr, and had become one of the most influential businesspeople in the country.

The case of Mr. Baqeri Darmani and 32 other individuals in the case involves establishing a gang, embezzlement, fraud, and bribery. The defendants hail from very different social backgrounds, among whom are four official experts of the Judiciary, two official notaries, and two Bank Melli Iran employees; five of the defendants are fugitives from the law, including Mr. Baqeri Darmani’s brother. The adjudication of this case took four years.

According to available information, Mr. Baqeri Darmani was first arrested on May 29, 2007, by the Central Headquarters for Combatting the Trafficking of Goods and Foreign Currency, and was released on his own recognizance the day after the arrest. The Central Headquarters for Combatting the Trafficking of Goods and Foreign Currency announced that, according to existing evidence, Mr. Baqeri Darmani owed close to 20 thousand billion rials to the country’s banking system. Two years later, upon complaints brought by the Central Bank, Melli Bank, Sepah Bank, and Keshavarzi Bank, Mr. Baqeri was charged with profiteering through illegal means, and on January 5, 2009, he was sentenced by General Court Branch 1192 to 13 months in prison and return of assets. He was banned from entering any contracts and/or transactions on September 6, 2010.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Baqeri Darmani was last arrested on August 22, 2014, by Tehran Criminal Investigations officers, and spent the next four years at Evin Prison in Tehran. There is no information about the details of his arrest and detention.

Trial

Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 15, tried Mr. Baqeri Darmani in nine sessions before one presiding judge, two associate judges, and the defendant’s attorneys. Four of the sessions were closed door. The public sessions convened on August 25, 2018 (Mizan, August 25, 2018), September 2, 2018 (Alef News and Analysis Society, September 2, 2018), September 3, 2018 (Mizan, September 3, 2018), September 4, 2018 (Mizan, September 4, 2018), and September 15, 2018 (Mizan, September 15, 2018).  (ISNA, December 22, 2018). 

Charges 

Mr. Baqeri Darmani was charged with “defrauding Jey Oil Company through the creation of a multi-member network where he was the leader; conspiracy in the attempted defrauding of Iran Insurance Company; conspiracy in defrauding Bank Melli Iran through the creation of a multi-member network; conspiracy in the attempted defrauding of Gardeshgari Bank; conspiracy in the attempted defrauding of Eghtessad Novin Currency Exchange Company, conspiracy in the attempted defrauding of Saman-e Majd Company; and payment of substantial amounts of bribes” (Mizan website, November 15, 2018).

According to available information, the case against Mr. Baqeri Darmani was initiated through a complaint lodged by Jey Oil Company at the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office, District 11, on September 3, 2012. They claimed that since early 2011, the six companies of Qaem Kowsar, Mo’tamed Bazaegan Qaem, Toloo Eqtessad Mazand, Etemadgostar Soeheil, Hafezan Energy Shayan, Persian Namgostar, Shokooh Abideh, and Arya Borj, obtained 322 million 343 thousand and 336 kilograms of tar from Jey Oil Company by resorting to fraud and forged documents, and illegally obtained that company’s assets. The Islamic Republic Police Force Special Operations Center’s report also indicated that Mr. Baqeri Darmani was the leader of the networks which had engaged in fraud and illegally obtaining assets using the six companies (Mizan website, November 15, 2018).

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 used against Mr. Baqeri Darmani consisted of “complaints by 10 plaintiffs, the most important of whom was Jey Oil Company, the defendants’ confessions, forged bank guarantees, forged state official documents, payment of bribes, prior criminal conviction with regard to fraud case”.

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 

At trial, Mr. Baqeri Darmani denied the charges and the legitimacy of the law based on which he had been charged for actions taken prior to the passage of said law. He said in his own defense: “I object to the basis of the charges brought against me. One of the charges is Efsad fel-Arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”) which has fundamental defects; contrary to the provisions of the law on Efsad fel-Arz, the plaintiff is a private company that has all the necessary guarantees, and the charges against me are not extensive.” He continued: “Furthermore, the law cited in the indictment was passed in 2013 whereas my contracts pre-date 2013 and the law cannot be applied retroactively.” Additionally, Mr. Baqeri Darmani considered his trial by the Islamic Revolutionary Court as wrong and stated: “Pursuant to Supreme Court Unifying Ruling Number 571, if the court determines that there is a charge of disrupting the regime but the elements of the crime [have not been proven] and endangering national security has not resulted therefrom, the charge of Efsad fel-Arz cannot stand. Therefore, the competent authority to hear the charges brought against me is the General Court, not the Revolutionary Court. Also, a portion of the Efsad fel-Arz charge brought against me alludes to my debts, some of which have already been satisfied; for instance, in the Bank Melli case, my sentence has already been carried out.” Concerning the contracts of the six companies connected to him, he stated: “The contracts of those six companies are civil contracts [not criminally prosecutable], and there is only a difference in accounting and there is absolutely no forgery.” Concerning his leadership [of the criminal network], Mr. Darmani said: “Leadership of criminals cannot be attributed to me, and given that an act is a crime only if it has already been so defined by the legislature and a punishment has been prescribed therefor, the acts described in the indictment had not been criminalized prior to the commission, and I am the only one who has been accused without any evidence, whereas the commercial actions and transactions between the plaintiffs have taken place prior to the years 2011 and 2012.” Concerning the contracts and the dealings with plaintiff companies, he noted: “It is best if the amounts are declared without any reservations; I request that these matters be referred to experts.” (Alef News and Analysis Society, September 2, 2018).

In his defense, Mr. Baqeri Darmani also stated: “Seven years have passed since 2011, and no investigation has been conducted with regards to documentation in the file for return of assets. Nothing has been done to find out what the evidence against the six companies is.” He continued: “The activities of these six companies were within the framework of the laws and regulations and no violation has been committed. You can’t just make an allegation of forged documents and then add to it the charges of existence of a network and fraud.” In response to the judge who told him that he had not paid any taxes, he stated: “I have not had any activities since 2011 and my assets have been confiscated all these years.” (Mizan, September 15, 2018).

In the presentation of his defense of Mr. Baqeri Darmani, his attorney noted the ambiguities in the case, the lack of clarity [as to the commission of any] crime, and the lack of evidence supporting the allegations, and stated this about Mr. Baqeri Darmani’s case: “This case is, in effect, an aggregate of several complaints from different sources; G Oil Company has lodged several complaints in different cities for a single matter; they brought a complaint in Esfahan and their insistence that the case be referred to Esfahan is indicative of the plaintiffs’ misdeed in bringing the complaint.” In objecting to the complaint brought by G Oil Refining Company’s complaint, he said that their figures were contradictory, and upon a simple comparison of these figures with the real numbers, it will quickly become clear that they are fake. In discussing the charge of fraud, Mr. Baqeri Darmani’s attorney explained: “The crime of fraud is defined as resorting to deceitful means in order to take another’s property. In said case, regarding the six companies, tar was purchased in cash and on credit; all of the purchases were made through the stock exchange and some of the purchase price was paid in cash, and all of the documentation is available in the case file.” Regarding the documents being forged, the attorney defended his client and said: “No forged document has been presented in relation with the tar; there was expert analysis conducted in this regard, and the expert announced at Tehran’s Yaftabad Prosecutor’s Office that the amount of the debt s was equivalent to the value of the real property under the control of the plaintiff company. After an objection to the expert analysis, the experts then determined the amount of the debt owed by the companies, and it became clear that the amount of the debts owed were equivalent to the guarantees in G Oil Company’s possession; therefore, no deceitful and fraudulent action had been taken in the six companies.” He asked the court to appoint an expert in order to analyze G Oil Company’s contracts in this regard. He further faulted G Oil Company for attributing their own problems to his client. (Alef News and Analysis Society, September 2, 2018).

Regarding purchase of tar, Mr. Baqeri Darmani’s attorney stated: “It is not clear what the basis of the figure regarding the tar is in the indictment, and it is necessary that the extent of each person’s involvement in the alleged fraud and the assets thus obtained be explained in detail. The amount of assets to be returned is not clear either, and all of this is indicative of a lack of proper due process and the trampling of my client’s rights which has resulted in his staying incarcerated for more than four years. Considering that an element of the crime of fraud contained in the definition is the taking of another’s property, it must be determined what property constitutes the property of another here, and each person’s share in the property so obtained must be determined as well. Prior to the determination of the violation, my client had nothing to with the case… The majority of legal scholars consider one defendant’s confession incriminating another defendant as invalid.” He then told the plaintiffs: “The terms used in all of these cases are ‘I think that, it seems that, etc.’ Given the principle of innocent until proven guilty, my client is innocent of these charges and I ask that he be acquitted.” Regarding Paragraph 7 of the indictment that concerned insulting a government employee, the attorney said that there was no complaint in this regard; and about Paragraph 8 of the indictment that had to do with payment of bribes, he said: “There is ambiguity about the amount of the bribe, and what the bribe was for and what the reason for it was. This charge is inaccurate and improper” (Mizan, September 15, 2018).

Mr. Baqeri Darmani’s second attorney addressed the charge of Efsad fel-Arz. He said in his client’s defense: “It is not clear what Efsad fel-Arz is about in this case. Is it about disrupting the economic system or is it about endangering national security?” he continued: “Based on the inquiries we have made with the [Documents] Registration Administration, my client is not a debtor, and his debt has already been paid. It seems that there are other reasons for lodging this charge; my client was charged with complicity in fraud at the time of his arrest, which was later modified to conspiracy in fraud by the [investigative] judge.” In closing, he stated: “The charge of Efsad fel-Arz requires that [the act of spreading corruption] be extensive and widespread; the charge of Efsad fel-Arz cannot apply to my client, and my client most definitely does not fall within the definition of the crime” (Mizan, September 15, 2018).

Mr. Baqeri appealed the Court’s ruling and requested a new trial. Mr. Baqeri’s case was referred to the Supreme Court.

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Baqeri Darmani’s Legal Proceedings 

In this case, Mr. Baqeri Darmani was convicted of Efsad fel-Arz on the basis of Article 4 of the Law for Harsher Sentences for Perpetrators of Bribery, Embezzlement, and Fraud. Nothing in the aforementioned Article provides any definitions or rules for instances where a defendant is considered to be a Mofsed fel-Arz (“One who spreads corruption on Earth”). Therefore, the Islamic Revolutionary Court has extracted the elements for Efsad fel-Arz from Article 286 of the Islamic Penal Code of 2013. Pursuant to said Article “any person, who extensively commits a felony against the bodily integrity of the people, offenses against the country’s domestic or international security, spreads lies and falsehoods, disrupts the country’s economic and financial system, commits arson and destruction of property, disseminates poisonous, bacterial, and dangerous materials, establishes, or aids and abets in the establishment of places of corruption and prostitution, [on a scale] and in such a way that causes severe disruption in the country’s public order and insecurity, or causes large scale damage to the bodily integrity of the people or to public or private properties, or causes the large scale spread of corruption and prostitution, shall be considered Mofsed fel-Arz  and shall be sentenced to death.” According to this Article, “spreading corruption on Earth” is established only when, first, the disruption of the country’s economic system is extensive, and, secondly, as a result of such action (s) there is severe disruption in public order or large scale damage to public property. In spite of the fact that there is ambiguity in the provisions of the aforementioned Article and there is thus room for arbitrary interpretation thereof, it does not appear, however, that the totality of Mr. Baqeri Darmani’s actions was to an extent as to jeopardize the country’s security or cause large scale disruption in the economic system. The defendant and his attorneys claimed that the debts had been paid and that they were ready to pay the rest of the debts and/or pay compensation for damages. It cannot, therefore, be said that public or private property has extensively been wasted. Generally speaking, Efsad fel-Arz is established only when the country’s entire security is jeopardized to a considerable degree. The existence of financial issues between several companies, even assuming that one company has engaged in forgery and the defrauding of another company, cannot fall within the purview of Efsad fel-Arz, since these disagreements were not such as to paralyze or severely damage the country’s economic and financial system. The most that should have happened in this case, assuming the accuracy of the charges, the defendant should have been sentenced to Ta’zir punishments of prison sentences and monetary penalties. The execution of a number of individuals, including Mr. Baqeri Darmani, occurred at a time when the country was dealing with a severe economic crisis and the authorities wanted to hastily reorganize the market through tough judicial measures.

On December 10, 2018, after Mr. Baqeri Darmani’s death sentence was upheld, he issued an audio message from Evin Prison addressed to Ayatollah Khamenei asking him to issue an order and stay his execution (BBC, December 22, 2018). 

Judgment 

Citing Article 4 of the Law for Harsher Sentences for Perpetrators of Bribery, Embezzlement, and Fraud,* Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 15, convicted Mr. Baqeri Darmani of being “Mofsed fel-Arz” and sentenced him to death and to the return of the assets. The Court’s decision was upheld by the Supreme Court on November 4, 2018.

Mr. Baqeri darmani was hanged on Saturday, December 22, 2018. There is no information about the location of his execution.

There is also no information regarding the sentences for the other defendants.

On December 26, 2018, services were held for Mr. Baqeri Darmani at Jame Mosque located in Tehran’s Shahrak-e Gharb neighborhood.

------------------------------------------ 

*The Law for Harsher Sentences for Perpetrators of Bribery, Embezzlement, and Fraud of 1988, was promulgated by the Expediency Council. Article 4 of said Law provides: “Individuals who engage in bribery, embezzlement, and fraud through the establishment or leadership of a multi-person network, in addition to expropriation of all movable and immovable property acquired through bribery for the account of the government, and to return of such properties obtained through embezzlement and fraud to the government or individuals, as the case may be, shall be sentenced to monetary penalties equivalent to the total value of those assets, permanent prohibition from government service, and imprisonment from 15 years to life; and in the event that they are considered Mofsed fel-Arz, their punishment shall be that prescribed for Mofsed fel-Arz [that is, the death penalty].”

Correct/ Complete This Entry