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

Abdolqodus Mollazehi

About

Age: 38
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: April 9, 2008
Location of Killing: Zahedan Prison, Zahedan, Sistan Va Baluchestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Attempt to assassinate or assassination of state dignitaries; Corruption on earth
Age at time of offense: 37

About this Case

Mr. Mollazehi was a spiritual, religious, and social personality, who, in addition to having Ijtihad (the highest level of expertise in Islamic jurisprudence), solved people’s problems as well.

News and information regarding the execution of Mr. Abdolqodus Mollazehi, 37 years old, son of Abdolghafur, and that of another individual, Mr. Mohammad Yussef Sohrabi Nekahchi,, was obtained from the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center’s interviews with his ward mate and another person close to Mr. Mollazehi (June 10, 2017). News of this execution was also published in numerous other sources including the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Center in Sistan and Baluchestan Province (April 9, 2008); Tabnak (April 10, 2008); Asr-e Iran News and Analysis Website (April 10, 2008); Sunni News (November 4, 2010); Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA (April 9, 2008); People’s Resistance Movement of Iran, Jondollah, official website April 10, 2008), and other sources.*

Mr. Mollazehi was an ethnic Baluch, adherent of Sunni Islam, from and residing in Iranshahr in Sistan and Baluchestan Province. Mr. Mollazehi was married and had 7 children. In order to pursue religious studies, , he entered Kuhvan’s Manba’ol Olum Seminary (located in [the town of] Sarbaz’ village of Kuhvan) upon finishing elementary school, and graduated with the degree of Molavi (a Sunni cleric). In 1993-94, Mr. Mollazehi founded the Dar-al Forqan Seminary located in the city of Iranshahr’s village of Shah Jamal. (Ahl-e Sunnat-e Ma weblog, August 5, 2013). He taught at the Seminary in addition to being its director. Mr. Mollazehi was also the village of Shah Jamal’s Friday Prayer Imam and local Shari’a judge.

Mr. Mollazehi was a religious man and an adherent of the Hanafi school of Islam,** but did not belong to any particular group or organization. He was a simple man and did not have radical religious beliefs. Mr. Mollazehi was a spiritual, religious, and social personality, who, in addition to having Ijtihad (the highest level of expertise in Islamic jurisprudence), solved people’s problems as well. (Boroumand Center interview).

The People’s Resistance Movement of Iran, Jondollah *** reacted to the news of Mr. Mollazehi’s execution and that of the other defendant in the case and called them “Shahid” (“Martyr”) in an announcement it published on its website. Jondollah denied any connection with Mr. Mollazehi and his co-defendant and stated that they were executed because they had “demanded justice and had risen up against injustice and oppression”. (Sunni News, November 4, 2010).

Following Mr. Mollazehi’s execution, Jondollah also warned non-natives residing in Sistan and Baluchestan to leave the Province so they would not be the target of attacks by armed groups in the region. (Jondollah’s official website, April 10, 2008).

Arrest and detention

Between the hours of 2:30 and 3 o’clock in the morning of December 13, 2007, Iranshahr Information Administration agents arrested Mr. Mollazehi and 19 others, including his son and his son-in-law, at their home in Iranshahr’s village of Shah Jamal, without presenting an arrest warrant.

According to an individual with knowledge of the case, the security agents, some of whom were in plain clothes and some were wearing military uniforms, climbed up the wall and entered the yard, and proceeded to enter the house after breaking the door and the windows with the stock of their guns and other means, and arrested Mr. Mollazehi in front of his family in his under garments and as he was sleeping, without ever producing an arrest warrant. Government agents then proceeded to kick the doors to the other rooms in, thereby frightening and traumatizing Mr. Mollazehi’s children. (Boroumand Center interview).

According to a person close to Mr. Mollazehi, after entering the house, security agents broke the doors and the closets in order to discover and confiscate evidence such as weapons; they turned everything upside down in the process, including clothes, boxes, and the library, but did not find anything.

After arresting him, the agents forced Mr. Mollazehi down on the floor and started beating him, violently kicking him to the head, face, and side, and insulting him by calling him a “terrorist” and using other offensive language. (Boroumand Center interview).

The agents then proceeded to place Mr. Mollazehi in a pickup truck, handcuffed and blindfolded, and take him to the Iranshahr Information Administration detention center. After beating him in the detention center yard, they took him to a solitary confinement cell. According to one of Mr. Mollazehi’s co-defendants, “the solitary confinement cell at the Iranshahr Information Administration detention center was smaller than 5 by 7 feet, with a very high stone ceiling, a toilet, a shower, a very small skylight, and was very cold during winter”. (Boroumand Center interview with Mr. Mollazehi’s co-defendant).

After spending three days there, on December 16, 2007, Mr. Mollazehi and 8 to 10 of his co-defendants were transferred to the Zahedan Information Administration detention center. According to his co-defendant, they were placed on the floor of the backseats of three or four Peugeot 405 cars with tinted windows, two at a time, one behind the driver’s seat and the other behind the passenger seat, in such a way that the prisoners were facing the door and had their backs to each other. They were not allowed to talk and had no idea who they were with in the car. They were taken in that position to Zahedan, a three-hour drive, with only one stop on the way. (Boroumand Center interview with Mr. Mollazehi’s co-defendant).

Mr. Mollazehi’s co-defendant explained: “That was very painful torture, and they had handcuffed us so hard with our hands behind our backs that the blood in our hands was not circulating. They had placed us on the floor of the car by force [because we could barely fit there] and told us to just sit there and keep our heads down. Every time we even slightly raised our heads the agent would punch us very hard in the head and would say ‘keep your heads down and stay in that position for three, three and a half hours until we get to the Zahedan Information Administration detention center’. We felt that our arms and legs were not with us during that trip, and everyone was transferred in the same conditions.” (Boroumand Center interview with Mr. Mollazehi’s co-defendant).

Mr. Mollazahi underwent great physical and psychological torture in prison: He was kept in solitary confinement, was threatened that his family would be summoned as well, and was punched and kicked while blindfolded; they pulled out his fingernails, gave him electric shock, [tied him to the] “miracle bed” **** and flogged him, and hanged him by his arms. According to a person with knowledge of the case, Mr. Mollazehi was not blindfolded, contrary to his other co-defendants and the normal procedure of the Information Administration detention center, and he was able to see the detention center agents and officials. (Boroumand Center interview).

During a portion of his time in detention, Mr. Mollazehi was deprived of having phone contact and visitation with his family.

According to a person close to Mr. Mollazehi, after his family complained about not having any visitations, several members of his family, as well as 10 to 20 Sunni clergymen and security agents, visited with him at the Zahedan Information Administration detention center in late March 2008. Security agents filmed the visitation as they were asking him questions at the same time. (Boroumand Center interview).

Security agents searched Mr. Mollazehi’s house once again a few days after his arrest, while they had it under surveillance, but did not find anything. They tore up his books and broke household items during their search. The security agents also searched Dar-al Forqan Seminary; there is no information regarding possible discovery and confiscation of evidence and documents. (Boroumand Center interview).

Mr. Mollazehi’s last visitation with his family took place on April 8, 2008, at the Zahedan prison.

Trial

At 10 PM on the night of January 22, 2008, one of the Zahedan Revolutionary Court branches tried Mr. Mollazehi and five other defendants in the case in one of the Judiciary’s halls located on Zahedan’s Daneshgah Street. Mr. Mollazehi and the other defendants were taken to court blindfolded. According to one of the defendants, they were taken inside the Judiciary building from the back door. Their blindfolds were removed when they were exactly at the entrance to the courtroom and were pushed inside in such a way that they were not able to see what was behind them once inside. They were blindfolded again [once the proceedings were over] at the entrance as they exited the courtroom and were taken back to the detention center. (Boroumand Center interview).

Mr. Mollazehi and the other defendants’ trial took one hour, in the presence of more than 50 family members of victims of Jondollah operations, including the Tassuki Village Operation *****, as well as relatives of Information agents, all of whom were Shiites and non-Baluch. The trial session was filmed with multiple cameras. (Boroumand Center research and interview). The trial session was broadcast on Sistan and Baluchestan Province TV Network. (BBC Persian, January 25, 2008).

Mr. Mollazehi was not allowed to retain an attorney of his own choosing. And he only saw the court-appointed attorney at the trial session.

Charges

The Court accused Mr. Mollazehi and the other defendants in the case as a group, of “membership in Jondollah, acting against national security, illegal exit from the border, sewing division among and instigating the people, cooperation with Jondollah and making preparations for and gathering various types of weapons and ammunition with the intention to carry out assassinations, bombings, and suicide missions in the Iranshahr region”. There is no indication of the nature of individual charges brought against Mr. Mollazehi and the other individuals in the case.

The Sistan Baluchestan Judiciary published an announcement in which it called Mr. Mollazehi and another defendant in the case “Molavi Nama” (“a person who pretends to be a clergyman”) “who had turned seminaries, mosques, and madrassahs into a nest of terrorists”. (IRIB News Website, Sistan and Baluchestan Province Center, April 9, 2008).

Evidence of guilt

Mr. Mollazehi’s confessions and admissions in the course of interrogations, and the Information Administration interrogators’ report, were the basis of the sentence issued in his case. According to available information, Mr. Mollazehi and several other of the defendants’ televised confessions, the first part of which was broadcast at 8:20 PM on April 6, 2008, on Sistan and Baluchestan Province TV Network as a program entitled “Tote’eye Nafarjam” (“Failed Conspiracy”) , as well as the discovery and confiscation of 150 pounds of TNT, 20 107-milimiter cannon balls, RPG Seven, Remote Control equipment, electronic detonator for bombs, machine guns, hand grenades, several light weapons, and a considerable amount of ammunition, and several films regarding Jondollah’s plans, were among the evidence presented against Mr. Mollazehi.

Defense

Mr. Mollazehi and the other defendants in the case denied the charges in court, and stated that their confessions in detention had been obtained under duress and torture. According to one of the defendants in the case, security agents forced Mr. Mollazehi to confess under duress and torture, to having met with Abdolmalek Rigi, receiving money and weapons from Jondollah, and inviting Jondollah to carry out military operations. Mr. Mollazehi had been arrested prior to the skirmish between forces allegedly connected to Jondollah and security forces that took place at a location 2 to 3 kilometers from where he was arrested, and had not participated in the conflict. The court did not allow Mr. Mollazehi’s family to hire an attorney of their choice in spite of their efforts to that end. (Boroumand Center interview).

According to a person with knowledge of the case, Mr. Mollazehi stated in his will that his interrogators had insulted and cursed him and the religious beliefs of the adherents of the Sunni faith while they were subjecting him to severe torture during his detention. Security agents had told him: “You have 40 knowledgeable, intellectual, and well-educated people in Baluchestan, and they are your hope. We will destroy these 40 people, and you’re one of them, and Baluchestan will be ours.” (Boroumand Center interview).

The interrogators told Mr. Mollazehi that the trial was not an official trial and that he would be released if he accepted the charges in court.

During the visitation with several members of his family, Sistan and Baluchestan Province clergymen, and security agents, Mr. Mollazehi denied the accusation put forth by said agents, of participation in armed conflict, and said that he had absolutely no connection to armed skirmishes. In order to prove the veracity of his statements, he asked that he be confronted with his co-defendant who was his guest at the time of his arrest. His co-defendant came to the visitation and stated that Mr. Mollazehi had played no role whatsoever in the armed conflict, and that he had only learned of his co-defendant being armed and of his goals after he had come to his home.

Mr. Mollazehi’s co-defendant testified that Mr. Mollazehi and the other defendants’ confessions were dictated to them by Information agents. In order to obtain their confessions, Information Administration agents had told Mr. Mollazehi and his co-defendants that the trial was not an official trial and that they would be released if they accepted the charges brought against them in court. (Boroumand Center interview).

According to Mr. Mollazehi’s co-defendant, his death sentence was a foregone conclusion during his detention and before trial. This person described his observations: “Ever since the first day we set foot into the Zahedan Information Administration detention center, we could tell that everything had already been planned, that is, they were pushing everything in the direction of [the scenario] they had written in advance and were telling us ‘you say this, and so and so will say that’. Inside the Zahedan Information Administration detention center, they absolutely would not allow us, I mean our group of individuals that had been arrested together, to lower our blindfolds, with the exception of Molavi Mohammad Youssef Sohrabi and Molavi Abdolqodus Mollazehi. When they wanted to enter our room or take us somewhere, they would scream ‘put your blindfolds on’ and we would put them on. But during [Mr. Mollazehi’s] final week, when I was in the same ward as Mr. Mollazehi’s other co-defendant, he said that he and Mr. Mollazehi had not put blindfolds on in a long time and that they could see all the agents and officials who came there. As soon as he said that, me and two other friends who were there looked at each other and started whispering at each other that that was not a good sign. It was not a good sign that they had let the two of them see the Information Ministry detention center’s agents, whose identities are top secret and whose faces no one has seen. The fact that they were allowed to see the agent who had tortured them, as well as the transportation and the interrogation agents before trial, none of whom we had been allowed to see, could only mean that they were not getting out of there. (Boroumand Center interview).

A Summary of the Legal Defects in the Adjudication of Mr. Abdolqodus Mollazehi's case

Based on published news, such as the announcement by Sistan and Baluchestan Province’s Head of the Judiciary, Abdolqodus Mollazehi was accused of sowing discord between Shi’a and Sunni Moslems, making preparations for armed operations, and supporting the Jondollah Group. He was charged with and sentenced to death for Moharebeh. Pursuant to Islamic Penal Code Article 183, an individual is considered to be Mohareb when he/she takes up arms with the intention of instilling fear and terror in the public. Furthermore, pursuant to Article 186 of said Code, membership and effective cooperation in armed groups involved in uprising against the regime is considered to be an instance of Moharebeh. Based on available information, including the Judiciary’s announcement, Abdolqodus Mollazehi had never participated in any armed action and no weapon was ever found on him. He had no role and no involvement in the skirmish that occurred at the time of his arrest. The Judiciary’s announcement demonstrates that Mollazehi had not participated in armed actions, and, according to said announcement, he merely intended to create altercations and insecurity; in order to satisfy the requirements of the crime of Moharebeh, however, fear and terror must actually be created. 

Based on an interview conducted by the Boroumand Center with knowledgeable sources, Abdolqodus Mollazehi was severely tortured and forced to make a televised confession. These admissions, broadcast on Iranian state television, were made under torture and duress, despite the fact that subjecting a defendant to torture and duress are illegal under Iranian laws and considered to be a crime, and any confessions or admissions so obtained are without legal credence. Principle 38 of the Iranian Constitution, as well as certain Iranian laws and other international documents to which the Iranian government is a signatory, expressly refer to the matter, and even consider obtaining confessions under torture a criminal act and individuals who resort to such action to be criminals. Therefore, not only did security agents illegally torture the late Mr. Mollazehi, but the confession obtained was without any legal value and credence. Furthermore, according to available information, Abdolqodus Mollazehi and the other defendants denied the charges at trial and made no admissions to the crime of Moharebeh. Pursuant to Iranian laws and regulations, including the Note to Article 59 of the Law on the General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure, admissions and confessions to crimes, especially those that carry Hadd punishments, are legally valid only if made before the judge who issues a ruling in the case. Therefore, even if Mollazehi had made a confession under torture in the preliminary investigations stage, he denied the charges in court. The court could not, therefore, rely on these admissions as evidence. 

Based on available information, Abdolqodus Mollazehi was entirely denied, or granted only very limited, access to an attorney during investigations and at trial. Pursuant to Iranian law, a defendant has the right to an attorney present at all stages of adjudication; Abdolqodus Mollazehi, however, was deprived of an attorney when detained at the state security detention center as well as at the prosecutor’s office and at trial. This is completely against the law, since under the law, access to an attorney is mandatory for the crime of Moharebeh. Pursuant to the Law on the Rules of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts, Note 1 to Article 186, “If in crimes for which the law has mandated the punishments of Qesas of life, execution, stoning, and life imprisonment, the defendant does not personally introduce an attorney, it is mandatory that a court-appointed attorney be designated.” Therefore, as can be seen, presence of an attorney is a necessity in adjudicating the crime of Moharebeh, the punishment for which is death. If this condition is not satisfied the trial and the court decision will be invalid. The court’s action in this regard was illegal, rendering the ruling null and without legal validity. 

Abdolqodus Mollazehi was arrested on December 13, 2007, tried mid-January of 2008, and executed on April 9, 2008. The fact that he was tried along with 15 other defendants is clearly indicative of the precipitous nature of the judicial authorities’ actions in this case. His case file most probably contained thousands of pages. How is it possible for such a case to be adjudicated so quickly and the resulting sentence to be implemented in the span of four short months? Taking into consideration the administrative formalities alone shows that the requisite attention was not given in this case. Furthermore, Abdolqodus Mollazehi and the other defendants’ trial was convened at 10 PM when courts are closed. This action, contrary to judicial custom, also shows that judicial authorities intended to keep the trial’s time, place, and procedure a secret. It is not clear what procedure if any was followed in appealing the Revolutionary Court’s decision and in forwarding the case to the Supreme Court, subsequent to its issuance. Judicial authorities simply stated in an announcement that the decision had been upheld by higher judicial bodies. The authorities did not turn Mr. Mollazehi’s body over to his family after the execution and buried him themselves. All of these actions indicate that security agents were intent on executing Abdolqodus Mollazehi any way they could with the cooperation of Sistan and Baluchestan Province judicial authorities. 

Judgment

In late January 2008, Zahedan Revolutionary Court sentenced Mr. Abdolqodus Mollazehi to death. Mr. Mollazehi appealed the sentence but the Supreme court upheld the Revolutionary Court’s ruling. (Boroumand Center interview).

Mr. Mollazehi and another co-defendant in the case were hanged at the Zahedan Central Prison on the morning of April 9, 2008.

After the family’s last visitation with Mr. Mollazehi, Zahedan Central Prison’s warden told his and his co-defendant’s family to make every effort to stop the execution, without telling them that that was their final visitation. In spite of their appearance before Zahedan’s judicial authorities, however, the efforts by Mr. Mollazehi’s and his co-defendant’s family bore no fruit. On the day of that last visitation, Mr. Mollazehi’s family had conducted a sit-in in front of Zahedan’s Shiite Friday Prayer Imam’s home in order to stop the implementation of the sentence, but the police had dispersed them. (Boroumand Center interview).

Zahedan Information Administration agents informed Mr. Mollazehi’s family of his execution but did not turn his body over to them. A person with knowledge of the case stated that one of the reasons was that there were visible signs of torture on Mr. Mollazehi’s body. (Boroumand Center interview).

Prior to carrying out the execution, security agents asked religious leaders of the adherents of the Sunni faith to come to Zahedan prison on April 9, 2008 in order to resolve his case, but once there, they were told that Mr. Mollazehi had been hanged and that they intended to bury his body in an unidentified location in Zahedan. One of Mr. Mollazehi’s family members who had gone to the prison with the religious leaders asked security agents to allow them to take Mr. Mollazehi’s body to Iranshahr for burial and so the family could see his body one last time, but his request was denied.

A short time after the execution, security agents buried Mr. Mollazehi’s body in Zahedan in the presence of 50 religious leaders of the adherents of the Sunni faith and several members of his family, without leaving any markings at the burial site. His family procured a gravestone for his grave after a while but the stone was destroyed by security agents. (Boroumand Center interview).

Following the execution of Mr. Mollazehi and the other defendant in the case, Zahedan law enforcement officers and personnel occupied the streets for several days in order to prevent any potential protests, and it felt like there was martial law in Zahedan. (Sunni News, November 4, 2010).

According to a person with knowledge of the case, security forces surrounded the village of Shah Jamal for three days after Mr. Mollazehi’s execution, and the family was not permitted to hold services. His family did, nevertheless, hold services for him for three days at their home and at the mosque.

Furthermore, security agents harassed Mr. Mollazehi’s brother for following up on his case, and tried to assassinate him several times, which ultimately forced him to leave Iran.

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*Other sources: Baluchestan Human Rights Activists Association website (March 10, 2008); Baluch Activists (January 5, 2016); IRIB News Website, Sistan and Baluchestan Province Center (January 22, 2008); BBC Persian (January 25, 2008); Baluchi Radio F.M. (April 7, 2008); Sunni News (November 4, 2010); Ahl-e Sunnat-e Ma weblog (August 5, 2013).
**The Hanafi school is a branch of Sunni Islam that follows the teachings of Abu Hanifeh Na’man Bin Sabet, one of the four Imams of Sunnah and Jama’at. Among the four schools of Sunni Islam, the Hanafi has the largest number of adherents who follow Mohammad, Abu Bakr, Osman, and Ali.
***Jondollah (Popular Resistance Movement of Iran) is a paramilitary group that was established in July-August 2003 in Southeastern Iran. This group, which considered itself the protector of the Baluch people’s rights (the ethnic minority in Southeastern Iran), and declared the defense of the Baluch people’s culture, improvement of Sistan and Baluchestan Province’s social and economic conditions, and protecting the religious rights of the adherents of Sunni Islam from the Shi’a government of Iran, as its objectives, took up arms [against the Iranian government] in order to achieve its goals, and was therefore considered a terrorist group. Abdolmajid (Abdolmalek) Rigi was the leader of this group from its inception until his execution.
****The “miracle bed” is a metal bed to which an individual being interrogated is bound with handcuffs. He or she is then subjected to torture with different types of cables, the pouring of cold water, and insults and curses, all in an extremely frightening atmosphere.
*****The Tassuki operation was carried out by the Jondollah group on March 16, 2006, at 9:00 PM, on the Zabol - Zahedan road, around six miles from the Tassuki police post, and caused the death or injury of 28 people. At least seven other people were taken hostage during this incident. One of the hostages was killed while being held and the other six were slowly released in the course of 200 days.

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