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

Mohsen Ruholamini

About

Age: 25
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: July, 2009
Location: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Death in custody

Human rights violations in this case

The Legal Context

The Courts

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 11 February 1979-1994

 

In the immediate aftermath of the 11 February 1979 Revolution, an ad hoc tribunal, initially referred to as the Extraordinary Revolutionary Tribunal, was set up to try the officials of the previous regime, for which no specific procedures were devised. In a decree dated 24 February 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary religious leader, appointed a cleric as Shari’a Judge and instructed him “to issue Shari’a-based rulings,” thereby establishing the foundation of a system of special courts.

 

Initially, the revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction was determined by the religious judge’s interpretation of the Shari’a (Islamic law based on the teachings of the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet, the 12 imams, and the teachings of Shi’a scholars. On 17 June 1979, the Revolutionary Courts and the Prosecutor’s Office Rules of Procedure, which was only selectively observed, established the latter’s jurisdiction and make-up.

 

The Courts’ jurisdiction encompassed a wide array of offenses including moharebeh (“waging war with God”), efsad e fel arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”), crimes against national and international security, economic crimes, murder, profiteering, prostitution, rape, and narcotic drugs-related crimes. The law required that two of the three principal members of the Revolutionary Courts be Shari’a judges.

 

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 1994-2002

 

With the adoption of the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994, and the Code of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts of 19 September 1999, a uniform code of procedure was applied to both revolutionary and general courts. The jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts was limited to 6 categories of offenses:

1. Crimes against national and international security,“moharebeh” (enmity with god) and “efsad e fel arz” (corruption on earth;)

2. defaming Ayatollah Khomeini and the Supreme Leader;

3. plotting against the Islamic Republic of Iran, armed action, terrorism, and sabotage;

4. espionage;

5. smuggling and drug-related crimes; 6. claims under Principle 49 (economic crimes) of the Constitution.

 6. Furthermore, pursuant to the Law on the Manner of Punishing Individuals Engaged in Unauthorized Audio and Visual Activities, Article 11, the revolutionary courts have jurisdiction over crimes that fall within the purview of said Law, including production and distribution of obscene materials and misuse and abuse thereof.

These courts continued, however, to try cases falling outside their jurisdiction, such as theft and sexual offenses. Further, the vagueness of laws regarding national security allowed the revolutionary courts to try political and media crimes whenever they wished to do so.

 

The new law eliminated the Prosecutor’s Office and gave the judges inthe Revolutionary Courts the power to perform the duties of the prosecutor, as well as their own, in any case brought before them.

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 2002-Present

 

The Amended Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 2002 reinstated the Prosecutor’s Office in both revolutionary and general courts. In cases involving political and media crimes, revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction overlaps with that of Province Criminal Courts.

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014, and its coming into force in June 2015, the jurisdiction of the revolutionary courts remains unchanged, with slight modifications in procedural aspects of adjudication. For instance, the new law provides that for crimes subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, or higher, the revolutionary court shall convene with three judges, whereas, prior to the passage of this law, adjudication of all crimes within the jurisdiction of revolutionary courts took place with only a single judge.

The Appellate System of Revolutionary Courts, 1979-Present

 

From their inception until 1994, the rulings of the Revolutionary Courts were not subject to appeal. In the early 1980s a court entitled the Supreme Court of Qom was established in the city of Qom and which reviewed cases of execution and confiscation of properties, thereby forming a first tier form of appeal. The exact date of the creation of the court is not clear, but, based on available information, the court became operational in the early 1980s, even though Ayatollah Khomeini's official order for its creation is dated 1985. The court’s procedure was not systematic and did not meet the international standards for a court of appeals; there was no official record of its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of Qom was dissolved in 1989.

 

The Law of 14 June 1994 subjected the Courts’ decisions to appeal. An appellate court was established at each provincial capital, called the Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by the Revolutionary Courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those involving capital punishment.

 

Narcotic drugs-related crimes constitute a significant exception to the appeals process. Governed by the Anti-Narcotic Drugs Law of 1988, as Amended on 8 November 1997 and 31 July 3 2010, these crimes are within the jurisdiction of, and are adjudicated on a regular basis by, Revolutionary Courts whose decisions are final. After being handed down by the judge, death sentences are sent to the Prosecutor General or the Head of the Supreme Court as a matter of administrative approval.

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 (and its coming into force in June 2015), however, drug related crimes became subject to appeal as well.

General Courts, 1979-1982

 

In cases not falling under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, the system devised under the previous regime continued to function in parallel with new systems devised by laws passed by the Judicial Council, one of which, entitled The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, radically changed the entire structure and categorization of the courts. It divided the courts in three branches: Criminal, Civil, and Peace (a sort of arbitration court dealing with minor financial and other disputes). Specialized courts such as family courts were eliminated.

 

General Courts, 1982-1994

 

The Law of the Amendments to the Rules of Criminal Procedure of 1982 established a new criminal courts system, Criminal Courts I and II. Criminal Court I, established only in provincial capitals, had jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Criminal Court II heard less serious crimes.

 

General Courts, 1994-2002

 

The Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994 established umbrella courts called General Courts, which replaced and dissolved pre-existing civil and criminal courts. The law dissolved the Prosecutor’s offices and tasked a single person with the roles of judge, prosecutor, and investigator.

 

General Courts, 2002-2015

 

In 2002, the 1994 Law was amended, reviving the role of the Prosecutor’s Office in General Courts. The prosecution offices were re-established in a gradual process over several years. The amended law also re-established specialized branches within general courts dealing separately with criminal and civil matters. In addition, this law allocated a number of branches of the Province Court of Appeals to have original jurisdiction over a number of cases including the most serious offenses, as well as political and media crimes. In these cases, the branches are called the Province Criminal Court.

 

General Courts, 2015 to Today

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, general courts underwent certain changes as well. Criminal courts were divided into Criminal Court One, Criminal Court Two, Military Court, Juvenile Court, and Revolutionary Court. Criminal Court One has jurisdiction over serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, and higher, as well as political and media crimes. Criminal Court Two has jurisdiction over other crimes. Another change consists of the establishment of juvenile courts, which adjudicates crimes committed by individuals less than 18 years of age. In cases where the individuals less than 18 commit serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, however, Criminal Court One will have jurisdiction, observing rules of juvenile criminal procedure.

 

The Appellate System of General Courts, 1979-Present

 

The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, abolished appeal of most criminal courts’ decisions. The law of 1982 restricted the appeal possibility even further. According to the Islamic Republic authorities’ interpretation of Islamic Law, a qualified jurist’s decisions were not subject to appeal except under special circumstances, such as when the judge realized his own mistake, or another judge advised him so, or when he did not have jurisdiction over the case. Even in such situations, the case would not go to a higher court but would be subject to review by the same judge or another judge at his level. The judges were even urged to call their verdicts “opinions,” so that the possible change in the verdict would not be “haram” (“sinful,” the highest level of prohibition in Islam, disobedience of which would result in a sin).

 

In October 1988, the Majles (Iranian parliament) passed a law regarding review of court judgments. This law provided for an appeal if the conviction was claimed to be based on invalid documentation or false testimony. The defendant could also base an appeal on a point of law or a procedural violation.

 

The appellate system was expanded in other laws in the late 1980s and in 1993. The Law for the Establishment of Criminal Courts I and II of 11 July 1989 created the Branches of the Supreme Court. Crimes of less importance, tried in Criminal Court II, were subject to review by Criminal Court I.

 

For the most important crimes involving death punishment, which were under the jurisdiction of Criminal Court I, the law allowed limited appeal to the Branches of the Supreme Court. Defendants had the right to petition the Supreme Court for appeal in certain cases involving false testimony or procedural violations, and if granted, the case would be remanded to either another criminal court or the original one.

 

Finally, the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 1994, as amended in 2002, established an appellate court at each provincial capital, called Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by both general and revolutionary courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those carrying the death penalty, as well as decisions made by the Province Criminal Court.

 

The amended law of 2002, continued the appellate procedure to the Branches of the Supreme Court established by the afore-mentioned law of 11 July 1989

 

The Supreme Court continues to be the competent authority to rule on new trials, which have been provided for in limited circumstances.

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, the Court of Appeals shall be the competent authority to hear appeals from Criminal Court Two decisions, and the Supreme Court shall hear appeals from Criminal Court One decisions.

Special Courts for the Clergy

 

These courts are rooted in a 1979 decree, issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, which established a committee of religious and noble figures in every region to purge the clergy of anti-revolutionary elements under the supervision of the Revolutionary Courts. Between late 1981 and 1984, a special court in the city of Qom handled, though not systematically, the trial of clerics.

 

On 29 July 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini officially appointed a prosecutor and a member of the clergy as Shari’a judge for Special Courts for the Clergy. On 6 August 1990, a directive was issued regulating the conduct of these courts, the jurisdictional ambiguity of which is such that it effectively extends to “anyone where one of the parties is a cleric” and to “all matters in which the Court is designated as competent by the Supreme Leader.”

 

The court, which was not mentioned in the Islamic Republic's constitution, was mandated to try “pseudo clerics, those related to/connected with the clergy, for public and/or anti-revolutionary crimes, and violations of the prestige of the clergy,” and where the principal suspect is a member of the clergy, “any co-conspirator or assistant, whether a cleric or not.”

 

These courts are generally not open to the public and can issue sentences for all acts and omissions punishable under codified Iranian laws or Shari’a or for any other acts or omissions which can bring dishonor to the clergy or to the Islamic Revolution. Further, in certain particular cases – which have not been defined – where no punishment has been devised by either the Penal Code or even the Shari’a, the Court “can rule as it deems fit.” 

 

The Appellate System of the Special Court for the Clergy, 1979-Present

 

There is no information on any appeal process for the Special Court for the Clergy prior to the 1990 directive. Article 49 of said directive set up, however, an appeals court called Special Appellate Court for the Clergy, the head of which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, to which the decisions of the lower court can be appealed.

 

Military Courts

 

The military court system, independent from the judiciary under the previous regime, became a part of it on 1 December 1981. The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces, established in 1986, replaced and merged other military courts and tribunals in existence at the time, namely the pre-revolution Judiciary Organization of the Army, the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Army (established on 8 December 1979), and the Revolutionary and General Court for the Revolutionary Guards (established on 15 July 1979.) The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces has its own Criminal Code and follows the country’s general rules of criminal procedure.

 

The Law of the Criminal Procedure of the Armed Forces of 15 May 1985 created Military Courts I and II. Military Court I has jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Military Court II hears less serious crimes.

 

The Appellate System of Military Courts, 1979-Present

 

The law of 8 December 1979, establishing the Revolutionary Military Court, did not provide for any appeals. The Law of 15 May 1985 created a system of appeals through the creation of a two-tier system of courts. The decisions of Military Court II were subject to review by Military Court I. This law also provided that multiple Branches of the Supreme Court be designated as the appellate court to review decisions of Military Court I.

 

The judges

 

1979-1997: Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily law graduates and jurists. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution, a five-member Committee was established to purge the judicial system of undesirable elements, pursuant to the Legal Bill for the Modification of the Judiciary and the Law for Hiring Judges of 8 March 1979. The power of the committee was absolute and its decisions, resulting in a widespread purge of the judiciary, final.

 

The Law for the Conditions of Selection of Judges of 4 May 1981 established the conditions of eligibility for judges. The latter were to be hired among men who were legitimate children and had practical commitment to Islam and allegiance to the Islamic Republic. The law, which led to the hiring of clerics and Islamic legal scholars, also allowed hiring practically anyone as a judge who could “obtain the Judicial High Council’s permission.” Moreover, Note 2 of the Amendments of 4 October 1982 to this law allowed widespread employment of seminary students “who ha[d] general knowledge equivalent to a high school diploma” as judges at prosecutor’s offices in general as well as Revolutionary Courts.  

 

By 1989, the judiciary counted about 2,000 new judges trained in theological seminaries (graduates and students) and political appointees, many having replaced judges trained in law schools.

 

1997-Present: As of this writing (2013) the Law for Hiring Judges and its amendments of 4 October 1982, 7 February 1987, and 9 May 1988 are in full force and form the basis for hiring judges. The Executive Rules of Procedure of 22 December 1997 subjected such hiring to passing an entrance examination and successful completion of an apprenticeship program, the duration of which ranges between one and two years. The law does not limit hiring to men only but does not specify in what capacity women will be functioning, other than an advisory one.

Currently, judges are selected in accordance with the Guidelines on the Recruitment, Selection, and Internship for Judicial Candidates and the Hiring of Judges.

 

Dismissal of Judges: From 1979 to 1989, the judiciary was run by the Supreme Judicial Council which was composed of the head of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General (both of whom were appointed by the Supreme Leader), and three judges elected by the entire body of judges in the country. The Council had the power to hire and dismiss judges in accordance with the law.

 

The constitutional reforms of 1989 substituted the Supreme Judicial Council with one person, the Head of the Judiciary. The Supreme Leader, whose mandate is not subject to popular vote, appoints the Head of the Judiciary for a 5-year term. The latter has significant power to influence the dismissal of judges. Dismissal cases are referred to three types of disciplinary courts, presided over by judges appointed by the Head of the Judiciary, who has veto power over any decisions made by the relevant courts.

 

Two of these courts, established in 1991 and 2011, are charged with examining the judges’ conduct from a religious and ideological standpoint. The process does not necessarily involve the defendant and the final decision, left to the Head of the Judiciary, is not subject to appeal.

 

Human rights violations

Based on the available information, some or all of the following human rights may have been violated in this case:

  • The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.

  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest one’s religion or belief.

    UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2; Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.

    In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use or threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.

  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

    UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.

  • The right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

    UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 21.

The right to due process

Pre-trial detention rights

  • The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.

    UDHR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a

  • The right to counsel of one’s own choosing or legal aid and the right to meet with one’s attorney in confidence

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.d; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1 , Article 2, Article 5, Article 6, and Article 8.

  • The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.b; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 8

  • The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess to guilt.

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.g.

  • The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    UDHR, Article 5; ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1, and Article 2.

Trial rights

    • The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.

      ICCPR, Article 9.3, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

    • The right to examine, or have examined the witnesses against one and to obtain the attendance and examination of defense witnesses under the same conditions as witnesses for the prosecution.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.e.

  • The right to have the decision rendered in public.

    ICCPR, Article 14.1.

Judgment rights

  • The right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.

    ICCPR, Article 14.5.

  • The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

    ICCPR, Article 6.4.

Capital punishment
  • The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.

  • The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

    ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.

About this Case

A student of information technology, he would later prompt the closing of a notorious detention center. “Mohsen had questions,” his father said, “that cannot be answered through brutality.”

Information about Mr. Mohsen Ruholamini’s death in detention was gathered from the following websites: HRANA (Human Rights Activists News Agency) on July 24, 26, and 27, 2009; the Association of Combatant Clerics on July 24; Khabar Online on July 26; Tabnak on July 29; the Jomhuri Eslami newspaper on July 30; and the Ebtekar and Khorasan newspapers on August 5 and September 1, 2009. Additional information was taken from an interview with an eyewitness who was a cellmate of Mr. Ruholamini in the Kahrizak detention center.

Mr. Mohsen Ruholamini was an information technology student at the School of Engineering of Tehran University, who was arrested in July 2009 and died in custody a few days later. He was the son of Dr. Abdolhossein Ruholamini, former head of the Pasteur Institute of Iran, Secretary General of the Justice and Development Party, and an advisor to Mr. Mohsen Reza’i, a presidential candidate. Dr. Ruholamini described his son as, “Pure, kind, and with no attachment to this world. He… was always in search of the truth with great curiosity. He was not easily convinced, unlike other members of the new generation… He was not satisfied with the cliché responses that we offer our youth” (Jomhuri Eslami, July 30, 2009).

The killing of the son of a prominent official of the Islamic Republic was national news and led to an open discussion among the ruling elite. After reports of violence and torture in the Kahrizak detention center, leading to the death of at least three men, were widely publicized, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamene’i, ordered the closure of the Kahrizak detention center and spoke of Mr. Ruholamini’s death at a gathering of university employees, which Mr. Ruholamini’s father attended (Khorasan, September 1, 2009).

Arrest and detention

Mr. Ruholamini was arrested during a demonstration on July 9, 2009. He was transferred to the Kahrizak detention center where he was beaten and severely tortured. Mohsen’s father explained the arrest and death of his son as follows: “On July 9, Mohsen was arrested by plainclothes individuals and transferred to the headquarters of the Tehran Metropolitan Police Department located on Kargar Street near Enqelab Square, along with other detainees. On the morning of July 10, they were transferred in two buses to Evin Prison or the Kahrizak detention center.”

During an interview with the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, an eye-witness confirmed the information above and described the torture of prisoners in detention as follows:

“[When entering Kahrizak], they searched us, and then we entered the courtyard. They took our names and made us take all our clothes off. We were all naked. They forced us to throw our clothes in a garbage bin. After keeping us naked for 30 minutes in the courtyard, they started beating us. They had thick hoses and batons… It hurt a lot. Around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., they took us to Qaran [Ward] 1. We were able to grab a piece of clothing, anything we could put our hands on, and put it around our waists. There were already people there. Some of them looked like people [who had starved in] Biafra. They were thin and hungry. There were so many of us. The place was [meant for about] 20 people, but we were about 160. So we couldn’t sit down. We had to sleep standing up. Half of us sat, and half of us stood. We were not allowed to go to the toilet. Each of us passed out numerous times. It was very hot. There was a very small air vent, and at night the smell of gasoline came in. There were no windows. We banged on the door to get air, and instead, we had gasoline through the vent… Detainees asked for water, but we only got one or two glasses of water a day… We got a little piece of bread and less than a quarter of a potato, once each day. During the time we were in Kahrizak, they would storm in sometimes at 4:00 a.m. and push us into the courtyard and beat us with the hoses… The third or fourth day [July 13th or 14th], around 12:00 p.m., they took us to the courtyard. They made half of us crawl on our hands and knees around the courtyard while carrying the other prisoners on our backs. We had to carry them in a circle around the courtyard. The ground was so hot, we were burning. After five minutes, I only saw blood on the ground from other people’s knees and hands… We circled the courtyard maybe twenty or twenty five times. If we stopped, they beat us. Everyone had fractured bones and injuries in different parts of their bodies. The environment was so dirty and hot that any injury got infected immediately. Everyone had infections. [The guards] had to use masks because of the smell… In Kahrizak, several people were unconscious. Officials

Mr. Mohsen Ruholamini’s cellmate – who has since left Iran after being released – spoke about the grave condition of Mr. Ruholamini in prison. The cellmate said: “Mohsen Ruholamini was also with us. He was dizzy. He had been severely beaten on the head. He said that he was arrested during the demonstration, but he did not understand why he was there. He was tortured so much that his back was infected and flared up. I could see his back. We were all more or less naked. The skin on his back was infected and broken. Mohsen was arrested on the street. We were all beaten, but Mohsen had been beaten significantly more at the time of his arrest. It looked like he had several broken bones. Mohsen told me who he was. I thought he was teasing me. We were all in the courtyard. He did not know if he should tell them about who he was. I told him that I did not know if he should tell them or not. I do not know if he told them. But sometimes they called him out. Others were also called and beaten. He was among those who were called more often. The last time I saw him was when they took us to Evin. They took all of us because everyone was in bad shape… Mohsen died when we got to Evin. When he got out of the bus, he vomited a lot. The head of the prison sent him back to Kahrizak. He died in the Evin courtyard. We checked. He was very thirsty and we kept asking for water but we did not get any.”

The family of Mr. Ruholamini went to numerous official departments for information about his whereabouts. Officials at Evin Prison told his family that he would be released soon; however, a few days later, they informed the family that they should retrieve their son’s body.

Mr. Mohsen Ruholamini’s father confirmed the death of his son as due to torture.

Trial

There was no trial for Mr. Mohsen Ruholamini. He was never tried in a court of law.

Charges

The charges against Mr. Mohsen Ruholamini are not known. According to an inmate, officials gave detainees forms, which contained the same charges against all detainees. The form also included questions about their jobs, tattoos on their bodies, and travel or intention to travel outside the country.

Evidence of guilt

No specific and incriminating evidence was provided against defendants who were arrested during the protest on July 9, 2009 and the charges against them were the same. According to information available, the same charges were brought against detainees who were arrested for reasons unrelated to the protest on July 9. The investigating judge and police agents beat detainees and forced them to accept the pre-typed charges and to fingerprint the form.

Defense

No trial took place to investigate the charges brought against Mr. Mohsen Ruholamini and he was denied the right to defend himself. Mr. Abdolhossein Ruholamini stated in his son’s defense, “Mohsen did not accept dishonesty… I am certain that he answered any question with honesty. They [state officials] probably could not tolerate his honesty, so they beat him up, and killed him under torture” (HRANA, July 26, 2009). He added that, like many other young men and women, Mohsen had questions that cannot be answered through brutality.

Judgment

No official ruling was issued against Mr. Ruholamini. According to his father, he had been severely beaten and his mouth was broken.

Considering the fact that Mr. Ruholamini’s father was a prominent state figure, authorities allowed a burial to take place. However, they imposed certain limitations and conditions including the prohibition of chanting slogans during the ceremony. Additionally, the family was prohibited from filing any complaint. According to the Tabnak website, Mr. Mohsen Ruholamini’s memorial ceremony took place at Mohsen Reza’i’s house, in the presence of the Deputy Head of the Islamic Republic Parliament, some representatives of the parliament, ex-military commanders, university professors, and scientists, on August 28, 2009. According to HRANA on August 26, 2009, “No family of recent victims could get a permit for a funeral at any mosque.”

The transfer of prisoners to the Kahrizak detention center – during which many prisoners died because of abuse, torture, heat, and poor health conditions – indicated that judicial and security officials essentially condemned Mr. Ruholamini and other detainees without interrogation or trial, and deliberately exposed them to serious danger, including death. Officials’ treatment of detainees at the time of arrival; statements made by judicial and security officials in regard to the Kahrizak detention center; the lack of serious judicial investigation; and the fact that the person in charge of transferring detainees to Kahrizak still holds his judicial position, all confirm the officials’ decision to deal with protesters decisively. According to Mr. Ruholamini’s cellmate, when detainees that were being held in relation to the July 9 demonstration entered the detention center, a Kahrizak official reminded them that

“This place is called Kahrizak. Kahrizak means the end of the world. Here, bestiality will soon become for you a second nature. No one leaves this place alive.”

Mr. Ruholamini’s cellmate emphasized that sending detainees to Kahrizak had not been a result of a mistake: “They didn’t say anything about taking students to Evin Prison. Someone came with a list and read some names. It was a soldier. He called a number of people. A minibus took them to Evin Prison. They didn’t ask whether or not we were students, but some had already mentioned that they were students on the forms that we had filled out. I don’t know how they selected people.”

Officials’ Reactions:

Some officials characterized the transfer of protesters, especially students, to Kahrizak as a mistake and the Islamic Republic’s Leader ultimately ordered the closure of the detention facility. Officials talked on television about “offering sympathy” and paying compensation to those who were sent to Kahrizak, and the Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces encouraged detainees to file complaints against Kahrizak officials. A parliamentary special committee issued a report about this issue. In a letter to the Head of the Parliament on January 16, 2010, Judge Sa’id Mortazavi, the Revolutionary and Public Prosecutor of Tehran at the time, confirmed the transfer of detainees to Kahrizak and rejected any wrongdoing by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Months before these statements, security officials intimidated those who –encouraged by the Armed Forces Judicial Organization – had filed complaints against the prison officials by threatening re-arrest, and sometimes using violence. Security officials succeeded in making most of them withdraw their complaints.

Nevertheless, on August 5, 2009, after widespread deliberation about the crimes committed in Kahrizak, judicial authorities in Iran announced, for the first time,  that several agents from this prison were to be prosecuted. The first session of this trial opened with the plaintiffs’ statements behind closed doors on March 8, 2010. No detailed information is available regarding what happened during trial sessions because they were all behind closed doors and those present at the sessions were ordered not to publicize the proceedings. The last trial session took place on June 7, 2010. On June 30, 2010, the court condemned 11 defendants and acquitted one. According to the ruling, two defendants were condemned to death (qesas) for murdering Mohsen Ruholamini and Mohammad Kamrani. The other nine defendants were condemned, for various charges, to imprisonment, the payment of blood money (diyeh), a fine, temporary discharge from service, and flogging (ILNA, June 30, 2010).

The father of Mr. Mohammad Kamrani, another victim of Kahrizak, was another plaintiff. During an interview with Rooz after the trial, he spoke about testimonies of those who were tortured in Kahrizak. He said that the defendants on trial were only the agents and not those who ordered the crimes: “I personally consider those who manage the country and created such situations as the responsible parties” (Rooz, June 18, 2010).

Background

Election returns from Iran’s June 12th, 2009, presidential election declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected with 62.63 percent of the vote. Following the announcement, citizens disputing these official results demonstrated in the streets. Text messaging services were disrupted starting at 11:00 p.m. on the night before the election and remained unavailable for nearly three weeks, until July 1st. On Election Day, the deputy chief of Iranian police announced a ban on any gathering of presidential candidates’ supporters throughout the country. The same evening, security forces made a “show of strength,” increasing their presence in Tehran’s public squares to “reinforce security at polling stations.” Officials at election headquarters began reporting results soon after midnight, despite a statement from the Minister of the Interior that the first returns would not be announced until after the morning prayer (around 4:00 a.m.).

Many supporters of other presidential candidates came out into the streets on June 13th, once the results were made public, to protest what they believed to be a fraudulent election. Candidates Mir Hossein Musavi, Mehdi Karubi, and Mohsen Reza’i, Ahmadinejad’s competitors in the race, contested the election, alleging many instances of fraud. They filed complaints with the Council of Guardians, the constitutional body charged with vetting candidates before elections take place and approving the results afterwards, requesting an annulment and calling for a new election. Before the Council of Guardians could review their claims, however, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, congratulated Ahmadinejad on his re-election. In the meantime, many people active in Karubi’s and Musavi’s campaigns were arrested.

On June 15th, unprecedented demonstrations filled the streets of central Tehran, in which an estimated three million protestors participated, according to statements attributed to the mayor of Tehran. As the demonstrations were ending, paramilitary forces attacked the marchers, injuring and killing several people. To prevent such news from being broadcast, the Iranian government expelled foreign journalists from the country and banned news agencies from reporting on the events. Over the next three days, protesters took part in peaceful demonstrations in Tehran. The repression entered a new phase on June 19th after Ayatollah Khamenei’s Friday sermon, in which he announced his support for Ahmadinejad and threatened protestors. Amnesty International stated that the speech gave “legitimacy to police brutality.” The next day and thereafter, police and plainclothes paramilitary groups attacked the protesters. Public gatherings of any kind were declared illegal, and police, motorcycle-riding special units wearing black uniforms and helmets, and plainclothes agents brutally enforced this restriction.

Individuals in civilian clothing, commonly referred to as plainclothes forces, are used in the Islamic Republic to disrupt political and trade union activities, student events and gatherings, electoral initiatives, and protests. Armed with sticks and clubs, and sometimes with chains, knives, batons, or firearms, they emerge when the state decides to suppress dissent. These plainclothes forces move about freely, violently beating protesters and arresting them, while the police passively look on or actively cooperate with them.

There is little information on the command structure and organization of such groups, whose members wear ordinary clothing rather than official uniforms and may be affiliated with the ministry of information, influential political groups, or the armed forces. Following the post-election demonstrations in June 2009, pictures of some plainclothes agents were posted on internet websites. Internet users helped to identify some of them and provided evidence that these individuals were affiliated with the Basij paramilitary groups, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, and state intelligence forces. On September 16, 2009, a deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps of the Province of Tehran confirmed the active and decisive role of Basij forces in the repression of the demonstrations, saying, “Basijis, through their presence in recent events, have blinded the eyes of the conspirators, and they should be appreciated… The enemies of Islam wanted to make the air dusty and to exploit the recent events, but thank God, through the enlightenment of the Honorable Leader we were victorious against this conspiracy.” He also emphasized, “The zealous youth of [the] Basij, believers in the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent, are the second and third generations of the Revolution. They have been successful in this stage and victorious on this battlefield.”

When personal property was damaged during the protests, government authorities and state-run radio and television programs accused the demonstrators of vandalism and justified the repression. At the same time, however, footage posted online showed security forces destroying and damaging property on side streets and in uncongested areas away from the protests. Moreover, in a public gathering in Tehran on October 20th, the chief of Iranian police conceded that police had destroyed and damaged property and accepted responsibility for it.

The precise number of citizens injured, killed, or disappeared in the post-election violence is not known. According to various reports, there were hundreds of victims in demonstrations throughout the country. It is said that officials have threatened victims’ family members, demanding their silence and that they refrain from giving interviews. Reports also allege that returning a victim’s body to a family has been made conditional upon their agreement to change the cause of death listed on the coroner’s certificate to that of a heart attack or some other natural cause — thus foregoing the right to file a complaint — as well as the family's agreement not to hold memorial services for the loved one.

According to government statements, more than 4,000 people were arrested throughout Iran in the weeks following June 12th. Many have been held at the Kahrizak Detention Center, where prisoners’ rights and minimum hygiene standards were typically ignored. Numerous reports of violence, including the torture and rape of detainees, have been published. State reports and testimonies confirm that a number of detainees at Kahrizak died in custody due to beatings, difficult and unbearable prison conditions, and torture. 

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