Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Seyed Mohammad Hosseini


Age: 39
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: January 7, 2023
Location of Killing: Central Prison (Nedamatgah), Karaj, Alborz Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Corruption on earth
Age at time of alleged offense: 39

About this Case

Seyed Mohammad Hosseini’s parents had passed away and he had no one to visit him in prison. Now, however, large crowds gather at his gravesite to tell him “you are not alone; the entire nation of Iran is your family”.

News of the execution of Mr. Seyed Mohammad (Kian) Hosseini, son of Soghra and Seyed Hassan, along with Mr. Mohammad Mehdi Karami was obtained from Mizan News Agency’ (the Judiciary Branch’s media hub) website (November 3, and 30, 2022; January 7, 2023); HRANA, Human Rights Activists in Iran’s News Agency (December 12, 2022; January 3, and 7, 2023); Etemad Online (January 8, 2023); Fars News Agency (November 3, 2022; January 7, and 8, 2023); Radio Farda (January 12, and 14, 2023); BBC interview with Defense Attorney Mohammad Hossein Aghasi (January 7, 2023); Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) (November 3, 2022); Alborz Province’s Imam Hassan Mojtaba Army’s Office of Public Relations’ announcement, quoted in ISNA, Iranian Students News Agency (November 5, 2022), and IRNA, Islamic Republic News Agency (November 11, and 30, and December 1, and 3, 2022).

According to available information, Mr. Hosseini was 40 years old, single, born in the city of Karaj, workat at the [city of] Qazvin Morghak Company, and lived by himself in a rented home in Karaj’s Kamal Shahr district. He had a sixth grade education. His parents had died and he had a brother, a sister, and a half-brother, with whom he had no relations.

Mr. Hosseini was skilled in the Martial Arts, including Kung Fu and Wushu, and had won a championship in 2003-04. Those who knew him well have stated: “He was generous. He used to teach martial arts for free to poor children”. (Radio Farda).

Mr. Hosseini's inmates talk highly about him and consider him a kind, fearless and humble person: "Seyed was a lover, he treated everyone with kindness and dignity. He used to collect and wash the dishes. We would tell him: “Don't do this, brother”. He would reply: “I grew up without parents and with difficulty, I didn't have anyone and I always did my work by myself, I love to work. He was so loving, he would wash the toilets and sweep the cigarette butts without it being his duty"

The inmate continues to say: "He would hold your hand as if he had known you for a hundred years."

The case of Mr. Hosseini and 15 other individuals is related to the killing of a Bassiji (member of the Bassij militia), the destruction of public and private property, and the beating of law enforcement personnel on Thursday, November 3, 2022, on the Karaj – Qazvin Freeway, on the occasion of the Chehelom (“Fortieth Day of Passing”) of one of the individuals who had been killed in the Fall 2022 Nationwide Protests sparked by the murder of Mahsa Amini while she was detained by the Morality Police under the pretext of not having respected the law of Hijab.*

2022 (Mahsa Amini) Protest background

Nationwide protests were sparked by the death in custody of 22-year old Kurdish woman Jina (Mahsa) Amini on September 16, 2022. Amini had been arrested by the morality police in Tehran for improper veiling on September 13 and sent brain dead to the hospital. The protests, which started in front of the hospital and continued in the city of Saqqez (Kordestan Province), where Mahsa was buried, were triggered by popular exasperation over the morality patrols, misleading statements of the authorities regarding the cause of Mahsa’s death and the resulting impunity for the violence used against detainees, as well as the mandatory veil in general. This protest, initially led by young girls and women who burned their veils and youth in general who chanted the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom,” rapidly took on a clear anti-regime tone, with protesters calling for an end to the Islamic Republic. The scope and duration of the protest was unprecedented. State efforts to withdraw the morality police from the streets and preventative arrests of journalists and political and civil society activists did not stop the protests. By the end of December 2022, protests had taken place in about 164 cities and towns, including localities that had never witnessed protests. Close to 150 universities, high schools, businesses, and groups including oil workers, merchants of the Tehran bazaar (among others), teachers, lawyers (at least 49 of whom had been arrested as of February 1st, 2023), artists, athletes, and even doctors joined these protests in various forms. Despite the violent crackdown and mass arrests, intense protests continued for weeks, at least through November 2022, with reports of sporadic activity continuing through the beginning of 2023.

The State’s crackdown was swift and accompanied by intermittent landline and cellular internet network shutdowns, as well as threats against and arrests of victims’ family members, factors which posed a serious challenge to monitoring protests and documenting casualties. The security forces used illegal, excessive, and lethal force with handguns, shotguns, and military assault rifles against protesters. They often targeted protesters’ heads and chests, shot them at close range, and in the back. Security forces have targeted faces with pellets, causing hundreds of protesters to lose their eyesight, and according to some reports women’s genitalia. The bloodiest crackdown took place on September 30th in Zahedan, Baluchestan Province, where a protest began at the end of the Friday sermon. The death toll is reported to be above 90 for that day. Many injured protesters, fearing arrest, did not go to hospitals where security forces have reportedly arrested injured protesters before and after they were treated.

By February 1, 2023, the Human Rights Activists News Agency reported the number of recorded protests to be 1,262. The death toll, including protesters and passersby, stood at 527, of whom 71 were children. The number of arrests (including of wounded protesters) was estimated at 19,603, of whom 766 had already been tried and convicted. More than 100 protesters were at risk of capital punishment, and four had been executed in December 2022 and January 2023 without minimum standards of due process. Authorities also claimed 70 casualties among state forces, though there are consistent reports from families of killed protesters indicating authorities have pressured them to falsely register their loved ones as such. Protesters, human rights groups, and the media have reported cases of beatings, torture (including to coerce confessions), and sexual assaults. Detainees have no access to lawyers during interrogations and their confessions are used in courts as evidence.

Public support and international solidarity with protesters have also been unprecedented (the use of the hashtag #MahsaAmini in Farsi and English broke world records) and on November 24, 2022, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for the creation of a fact finding mission to “Thoroughly and independently investigate alleged human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran related to the protests that began on 16 September 2022, especially with respect to women and children.”

Arrest and detention

Mr. Hosseini was arrested at his home on November 4, 2022. According to an unknown source, “more than 12 agents went to arrest him; they beat him severely, insulted him, made threats against him and told him that they would take care of him with [his own] swords”. (Radio Farda).

In the videos and pictures of Mr. Hosseini disseminated on Iranian media inside the country, his hands were tied from behind, and before him were a number of swords, knives, and other cold weapons, which, according to him, were used in connection with martial arts and their instruction. (IRIB report). “The [Bassij member’s] killers were identified in less than 48 hours, and were arrested by the Imam Zaman (or “Imam of Time”, twelfth Shiite Imam, descendent of the Prophet Mohammad who is said to have disappeared only to reappear at some point to save humanity) unknown soldiers at the Alborz Province’s Information General Administration.” (IRIB report).

Mr. Hosseini and 14 other defendants were in Karaj’s Information Administration detention until the end of three trial sessions, and were taken to court and back from that same detention center. (HRANA, January 3, 2023). He was transferred to the public ward at Karaj Central Penitentiary after the trial. (HRANA, December 12, 2022). In the course of 65 days of detention, he only had one visitation, and that was with the defense attorney he had retained. There is no information regarding his access to his court-appointed attorney.


On Wednesday, November 30, 2022, the Alborz Province Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch One, began the adjudication of Mr. Hosseini’s and 15 other individuals’ cases. The trial took place before a panel of judges composed of a presiding judge and three member judges, in the presence of the Prosecutor’s representative and the defendants’ attorneys. In the final court session, another defendant who had previously been transferred to the Karaj Central Penitentiary was added to the defendants in the case without any explanation or any specific reason, and the number of defendants increased to 16. (HRANA, December 12, 2022). Mr. Hosseini had a court-appointed attorney at trial, who was also representing two other defendants. The second and final trial sessions were conducted on December 1, and 3, 2022. The defense attorney that Mr. Hosseini had selected and retained himself was only able to represent him at the time the case was under review by the Supreme Court.


According to the Karaj County Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch One, the charges against Mr. Hosseini was stated to be “Moharebeh (“waging war against Allah”) and Efsad fel-Arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”), assisting a detainee to flee by people other than law enforcement, participation in the intentional murder of a Moslem, propaganda against the regime of the Islamic Republic through chanting slogans, and assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national/external security”. (Mr. Hosseini’s attorney, January 4, 2023).

In the indictment issued against Mr. Hosseini, the Prosecutor stated the charge as “Efsad fel-Arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”) manifested by the commission of crimes against national security, attacking police and Bassij members, assembly and conspiracy against national security”. Initially there was no mention of the crime of murder. (IRNA, November 30, 2022).

According to information obtained from official sources, on November 3, 2022, a number of “rioters” proceeded to close down the Karaj – Qazvin Freeway by creating unrest around Behesht-e Sakineh Cemetery and Karaj’s Kamal Shahr district on the occasion og the Fortieth Day of Passing of one of the “rioters”, and engaged in the destruction of public and private property as well as the beating of law enforcement personnel. A member of the Bassij was killed that day.

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 Mr. Hosseini was stated to have been “his confessions; Defendant Number 1’s confessions [and statements] made against him; other defendants’ confessions [and statements] made against him; the complaint filed against him by the [victim’s] next of kin; the Medical Examiner’s Certificate; the recovery of tools and instruments of crime from the defendants; the contents of the defendants’ cell phones, said phones having been searched and looked into [by the authorities]; discovery of criminal [articles and writings]; disseminated photographs and videos of the day of the events.”

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.


Short segments of the trial and Mr. Hosseini’s defense and that of the other defendants were broadcast on Iranian media. Mr. Hosseini stated in his own defense at trial that he had not gone to the site of the incident to participate in the protests, and denied the charges brought against him in the indictment. He stated: “I do not accept some of the charges brought against me. I noticed that there was heavy traffic in the vicinity of Behesht-e Sakineh (Cemetery); my intention was to visit my parents’ grave site. The knife I was carrying was for digging around their graves and planting flowers. I noticed there was a lot of noise on the other side of Behesht-e Sakineh, and I asked why they had shut down the entrance to that part. The agents came to us. I threw two stones at them as I was running away.” Mr. Hosseini admitted in court to stabbing the Bassij member: “I was among the last people who came over to Shahid (“Martyr”) Ajaman; some people were insulting him, some were kicking him.” He added: “I pushed my knife against Sahid Ajaman’s body as much as two digits of a finger, and the third time, I inserted it a little into his body.” He continued: “The entire time I was at the scene was less than 10 seconds. There was a woman there, five men, one of whom was holding a knife and was insulting the Shahid; I left the scene after witnessing this and did not stay there.” (Mizan News Agency, November 30, 2022). According to a source with knowledge of the case, Mr. Hosseini had gone to his parents’ grave site as he did every Thursday night. (HRANA, December 12, 2022).

On the day of the reconstruction of the scene of the crime, the Islamic Republic state television broadcast a report where Mr. Hosseini explained: “I went closer and I noticed a young man was on the ground. I ran away because I have [mental issues]; I left.”

Mr. Hosseini practiced martial arts, including Kung Fu and Wushu, and made use of swords and other cold weapons in these sports. At trial, in his response to the judge, who considered these instruments as evidence of the crime, Mr. Hosseini explained: “As I said, I teach sports, I’m a sports instructor.” “With knives?” the judge asked. “Please, if you will permit me: I’m a sports instructor,” Mr. Hosseini continued, “and they were inside the classroom for training purposes, Sir.” (Mizan News Agency, January 7, 2023). Mr. Hosseini had provided the same response to the IRIB reporter on the day of the reconstruction of the scene.

Mr. Hosseini was interrogated without access to an attorney, and his confession in detention was obtained by force under torture. The defense attorney he had retained and who had met with him for the first time on December 19, 2022, that is, two weeks after the last trial session, informed the public of Mr. Hosseini’s statements regarding his torture: “I met with Seyed Mohammad Hosseini in the Karaj Prison. His account was nothing but tears. He told me of torture, beatings while blindfolded, handcuffed, and shackled, kicks to the head and loss of consciousness, [beatings] to the sole of his feet with iron bars, electric shockers to various parts of the body. This was a man whose admissions and confessions were obtained under torture and have absolutely no legal validity whatsoever.” (HRANA, January 7, 2023).

Mr. Hosseini who had no criminal record, was deprived of his right to a legitimate and legal defense. Furthermore, according to available information, his court-appointed lawyer did not even defend him at trial and simply asked the court for forgiveness.

According to a source with knowledge of the case, “according to the charges enumerated in court by the Prosecutor’s representative against the defendants, the charges brought against individuals that were ultimately sentenced to death by Judge Assef-al-Hosseini, were in some instances lighter than other defendants in the case. Most of those sentenced to death in this case, even if we take into consideration the Prosecutor’s representative’s statements, did not have any effective participation in the death of Ruhollah Ajamian. The death sentences were issued without a close and in-depth examination of the case, without a proper legal basis, and solely for the purpose of [scapegoating and] sacrificing a group of individuals.” (HRANA, December 12, 2022).

Mr. Sharifzadeh Ardakani, Mr. Hosseini’s chosen attorney, had previously reported that the Karaj Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch one, had not authorized him to draft a retainer agreement [to represent his client and] to have access to and read his case file, in contravention of the Law on the Rules of Criminal Procedure. He was only able to take on the case and meet with his client after the court’s ruling had been issued and confirmed by the Supreme Court.

A Summary of the Legal Defects in the Adjudication of Mr. Seyed Mohammad Hosseini’s Case

In this case, Mr. Seyed Mohammad Hosseini is accused of killing a Bassij member with at least 15 other individuals. What has been published in official media, including Mizan News Agency, indicates that the murder victim had been beaten by a large number of people, gathered in a crowd, and that he had ultimately been killed. Various news agencies have also reported that thirty or forty people were involved in the death of the Bassij member. In cases where a large number of people are involved in a murder, exacting, rigorous, and expert investigation must be carried out in order to determine the cause of death and figure out which blow(s) resulted in death, and who perpetrated the blow(s). One cannot attribute responsibility for the murder to one specific perpetrator without such precise and in-depth investigations. In this case, it is absolutely not clear which blow, from among the many, resulted in the victim’s death. In other words, the most important investigation that should have been conducted, namely, the determination of the ultimate cause of death, was not carried out with precision. This defect is so severe that it most certainly renders the court’s ruling without validity and credence.

Mr. Seyed Mohammad Hosseini was tried on the charge of Moharebeh (“waging war against God”) and sentenced to death and executed on that basis. Pursuant to Islamic Penal Code Article 279, “Moharebeh consists of drawing a weapon with intent to cause apprehension in, or harm to people’s lives, property, or chastity (for female members of the family), in such a way as to create insecurity in the area. Where a person draws a weapon on one or more persons based on personal motives and his/her actions do not have a public aspect, and where a person draws a weapon on people but his action does not deprive them of their safety and security due to his/her inability or incapacity, said person is not considered to be Mohareb”. What is important here is that the act attributed to Mr. Hosseini was murder. Murder is a crime [the punishment for which] falls under Qesas (“retribution”), and has its own rules and regulations. As the above Article indicates, in order for [the crime of] Moharebeh to occur, a person must draw his/her weapon with the intent to harm a large number of individuals, which act causes [apprehension and] insecurity among the populace. If we believe that the Bassij member’s murder caused insecurity, then the question of Qesas in murder cases becomes moot, and every murder would be considered as Moharebeh! In other words, the act attributed to Mr. Hosseini, regardless of whether he committed it or not, has absolutely nothing to do with the crime of Moharebeh. Had his case been tried on the charge [of murder carrying the punishment of] Qesas, the probability of a sentence of death would have been much lower because it would have been necessary to determine precisely that it was his blow that caused the Bassij member’s death, and if it could not have been determined whose blow actually caused the victim’s death, the punishment of Qesas could not have applied, and the form of punishment would then turn to Diah (payment of compensation; “blood money”). Additionally, it was possible that the holders of the right of Qesas, that is, the next of kin, would have forgiven [the perpetrator and] forgone retribution.

Mr. Seyed Mohammad Hosseini was deprived of an attorney of his choosing both at the preliminary investigations stage, and at trial. The Karaj court even prohibited his chosen attorney from submitting his retainer agreement and entering the case, whereas Principle 35 of the Constitution, as well as the Single Article of the Law on the Selection of Lawyers by Parties to a Dispute, and Articles 48 and 346 of the Law on the Rules of Procedure, all provide that an accused has the right to retain an attorney of his own choosing. In other words, the court-appointed attorney was imposed on Mr. Hosseini. Furthermore, the court-appointed lawyer did not mount any effective defense and solely asked the court for forgiveness. These actions deprived the defendant of the defense mechanism at his disposal to a considerable extent. Pursuant to the Single Article of the Law on the Selection of Lawyers by Parties to a Dispute, depriving a defendant of the right to have a lawyer of his/her own choosing is an instance of actions that render the ruling invalid.

According the statements made by Mr. Hosseini’s friends, as well as his attorney (who entered the case at the appellate stage before the Supreme Court) and other persons with knowledge of the case, Mr. Hosseini had been severely tortured during interrogations. Principle 38 of the Constitution and the Islamic Penal Code have prohibited and criminalized the torture and persecution of defendants, and confessions obtained under duress and persecution have no legal validity. In other words, the official news agencies’ referencing Mr. Hosseini’s confession, as well as its probable citation in the sentence [as a basis of the court’s ruling] has no legal validity whatsoever because a confession obtained under torture cannot be used as evidence of guilt. Furthermore, an admission or confession is only valid when it’s true, that is, the judge must ensure that such confession or admission is true and correct. In this case, considering the large number of defendants and the lack of thorough investigations by the Prosecutor’s Office, it was not possible to rely solely on the defendant’s confession to find him guilty of the offense charged.

According to available information, Mr. Hosseini’s chosen attorney submitted its request for a new trial once the court’s ruling had become final by the Supreme Court; the Supreme Court, however, did not order a stay of implementation of the sentence, contrary to the requirements of the law. Pursuant to the Note to Article 478 of the Law on the Rules of Criminal Procedure, “In the event that the punishment stated in the court ruling is of the kind that takes away life, or consists of other types of physical punishments or the destruction of a building structure, the Supreme Court Branch that receives the request for a new trial, shall order a stay of implementation of the ruling prior to making a decision about said request for a new trial”.

According to available information, the killing of Ruhollah Ajamian occurred on November 3, 2022, and Mr. Hosseini’s final trial session was held on December 3, 2022, and the sentence of execution was issued one week after said final session. In other words, the time between the defendant’s arrest and sentencing was roughly a month. That means all the investigations, including autopsy, determination of cause of death, investigating and questioning dozens of defendants and witnesses, crime scene investigations, examination of the contents of the closed circuit cameras at the location, etc., both at the Prosecutor’s Office and at trial, took only one month. It does not seem reasonable that it would be possible to examine and adjudicate in one month a case as voluminous as this one, the subject matter of which is the murder of an individual by a large crowd of people, and where there are other charges involved, such as destruction of public property, conspiracy and assembly and propaganda against the Islamic regime. There are currently murder cases that have been before judicial authorities for years, the adjudication of which has yet to result in a ruling. In other words, Mr. Hosseini’s hasty and precipitous trial is itself the best indication that thorough investigations were not conducted in this case, nor were the principles of fair trial observed. 


Alborz Province Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch One, sentenced Mr. Seyed Mohammad (Kian) Hosseini and five other individuals to death on the charge of Efsad fel-Arz (“Spreading corruption on Earth”). On Tuesday, January 3, 2023, Mr. Hosseini and Mr. Mohammad Mehdi Karami’s death sentences were upheld by Supreme Court Branch 39, citing Article 469(a) of the Law on the Rules of Criminal Procedure. According to the attorney for Mr. Karami (one of the other defendants in the case) [also sentenced to death], the Supreme Court was aware that Mr. Hosseini and Mr. Karami had been denied their right to retain an attorney of their own choosing. At the same time, that same Supreme Court Branch overturned the sentences in the case of 14 other individuals and remanded their case for a new trial at the lower court.

On January 4, the day after the sentence was upheld, Mr. Hosseini’s chosen attorney registered his request for a de novo trial, and said request was referred to Branch Nine: “Hard as I tried, I was not able to obtain, and they did not agree, to a stay of execution and told me to come back on Saturday (the first day of the work week in Iran). This morning, I was on my way to the Supreme Court when I unfortunately heard the news of my client’s execution. You could have at least let the case be heard one time; why all the rush?” (Twitter page of Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani, Mr. Hosseini’s chosen attorney, January 7, 2023).

Mr. Hosseini and one other individual were hanged in Karaj on January 7, 2023. Neither his attorney, nor any member of his and the other defendant’s family were aware of the execution. He was buried in Karaj, Eshtehard, Behesht-e Ali Cemetery, Parcel 1, Row 60, Grave Number 105.

Mr. Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani, Mr. Hosseini’s chosen attorney, was summoned to the Karaj Prosecutor’s Office in February of that year, charged with “propaganda against the [Islamic] regime”, and released temporarily after posting bail. He stated in this regard: “In addition to a bail order, the judge issued a judicial supervision order in his case ensuring a ban on his Twitter and Instagram activities for one year.” (Mr. Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani).

One of the inmates remembers that when Mr. Hosseini was washing the toilet on January 06, the inmate asked him if he was scared and he said: “Not really, I do not have anything to lose. All I have is the deposit with my landlord.” He had already asked the landlord to give that money to his friend who was like a family. He said: “If they hanged me, don’t let people forget about me. And please do not do anything for us to put yourself in jeopardy, don’t go on strike, or they would harm you. Keep going [continue the protest] and take care of each other!” 


*On November 3, 2022, on the occasion of the Fortieth Day of Passing of Ms. Hadiss Najafi, one of the individuals killed during the recent protests, a very large crowd of people proceeded to walk on foot toward Karaj and the Behest-e Sakineh Cemetery, Ms. Hadiss Najafi’s resting place located in Karaj’s Kamal Shahr district, the Police Force having blocked the Freeway. According to social media users, a very large number of people participated in the services, and the entrances to Behesht-e Sakineh, Hadiss Najafi’s burial site, had been blocked by law enforcement personnel. Fierce altercations broke out between the people and law enforcement officers when the latter started firing tear gas and live ammunition on the protesters.

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