Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Mahmud Asgari


Age: 16
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: July 19, 2005
Location of Killing: Mashhad, Khorasan\Khorasan-e Razavi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Homosexual rape
Age at time of alleged offense: 15

About this Case

The news of the execution of two juveniles named Mahmud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhuni, 18, was published by the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA, July 19, 2005) which mentioned their names as M. A. and A. M. On the same date, the Quds newspaper provided a detailed account of the arrest and alleged crimes. The case was raised by Human Rights Watch, in a letter dated July 27, 2005 to the Iranian president and head of the judiciary. On July 26, 2005, the Advocate website also published this news, referring to the executions as violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Various other human rights groups have also expressed their objections to the executions. A year later, a report regarding this case was released by Simon Forbes, a UK-based gay rights activist (see Iranian Queer Organization website). This report, “Mashhad: Place of Martyrdom,” which analyzes various documents including evidence collected by the editor of Huriyah: A Queer Muslim Magazine, denies the veracity of the rape allegation. The report relies on interviews with unidentified individuals in Mashhad familiar with the case, as well as different newspaper stories.

Human Rights Watch argues that the executions of Mr. Asgari and Mr. Marhuni were in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, prohibiting the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of eighteen. These treaties also prohibit the use of torture along with cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishments. Iran has ratified both treaties. Although the exact number of juvenile execution in Iran is unknown, human rights activists estimate that 12 juveniles were executed last year. According to the Human Rights Watch report, before the two youths were put to death, each also received 228 lashes for theft, disturbing public order, and consuming alcohol.

The two teenagers were ethnic Arabs from south west Iran whose families had relocated to Mashhad after the breakout of the Iran-Iraq War. They were known to be a gay couple (Mr. Forbes’ report).

Arrest and detention

The circumstances of arrest and detention for Mr. Mahmud Asgari are unknown. ISNA quoted the defendant saying that his arrest took place 14 months before his execution (about June 2004).


No information is available on the defendant’s trial.


The main charge against Mr. Mahmud Asgari was the rape of a 13- year-old boy. He was also charged with “robbery, disturbing public order, and consuming alcohol.”

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial. Each year, Iranian authorities sentence to death hundreds of alleged common criminals, following judicial processes that fail to meet international standards. The exact number of people convicted based on trumped-up charges is unknown.

Evidence of guilt

The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against the defendant. According to ISNA, the defendant confessed to his crime in court.

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.


No specific information is available on Mr. Asgari’s defense. The ISNA report quoted one of the defendants stating that they did not know that such action was punishable by death.

The Advocate quoted the lawyer for Mahmoud Asgari saying that Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the verdict and allowed the execution despite his objections based on the age of his client. He added that Iranian courts are supposed to commute death sentences handed to juveniles to five years in jail and that the judiciary has trampled on its own laws.

Mr. Forbes’ report challenges the “rape” accusation and claims that the teenagers, including the 13-year old boy presented as a rape victim, were involved in consensual sex. He refers to the ISNA report quoting one of the teenagers who stated that “we did not know committing such act is punishable by death.” Considering the fact that public executions for rape are common in Iran, it is likely that the teenagers had confessed to consensual homosexual sex, rather than rape.

The report also finds discrepancies between the gathered testimonies and the official news coverage of the story regarding the date and circumstances of the arrest of Mr. Marhuni and Mr. Asgari. For example, an official newspaper refers to an arrest that took place 16 months before the execution, whereas based on the statement of the teenagers themselves they were arrested 14 months before their execution. The report attributes the execution to the fact that the 13-year old was the son of a high ranking official.


According to the ISNA report, Branch 19 of the Public Court issued the judgment and the Supreme Court confirmed it. The Court condemned Mr. Mahmud Asgari to imprisonment, lashes, and public execution. He was hanged in public after receiving 228 lashes on July 19, 2005.

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