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

Amin Korki

About

Age: 31
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: March 30, 2018
Location: Dezful, Khuzestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Extrajudicial killing
Charges: Disrupting public order
Age at time of offense: 31

Human rights violations in this case

Extrajudicial killings


Since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, national and international human rights organizations have blamed the Islamic Republic authorities for the extrajudicial killing of their opponents, both within and outside of Iran's borders. Although over two hundred cases have been reported, the exact number of victims remains unknown.

Extrajudicial executions carried out in Iran are rarely investigated; the few cases that have been investigated have indicated that the Iranian state security apparatus has been involved. Agents of the Islamic Republic have also targeted dissidents outside the country, assassinating opposition members in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and in the United States,.

In many assassination cases outside Iran, local authorities have made no arrests. However, investigations, when they have taken place and been made public, have led to the single hypothesis of State ordered crimes. The organization and execution of these crimes constitute a pattern that Swiss prosecutor Roland Chatelain describes as “common parameters” following a “meticulous preparation.” Similarities between different cases in different countries have created a coherent set of presumptions designating the Islamic Republic as the instigator of these assassinations.

 

In cases involving prominent Iranians assassinated in France, Germany, and Switzerland, local prosecutors have provided evidence linking Iranian authorities to the crimes in question.

 

In France, for example, the Iranian Deputy Minister of Telecommunications has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the 1991 murder of two dissidents. In Germany, agents of Iran's secret services and Lebanese Hezbollah have been convicted for the 1992 murder of four dissidents in Berlin. Currently, the Islamic Republic's Minister of Information and Security at the time of this murder is under an International arrest Warrant launched by German judicial authorities for his involvement.

 

The German court in Berlin found that Iran's political leadership ordered the murder through a "Committee for Special Operations," whose members reportedly include the Leader of the Islamic Republic, the President, the Minister of Information and Security, and other security officials.



The Islamic Republic’s officials have claimed responsibility for some of these assassinations while denying involvement in others. In the 1980s, Iranian authorities justified extrajudicial executions of dissidents and members of the former regime and actively worked for the release of Iranians and non-Iranian agents who were detained or convicted in the West for their involvement in those killings. During the 1990s, they systematically denied any involvement in extrajudicial killings and often credited the killings to infighting amongst the opposition.

 

Still, the rationale supporting these killings was articulated as early as in the spring of 1979 when the First Revolutionary religious judge publicly announced the regime's intention to carry out extrajudicial executions. He said:

 

“no state has the right to try as a terrorist the person who kills [exiles] in foreign lands, for this person is implementing the verdict issued by the Islamic Revolutionary tribunal.”

 

More than a decade later, in August, 1992, the Minister of Intelligence and Security publicly boasted about the success of Iran's security forces, alluding to the elimination of dissidents:

 

"We have been able to deal blows to many of the mini-groups outside the country and on the borders...."

About this Case

had to quit school and work as a laborer in various towns due to his family’s financial situation and the region’s limited resources.

Information about Mr. Amin Korki’s murder was obtained from interviews conducted by the Boroumad Center with two of Mr. Korki’s acquaintances (March 9, 12, and 23, 2019). The news of his murder was also published on the Iran Wire (March 2, 2019) and Iran International websites (March 5, 2019). Additional information was obtained from documents such as the burial permit, the Medical Examiner’s report, and the Iran Wire website (April 16, 2019).

Mr. Amin Korki was 31 years old, single, and a day laborer from the town of Andimeshk, residing in the city of Dezful. People close to Mr. Korki considered him to be an honest and decent man. He was the fourth child of an 8-member family. Mr. Korki had studied through eighth grade but was forced to quit school due to his family’s financial situation. Mr. Korki’s mother was ill and he had to work as a day laborer in Khuzestan Province or cities in other provinces in order to provide for his family and to pay for his mother’s medical expenses. In addition to his and his family’s financial situation, the economic conditions of the town where he lived, such as the steep increase in the price of every day consumer goods, also bothered Mr. Korki. Mr. Korki participated in the January 2018 protests in the city of Dezful to protest the economic conditions. (Boroumand Center interview with one of Mr. Korki’s acquaintances, March 9, 2019). 

On the morning of January 3, 2018, Dezful’s 18thPolice Precinct officers (located in the Hamzeh Subdivision) as well as a number of plainclothes agents and individuals from Bassij, entered Mr. Korki’s family home, jumping in over the neighbor’s wall, beat Mr. Korki and his father, and arrested Mr. Korki without a warrant. Mr. Korki’s father brought a complaint against the 18thPrecinct for having beaten him but his case was not heard for lack of witnesses. (Boroumand Center interview with one of Mr. Korki’s acquaintances, March 9, 2019). Upon his arrest, Mr. Korki was first taken to Dezful’s Hamzeh Subdivision’s 18thPolice Precinct where he was interrogated and tortured. He was physically tortured at the Precinct by being punched, kicked, beaten with a club and an electric cable. The signs of torture, i.e. bruises and redness, were visible on his body the next day and at the Investigating Judge’s Office where he was questioned. (Iran Wire, March 2, 2019; Boroumand Center interview with one of Mr. Korki’s acquaintances, March 9, 2019). 

On January 4, 2018, Mr. Korki’s interrogation session and that of three other individuals took place at the Dezful General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office, Investigating Judge’s Office Branch Six, resulting in the issuance of a Temporary Detention Order for Mr. Korki. He was then transferred to Dezful General Prison. Mr. Korki’s questioning continued while he was in jail. He was facing the charge of leading the January 2018 “riots” and protests in his neighborhood in the city of Dezful, as well as the charge of tearing up pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei. Mr. Korki’s co-defendants were released from prison a short while later on bail; Mr. Korki, however, remained in jail without the right to visit and contact his family and without access to an attorney until his temporary release on March 17, 2018. His family could not afford to hire a lawyer for him due to their financial situation, and the court did not appoint one for him. Mr. Korki was released from prison pending his trial, by putting up as collateral a pay stub provided by his family. (Iran Wire, March 2, 2019; Iran International, March 5, 2019; Boroumand Center interview with one of Mr. Korki’s acquaintances, March 9, 2019). 

Mr. Korki’s case had been referred to the Dezful Revolutionary Court Branch One during his temporary detention. (Boroumand Center interview with one of Mr. Korki’s acquaintances, March 9, 2019). 

After his release, Mr. Korki’s family advised him not to leave the house. Dezful Revolutionary Court judge’s personal consideration of Mr. Korki’s case and laying the groundwork for his release, had created apprehension in his family’s mind that something was about to happen. The family was also suspicious of police officers’ comings and goings around their home and in the days following Mr. Korki’s release. (Iran Wire, April 16, 2019). 

Nationwide Protests 

Popular public protests began on Thursday, December 28, 2017. 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 most protests, the demonstrators chanted slogans against administrative and financial corruption, and against the incapability of governmental and state institutions in resolving economic issues. In videos of these demonstrations disseminated online in social networks and in the media, the protestors also chanted slogans against several of the country’s leaders, and against the pillars of the Islamic Republic as well as the Leader of the Revolution himself. With the city of Qom joining other protesting cities, slogans were chanted in support of Reza Shah Phalavi. Official and unofficial sources announced the killing of several people in the towns of Izeh, Dorud, and Dezful. Tehran, Mashhad, Kermanshah, Rasht, Arak, Tabriz, Maragheh, Behshahr, Chahbahar, Hashtgerd, Orumieh, Dorud, amd Malayer were among cities where protests continued in various days during the month of January, 2018. A Majless (Parliament) representative, quoting the Head of Iran Prisons Organization, announced that 4972 people had been arrested in the course of the nationwide protests. (Kayhan London, February 3, 2018). At 15 of the arrestees died in detention under suspicious circumstances; Iranian authorities did not, however, accept responsibility for their deaths. Iranian authorities announced the number of people killed in street skirmishes as 25. (Kayhan newspaper, January 14, 2018). Official news also reported the killing of two students. (Iran newspaper, January 3, 2018). 

Less than 48 hours after the start of the protests in Dezful, security and police forces attacked people’s homes in certain sections and neighborhoods, threatening dozens of people with arrest, and temporarily arresting others. 

Mr. Korki’s Death

According to available information, on March 29, 2018, Mr. Korki’s family (with the exception of Mr. Amin Korki and his father) went to the town of Andimeshk to take part in a memorial held for one of their relatives. That afternoon, Mr. Korki’s father left the house for two hours to attend a wake held for one of their neighbors who had passed away. When he returned home, he noticed that the entrance door to the house was open and that Mr. Amin Korki was not there, whereas the latter had not left the house since his release on March 17, 2018, and was not supposed to open the door to anyone as advised by his father. That day and the next day, Mr. Korki’s family went to every place they thought he might have gone. The continuous presence of the police patrol car around their home and in the vicinity of an unfinished sports complex nearby from the time of Mr. Korki’s disappearance until the next day, made the family think that something horrible might have happened. In the afternoon of March 30, 2018, Mr. Korki’s family learned of the discovery of their son’s body in the unfinished sports complex under construction. Mr. Korki’s brothers and sister were able to see his body before it was taken to the hospital. They noticed signs of scratches, abrasions, and bruises on his chest, under his shoulder, on his upper arms, forearm, and shoulders. They also saw a deep laceration in the left side of his head. Nevertheless, Mr. Korki’s family had trouble convincing the city coroner to dispatch the body to the Province Medical examiner’s Office for an autopsy.

On May 20, 2018, about 40 days after Mr. Korki’s murder, his family received a summons issued by the Investigating Judge’s Office Branch Six, summoning him to attend the Branch “in order to provide certain explanations regarding law enforcement reports of him disturbing public order”. (Documentation available at the Boroumand Center). 

Officials’ Reaction

According to officials, Mr. Korki disappeared in the afternoon of March 29, 2018. Local officials learned of his disappearance through his family’s report to the Hamzeh Subdivision’s 18thPolice Precinct. Mr. Korki’s body was discovered the next day, March 30, 2018, in one of the rooms of a sports complex under construction near their home. Mr. Korki’s death was confirmed through official documents including Medical Examiner reports issued in April 2018. Given that a syringe used for injecting drugs was discovered next to Mr. Korki’s body and that there were signs of injection on his hands, the Medical Examiner’s initial report put forth the theory of death due to drug abuse/overdose. The same report mentioned scratches on his body and a deep laceration on Mr. Korki’s head. Khuzestan Province Medical Examiner’s Office’s supplemental report in September 2018, dismissed death caused by drug abuse, but did not specify a principal cause of death. (Iran Wire, March 2, 2019; Medical Examiner reports and the burial permit). 

The authorities have provided conflicting information regarding the time of discovery of Mr. Korki’s body. The Hamzeh 110 Emergency Operations Unit’s report, the statement of the 18thPolice Precinct deputy chief who was in charge of the operations at the time, as well as statements by eyewitnesses and others with knowledge of the case, including one of the people in charge of the Bassij, each cite a different time for the initial discovery of the body, and at times, their diverging statements are in conflict with their previous reports. None of these reports mention anything about the person who first discovered the body. (Boroumand Center interview with Mr. Korki’s acquaintances, March 12, and 23, 2019). 

In December 2018, Mr. Korki’s murder case was declared closed by the Head of the Dezful Judiciary, without reaching any conclusions and in spite of defects and contradictions in eyewitness testimony; reports by persons with knowledge of the case; individuals Mr. Korki’s family had introduced to the Investigating Judge as suspects in the case; and without inviting several eyewitnesses introduced by Mr. Korki’s family. (Iran Wire, March 2, 2019; Boroumand Center interview with one of Mr. Korki’s acquaintances, March 9, 2019). 

Simultaneous with the adjudication of Mr. Korki’s case, a case of theft of livestock that had occurred some time earlier in the region he resided, was reopened. It had been mentioned in initial reports that the discovery of Mr. Korki’s body had been reported by a shepherd to a member of the local Bassij. This was never officially mentioned in Mr. Korki’s murder case but the statements made by some of the witnesses were signs of the veracity of this claim. Furthermore, several police officials and local Bassij people had stated that the initial report of the discovery of Mr. Korki’s body indicated that his body had been found at a home belonging to one of the victims of the theft of livestock. These claims were never officially pursued and investigated. In statements made in the following days and months, eyewitnesses and suspects gave conflicting reports of the manner of discovery of the body, none of which were ever resolved in the course of the proceedings. (Boroumand Center interview with Mr. Korki’s acquaintances, March 9, and 12, 2019). 

In April 2019, Dezful Judiciary officially declared Mr. Korki’s murder case closed. His family has 20 days to object and appeal the ruling. (Iran Wire, April 16, 2019). 

Family’s’ Reaction

On April 8, 2018, Mr. Korki’s family submitted and registered their complaint claiming the probability of Mr. Amin Korki’s murder with the Dezful Investigating Judge’s Office Branch Four. A short while later, the case was transferred to the Dezful General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office’s Investigating Judge’s Office Branch Three. Initially, the subject matter of theft of livestock and its connection to Mr. Korki was brought up unofficially. Even though Mr. Korki’s family stated that their son had been working outside of Khuzestan province at the time of the incident, nevertheless, they tried to get the people with knowledge of the case to legally testify before the Investigating Judge. As the proceedings became lengthy and contradictions emerged in the statements of eyewitnesses and people with knowledge of the case, Mr. Korki’s family submitted the names of certain individuals as suspects, and the case took a new turn. Approximately 3 months after Mr. Korki’s death, several of the eyewitnesses informed Mr. Korki’s family that on the afternoon of March 29, when Mr. Korki disappeared, a number of Dezful’s Hamzeh 18thPolice Precinct officers and some known individuals in the local Bassij, had attacked Mr. Korki’s home, had proceeded to beat Mr. Korki, and had taken him away. Mr. Korki’s family’s efforts to summon the individuals who had witnessed the events of the day of Mr. Korki’s disappearance, as well as their attempts to clarify the statements made by people with knowledge of the case, including the Hamzeh 18thPolice Precinct’s deputy chief and one of the people in charge of the local Bassij who was allegedly present at the scene on the day of the event, bore no fruit. The police precinct’s then-deputy chief, the person in charge of the local Bassij, and the guard at the sport complex under construction, all of whom were named in all of the reports as persons with knowledge of the existence of the deceased’s body, provided contradictory and diverging information at various interrogations regarding the manner they became aware of the existence of the body, and also provided contradictory information regarding the location they had gone to in order to discover the body. (Iran Wire, March 2, 2019; Iran International, March 5, 2019; Boroumand Center interview with one of Mr. Korki’s acquaintances, March 12, 2019). 

With  the family’s persistent follow ups, the evidence of the murder pointed to individuals within the Police Force and the local Bassij. Without addressing and resolving the ambiguities and discrepancies in the case, however, the city of Dezful’s judiciary closed Mr. Korki’s murder case, thereby violating his family’s right to know the truth.

After approximately 9 months, and in spite of continuous follow ups by Mr. Korki’s family and their going to various governmental organs such as the Dezful Criminal Investigations Bureau, Dezful Judiciary, Dezful Prosecutor’s Office, Dezful County Information Administration, Khuzestan Province Information General Administration, and corresponding with various officials, the Dezful Judiciary declared Mr. Amin Korki’s murder case closed. Mr. Korki’s family still did not give up on legally pursuing their son’s case but local judiciary officials showed no inclination to accommodate them. The family was officially notified of the closure of the case in April 2019. It is the family’s opinion that the connection of certain local Bassij and Revolutionary Guards members to the case was the reason the case did not go forward. (Boroumand Center interview with one of Mr. Korki’s acquaintances, March 9, 2019; Iran Wire, April 16, 2019). 

Approximately one year after Mr. Korki’s murder, the news of his death was first published on the Iran Wire website, and subsequently on the Iran International website through an interview with his family. In these interviews, Mr. Korki’s family accused police officials and Dezful’s Hamzeh neighborhood’s Bassij as the ones responsible for their son’s death.

A Summary of the Legal Defects in the Adjudication of Mr. Amin Korki’s Case

According to the documents submitted to the Boroumand Center, the judge issuing the ruling repeated the investigating judge’s argument in issuing a non-prosecution order, and stated that the cause of death was Mr. Amin Korki’s drug use. In justifying said ruling, the judge stated that, according to the Medical Examiner’s report, there were signs of injection on the deceased’s arms, and there were no signs of beating on his body. Furthermore, police investigations concluded that the deceased was addicted to narcotic drugs. These arguments were made in spite of the following:

a)      In its report, the Khuzestan Province Medical Examiner’s Office expressly stated that after thorough examination of the late Amin Korki’s body, no narcotic drugs were found whatsoever, and that the cause of death could not be determined. It must be noted that toxicology tests can show drug use even if drugs were used months prior to death. However, the judge issuing the ruling in the case found the discovery of several syringes [used for injecting drugs] next to Mr. Korki’s body as evidence of his drug use. It must be noted that the location where Mr. Korki’s body was found was an unfinished building (sports complex) used as a gathering place by drug addicts, and it was therefore normal that drug paraphernalia be found at said location. The court’s ruling loses all credence considering that the determination of the cause of death is a medical issue [and not a question of law] and that the judge has issued his ruling in contravention of the Medical Examiner’s determination ruling out drug use as the cause of death. 

b)      The Khuzestan Province Medical Examiner Office’s report alluded to a 2.5 centimeter (1 inch) crescent shaped laceration in the left side of Mr. Korki’s head. In addition to said laceration, several other minor injuries were also reported. In spite of these clear statements, the trial judge and the investigating judge both stated in their rulings that there were no signs of injuries on the body; furthermore, no investigations were ever conducted in that regard in the course of the proceedings. 

c)      [The city of] Dezful Criminal Court Branch 105’s court decision stated that, according to the police report, the late Amin Korki was addicted to narcotic drugs, whereas the results of the toxicology tests conducted on Mr. Korki’s body showed that there were no signs of narcotic drugs in the deceased’s body; this fact, in and of itself, discredits the police report. Further, according to statements made by persons close to Mr. Korki, all his friends, neighbors, and acquaintances were prepared to testify that Amin Korki had never used narcotic drugs. 

d)      There are numerous defects in the investigations no matter where one looks in the case. For instance, on May 28, 2018, the previous investigating judge issued Order Number 9710116147300452 to the Hamzeh [District’s] 18thPolice precinct, ordering said Precinct to conduct investigations into calls and contacts made by the people on the day of the incident. The Police Precinct refrained, however, from carrying out said Order, and it was therefore not determined what calls were made to the precinct on that day. Also, on April 24, 2018, the previous investigating judge issued Order Number 9710116147300160, ordering indiscernible investigation of the suspects, but such investigations were never carried out. There were serious contradictions in the statements made by some of the suspects in various stages, and the investigating judge did not take any real action in clarifying these contradictory statements. For instance, an individual who was a Bassij (Islamic militia group affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps) operative and the first person reporting the existence of the body in the unfinished sports complex, made contradictory statements at different stages. He had initially stated that an unidentified individual had contacted him and informed him of the presence of the body in the sports complex. He made that statement several times and then, a few months later, he suddenly changed his statement and said that the unidentified individual was his first cousin (his father’s sister’s son). This person was questioned in several stages and made contradictory statements in all of them. There is absolutely no clear indication as to how this individual and other persons introduced by him found out about the existence of the body. It appears that the statements made by this individual and by the people introduced by him are contradictory and false. Furthermore, Hamzeh [District’s] 18thPolice precinct introduced two different people in two different phases as the person first reporting the discovery of the body. Additionally, the investigating judge and law enforcement officials did not conduct any field investigations, whereas many of Mr. Amin Korki’s neighbors witnessed his arrest by police officers and Bassij members. Article 123 of the Law on the Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that “the investigating judge shall carry out field investigations or crime scene investigations at the request of the defendant or the plaintiff or when it becomes necessary to conduct such field investigations or crime scene investigations in order to discover the truth and shed light on the matter”. Naturally, field investigations could have been extremely effective in determining whether Amin Korki was arrested by police officers or by Bassij members. Additionally, Article 126 of the Law on the Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that “in conducting field investigations or crime scene investigations, the investigating judge shall personally be present if he deems it necessary; however, in the case of crimes that are the subject of Article 302(a) of this Law, and when examining corpses, the investigating judge shall personally be present on the scene and as soon as possible”. This provision is indicative of the legislative’s intent that, in the case of crimes that carry the death penalty, not only is conducting field investigations mandatory, but so is the investigating judge’s presence at these investigations. It appears that had the investigating judge carried out his legal obligation and personally conducted the field investigations, the discovery of truth would have been much more probable. 

e)      The facts of this case indicate that nearly all the preliminary investigations were carried out by law enforcement officers on the orders of the investigating judge, whereas the provisions of Article 98 of the Law on the Rules of Criminal Procedure seem to indicate that in the case of crimes that carry the death penalty, the investigating judge may not delegate the majority of preliminary investigations to law enforcement officers and it is necessary that he carries out a considerable portion of the investigations himself. In a case such as this one where the accused were police officers and Bassij members, it was particularly necessary for the investigating judge to personally hear the statements of the suspects and of the people with knowledge of the events. The absence of such investigations by the investigating judge derailed the case from its proper course, and judicial investigations were not conducted within the proper meaning of the notion.

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