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

Hashem Sha'baninejad (Amuri)

About

Age: 32
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: January, 2014
Location of Killing: Ramshir, Khuzestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: War on God; Acting against state's security; Corruption on earth

About this Case

He put a particular emphasis on “awareness” and “vigilance.”  He said, “This is life’s most important element and is constantly abused by those who base their survival on human beings’ ignorance and lack of awareness.”

Information about Mr. Hashem Sha’baninejad Amuri (hereinafter referred to as “Sha’bani”) was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF) with an eye witness, and member of the Al-Hiwar  Organizatio,n and from published accounts about Mr. Sha’bani, including the Justice for Iran organization’s report (Conversation with Death, February-March 2013), Amnesty International’s Bulletin (December 9, 2013), Human Rights Watch (January 24, 2013) the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s Report (January 24, 2013), Mr. Sha’bani’s letter from inside Karun Prison (Padmaz, May 21, 2013), and other news websites.

Mr. Hashem Sha’bani was from Ramshir (Khalafieh), a town located to the south of Ahvaz.  He was 32 years old, married, and had a daughter. In addition to supporting his wife and daughter, he also supported his poverty-stricken family, which included his mother, his sister, and his wounded war veteran father.

Mr. Sha’bani taught Arabic language and literature at high schools in Ramshir, Khuzestan Province, and was simultaneously studying for a Master’s degree in political science at Ahvaz Azad University. His poems were published in local publications, such as Nur, Fajr, and Asr-e Karun. While an [undergraduate] student at Shahid Chamran University, in Ahvaz, he was managing director of the Farsi language student publication Nedaye Bassirat and editor-in-chief of the Arabic language publication Al-Bassirah. At the same time, he was in charge of the political [wing] of the reformist students of the Faculty of Literature and Theology at the same university. Mr. Sha’bani wrote poetry in both Farsi and Arabic. He has published two books of poetry in Arabic entitled, “Al-E’teraf bel-Ofoghiah” (Reorganizing Ofoghi Thought) and “Iqa’e Mazarib oddam,” (The Beat of the Roof Gutters of Blood.)” (Mr. Sha’bani’s letter)

Mr. Sha’bani was also a founder of the Al-Hiwar  Scientific and Cultural Organization (“Hiwar” meaning “Dialogue”) in Arabic, which was inspired by former President Khatami’s slogan “Dialogue among Civilizations,”) which had obtained temporary authorization to operate from the offices of the National Organization for Youth* in 2001-2002. Al-Hiwar  held cultural programs in Arabic, as well as cultural and educational classes for the young people of [the town of] Ramshir. It was also active in promoting Arabic language and culture, as well as women’s rights. The activities of the young members of the organization were very well-received by the people of Ramshir. As a result, in the second City Council elections in 2002-2003, all five candidates supported by Al-Hiwar  were elected. (ABF’s interview)

Subsequent to street demonstrations by Iranian Arabs residing in Khuzestan [Province] in 2005-2006, the Al-Hiwar  Organization was declared illegal. Mr. Sha’bani and other members, however, continued their activities by establishing a library and holding study [groups and] meetings at their homes. Continuing these cultural activities led to the members being summoned and interrogated by the town’s security apparatus. Between 2006 and 2009, Mr. Sha’bani and the other members of Al-Hiwar  were summoned and interrogated numerous times by the Ministry of Information. (Justice for Iran) The security people accused them of promoting ethnic thinking and demanded an end to their meetings and study sessions. 

As written in his letter from jail, during the time he was a graduate student of political science at Khuzestan’s Science and Research University, Mr. Sha’bani had been active in various internet websites under the pseudonym, “Abol-Ala Al-Ofoghi,” and had been publishing his writings under the title, “Al-Ahwaz Popular Resistance and Freedom [Movement].” He was a spokesperson for “the Movement,” who also introduced himself under another false name, “Abi-Walid Al-Ahwazi.” 

A Summary of the Khuzestan Protests 

Subsequent to the publication of a letter dated July 24, 1998, ascribed to then-President Khatami’s Chief of Staff, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, demonstrations protesting the letter broke out on Friday, April 15, 2005, first in [the city of] Ahvaz, and then in other cities, such as Mahshahr and Hamidideh, and continued for several days. The letter emphasized the modification of Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arab population through promotion and encouragement of the migration of non-native populations to the province, [thus] reducing Khuzestan’s Arab population to one third of the total population of the province. Although the government’s spokesperson officially denied [the existence of] this letter on Saturday, April 16, the demonstrations that had been called for by the “Coordination Committee for Popular Protests in Ahvaz” continued extensively in the coming days. In calling for demonstrations, [the organizers] highlighted various factors, including “the central government’s policies in expropriating Arab farmers’ lands for various projects such as sugar cane development,” and “marginalization of, as well as profound discontent among, Khuzestan’s Arab [population], as a result of the regime’s efforts to obliterate Arab identity.” 

The demonstrations that had started in Shelangabad (Da’ereh), one of [the city of] Ahvaz’s poor neighborhoods, quickly spread to the center of Ahvaz and to the cities of Mahshahr and Hamidieh. Citing Ahvaz News (a regional news organization) and eyewitnesses at the scene, the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization’s bulletin, dated April 15, 2005, stated, “Around three thousand Arab people of Ahvaz have gathered together and started extensive but peaceful demonstrations in Kordovani Street and Square, along with thousands of others in neighborhoods such as Shelangabad, Malashieh, Ameri, and Kut Abdollah, among others. Security forces are attacking the demonstrators, first with tear gas, and are subsequently firing on them in Da’ereh and Malashieh neighborhoods.” The degree of violence resorted to by security and police forces in quashing the demonstrations was such that it led to the death of a number of protestors. Dozens more were injured. Subsequent to these deaths, the intensity and magnitude of the protests increased. In a number of towns, demonstrators proceeded to cut off roads and to occupy government buildings and police posts. These protests continued for ten days in many Arab regions of Khuzestan. Protestors demanded a government apology to the region’s Arabs. Official government sources, quoting the Islamic Republic’s Defense Minister, announced the death toll as standing at three or four. (ISNA, April 19, 2005) Civil society activists, however, declared the number of people killed during these events to be between 50 and 60. Amnesty International stated the number as 29; Human Rights Watch, 50; and the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization, 160. Dozens of others were injured. The Ahvaz General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest and arraignment of 447 individuals. (IRNA, April 25, 2005) Local sources, however, announced the number as being greater than 1200. A number of intellectuals and ethnic leaders were among those arrested. Although the demonstrations subsided after ten days, widespread arrests, multiple bombings, successive executions, and popular protests continued on various occasions, including the anniversary of the events. 

Arrest and Detention 

Mr. Hashem Sha’bani was arrested on February 13, 2011, along with a number of other members of the Al-Hiwar  Organization from the cities of Ramshir and Ahvaz. He was arrested in the city of Ramshir while on his way home from the Sheikh Ansari High School. He was then transferred to one of the Ministry of Information’s secret detention centers near the Abazar Hospital of Ahvaz. Two of the other members of the organization, who had been detained and interrogated along with their friends at the Ahvaz Ministry of Information detention center, spoke of being tortured by various methods, including flogging with cables or plastic “green pipes,” being hung from the ceiling, sleep deprivation, psychological pressure, and insults, during their detention. (Justice for Iran; ABF’s interview )

In an interview with the Boroumand Foundation, one Al-Hiwar  member stated that he had repeatedly heard Hashem Sha’bani crying and praying in his cell, while reading the Koran. Mr. Sha’bani spent 7 months in solitary confinement at the detention center of the Ministry of Information, undergoing severe physical and mental torture. He was transferred to Karun Prison only after he had been forced, under tremendous pressure, to confess on television (confession aired on Press TV in the winter of 2012). During the time he was at the detention center, his family only visited him once, for 15 minutes, four months after his arrest. At his trial, Mr. Sha’bani talked about the torture he had undergone during his detention at the Ministry of Information, including having boiling water poured on his body, and stated that he had attempted to commit suicide twice, because of all the pressure. (ABF’s interview)

Mr. Sha’bani, along with Hadi Rashedi, was transferred on two occasions by security agents from Karun Prison [back] to the Ministry of Information detention center. The first time was in July-August 2012, for a period of 10 days, and the second time, in August-September 2013, for several weeks. He was tortured again on each occasion, as reported by Arab activists. (HRANA, September 7, 2013) Prior to the second transfer, Mr. Sha’bani wrote a letter from inside Karun Prison in May-June 2013 and alluded to being under torture and pressure for confession while in detention at the Ministry of Information. He asked for the support of the international community.

Trial 

The first court session to examine the charges against Mr. Hashem Sha’bani and twelve of the other young members of the Al-Hiwar  Organization was conducted on May 21, 2012, at the Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 2. Based on Mr. Sha’bani’s letter, there were three closed sessions examining the charges brought against 13 members of the organization. Based on information available to the Boroumand Foundation, the accused or their attorneys were served with court summonses only three days prior to the trial date and in an unusual fashion:  by the Public Information Office of the Ministry of Information. 

According to the eyewitness interviewed by ABF, the first session was the trial for Mr. Sha’bani and Mr. Hadi Rashedi. They proceeded to defend their [respective] cases, providing great detail and transparency. Things changed dramatically, however, during the second session: the courtroom was full of masked and armed members of security and police forces, and the families of the accused were not allowed entry into the courtroom. The new prosecutor, a cleric, asked that the court to be more strict. Based on published information, Mr. Sha’bani’s family, who had been able to see him before the trial, testified that he had been under tremendous torture while in detention and was in grave physical condition. (Justice for Iran, May 21, 2012) Mr. Sha’bani and other defendants who had been transferred from the prison, were in handcuffs and shackles during the entire course of the trial and were not allowed to have them taken off, in spite of their and their attorneys’ protests. (ABF’s interview) 

Charges 

Based on reports by Arab activists and human rights institutions, and according to Mr. Sha’bani’s family and attorneys, the charges against Mr. Sha’bani were:  “Moharebeh” (“waging war against God), “Efsad fel Arz” (“spreading corruption on Earth”), “spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” and “acting against the country’s national security.” 

Evidence of Guilt 

The judge considered the defendant’s [incriminating] confession  -  which had been obtained under torture -  to be evidence of the crime(s). In November-December 2011, prior to the trial, the English language government-run television station, Press TV, broadcast a program entitled “Iran e Emrooz” (“Today’s Iran”), in which Mr. Sha’bani was introduced by the announcer as a member of the terrorist group “Al-Moghavemat al-Sho’aibieh.” On camera, Mr. Sha’bani made certain statements regarding “Arab terrorists” and political groups’ policies and contacts with the outside [i.e., other states]. 

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. In the case of political detainees, these confessions are, at times, televised. State television broadcasts confessions during which prisoners plead guilty to vague and false charges, repent and renounce their political beliefs, and/or implicate others. Human rights organizations have also pointed to the pattern of retracted confessions by those prisoners who are freed.

Defense

Mr, Sha’bani could not afford to hire an attorney, and his lawyer had been appointed by the court. Based on information received by the Boroumand Foundation, the defendants’ attorneys had limited access to the content of the cases against their clients, as well as to their clients themselves. This access was not, however, free and without interference. 

In an interview with the Foundation, an eyewitness recounted that, at the trial session of May 21, 2012, Mr. Sha’bani had retracted all of his previous confessions and had expressly stated that those confessions had been dictated by security agents, that they were lies, and that he had been coerced into confessing under extreme mental [and emotional] duress and severe physical torture.

During the first court session, Mr. Sha’bani defended his legal activities, providing great detail and transparency. He stated that the treatment he had received was not because of his activities but rather due to his interrogators’ fear of his ideas and beliefs.

The transcript of Mr. Sha’bani’s defense is not available. In the letter written from jail in May-June 2013, however, he addressed “all those who respect humanity” and asked for a fair and impartial trial. He emphasized that security forces had extracted false confessions from him under  torture. He states in his letter, “All my contacts and correspondence have been carried out without coordinating with real or legal persons. I have tried to inform the international community of the criminal actions of Iranian governmental organs against Ahvazi Arab citizens, including cruel and summary executions. Through those same correspondences, I wished to defend the legitimate right of all peoples on this planet to life, to civil rights, and to liberty. In spite of all the injustices [perpetrated against us] I never sought to carry arms and [to engage in an] armed struggle. In the face of these ugly crimes, I have carried no arms but the pen.

“I was arrested by Iran’s intelligence agents on February 11, 2011, when I was coming home from Sheikh Ansari High School in the town of Khalafieh.” (In the original letter, this date of February 11, 2011 is based on the Christian calendar and is probably not accurate, The date of Mr. Sha’bani’s arrest was February 13). “I was a teacher at several high schools in Khalafieh at the time. The first charge leveled against me was for ‘establishing a “popular resistance” movement.’ As I said before, this was nothing but a [heading and] a title under which I was trying to express my feelings about the cruelty that is perpetrated against the people. The intelligence [agents] were not convinced, however, and, subjecting me to the worst psychological and physical torture imaginable, they coerced me to confess to things I had not done and to confess as they wished. They wanted me to name my friends as members of the (hypothetical) movement.

“After spending five months in the Ministry of Information’s secret solitary confinement, I succumbed to their wishes and did everything they asked me to, uttering the words that were dictated to me. Two months after the false confession, I was transferred to Karun Prison … . At the first trial, which was conducted on May 21, 2012, I told the truth to the judge, a truth that Iran’s information apparatus wanted to bury. I told the judge that the movement and the organization you claim to have discovered consists of only one person, and that person is me, Hashem Sha’bani. I emphasized to the judge that I had implicated others at the behest of the security forces and that I had been coerced to do so under mental and psychological duress and under [physical] torture.”

After learning of his death sentence, he wrote a letter from jail in his own defense:  “I must stress the fact that under no circumstances did I ever engage in armed action. I do not believe in violence, so long as there are appropriate and peaceful means at our disposal, in order to realize our goals.”

Mr. Sha’bani’s reference to his defense in court and the retraction of the confessions obtained under duress have been confirmed in the text of the Supreme Court’s final order (January 2013). 

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Hashem Sha’baninejad’s Legal Proceedings

Although there is no comprehensive, detailed information regarding the late Hashem Sha’baninejad’s case, the little information that does exist clearly indicates that in the process of arrest, adjudication, and issuing of a death sentence, there were serious breaches of law as well as a   disregard for the principles of due process. These breaches are so severe that they undermine any determinations Mr. Sha’baninejad’s innocence or guilt and to show that the death sentence was issued without regard for due process. It seems that judicial authorities have distanced themselves from the principles of law and justice, and sentenced the late Mr. Sha’baninejad to death for political reasons. Detailed analysis of the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s case and sentence requires access to his file; however, a number of serious breaches of law can be ascertained from publicly existing information. Below, we consider the more important breaches of law and justice in his case.

1. The most important and fundamental defect in the decision is that it was issued without any legal basis. Based on information published by the Boroumand Foundation in this regard, the issuance of the death sentence was based on confessions Mr. Sha’baninejad made in the course of interrogations conducted by agents of the security apparatus and the Prosecutor’s Office. The late Mr. Sha’baninejad retracted his confession at trial in the Revolutionary Court and clearly and expressly stated that they were obtained under duress and torture. The retraction has been incorporated into the Supreme Court Branch Thirty Two’s decision, which states in part: “At trial, all the defendants denied the charges brought against them and further stated that their confessions to law enforcement [police, and/or security] agents were obtained as a result of torture and psychological and mental pressure; confessions to the investigating judge were obtained under duress and by threats and intimidation, in [and due to] the presence of police agents…” In spite of the deceased’s and other defendants’ statements, the court simply ignored this. Pursuant to Iranian law, this in itself can be proof of the illegality of the court’s decision in many respects:

  • Pursuant to Iranian law, inflicting torture on and placing a defendant under duress is illegal and considered a crime. Any admissions and/or confessions obtained under such circumstances are illegal. Principle 38 of the Iranian Constitution, as well as other Iranian laws have so stated clearly and expressly [i] and have gone so far as to criminalize the extraction of confession through torture, and to consider those who carry out such acts as criminals.[ii] Therefore, the court’s reliance on a confession obtained under duress and torture is completely against prevailing laws. The court should have investigated the matter first, and then relied on the confession.
  • Pursuant to existing Iranian laws, including the Islamic Penal Code and the General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure, admissions and confessions are valid and legal only if made before the judge rendering the decision in the particular case, especially if the crime is a serious one.[iii] In other words, although confessing to someone other than the judge can be considered as evidence, if such a confession is to become the basis for the judge’s decision, the latter must personally hear the confession. Confession before an investigating judge or law enforcement officials, therefore, cannot constitute the basis for the judge’s decision. In the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s case, it appears from the evidence that his confessions before the investigating judge and at the Information Administration have been the basis for the Revolutionary Court’s decision. This is also evident from the Supreme Court’s decision, portions of which have been published. Stating that the defendants claim their confessions were obtained under torture, Supreme Court Branch Thirty Two further continues: “In spite of this claim, however, first, the defendants and their attorneys have not provided any evidence proving the same…” Closer scrutiny of this sentence shows that the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s admission and confession must, in fact, have been the basis for the Revolutionary Court’s decision, triggering the defendants and their attorneys’ objection. Reasoning that the claim of torture has not been proven, the Supreme Court Branch has attempted to give the defendants’ confessions legal validity, whereas it has not considered, consciously or mistakenly, [the fact that] the illegality of the decision stems from such confessions not having been made before the adjudicating judge, and not from the lack of evidence of torture. The law considers valid only those confessions made before the adjudicating judge, whether it was obtained under torture or not, especially where serious crimes are concerned. Therefore, even assuming that no torture had taken place, the late Mr. Sha’baninejad and other defendants should have been questioned anew. In summary, based on the Supreme Court decision and other available information, not only did the late Mr. Sha’baninejad not make a confession before the judge, but he denied the charges; the Revolutionary Court and the Supreme Court could not, therefore, rely on a confession that had not been made.
  • Given the fact that the late Mr. Sha’baninejad was tried and executed for the crimes of Moharebeh and Efsad fel-Arz, it bears mentioning that admission and confession to serious crimes have certain specificities to which the Revolutionary Court has paid no attention. Pursuant to the dictates of Shari’a and the Islamic Penal Code, in the event that a person confesses to a crime which carries the death penalty, and subsequently retracts the confession for any reason, the sentence of death shall be stayed.[iv] Therefore, since the late Mr. Sha’baninejad was tried for the crime of Moharebeh, which carries a death sentence, and the court relied on his confession as the basis of the conviction, which he subsequently retracted and denied the same in court, the court could not have sentenced him to death. Denial of the charges and retraction of the confession constituted, therefore, sufficient grounds for the court to not convict him of the crime of Moharebeh.
  • The portion of the Supreme Court decision quoted above stated that the defendants and their attorneys had not been able to prove torture. It must be added to what has already been stated in this regard, that, pursuant to Islamic law and an article of the new Islamic Penal Code - which had taken effect at the time of the implementation of the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s sentence and could have applied in his case - in crimes which carry Hadd punishments, if a defendant asserts that his confession was obtained through torture and duress, such assertion shall be taken at face value without further need to present evidence to that effect, and the confession shall be deemed invalid. Regardless of the points above, , which unequivocally proves the invalidity of the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s confession, the judicial system should have abided by this law.[v]

2. Given the facts above, and the fact that the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s admission and confession could not have been used as the basis for the sentence of death, it is necessary to consider the other evidence in the case. There is no eye-witness testimony or any other in the case indicating that he and his friends had committed the crime of Moharebeh and had conducted armed activities. Therefore, the judge could not have issued a sentence based on his own personal knowledge [of the facts], since such knowledge must be based on certainty and existing evidence. It is possible that the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s file with the Information Ministry might have contained reports of the activities ascribed to him, even activities of an armed nature. Such reports must, however, be documented, and the evidence of any claims must be presented to the judge so that he or she can be certain [of the accuracy of those claims.] These reports are valid only if reliable [and accurate]. In the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s case, however, it appears the reports were based solely on confessions obtained from him under torture.

3. The late Hashem Sha’baninejad was tried and sentenced to death for Moharebeh and Efsad fel-Arz. Although there are no details of why these charges were brought against him, it can be concluded based on available information that he was arrested and sentenced to death because of his cultural activities within the framework of a cultural institution, and for his protests of the Iranian regime’s discriminatory ethnic policies regarding the region’s Arabs. According to Iranian laws, the crime of Moharabeh requires an individual or group of individuals to take up arms against the regime and/or conduct armed activities in order to jeopardize [people’s safety and] security. In other words, armed action is the main component of the crime of Moharebeh. However, the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s activities were peaceful. He had conducted Arabic language instruction classes and had participated in demonstrations protesting the Iranian regime’s policies with regard to Arabs. These activities were not illegal for several reasons. First, the institute founded by Mr. Sha’baninejad had operated with a government-issued permit. Second, pursuant to the Iranian Constitution and other laws, cultural activities are not criminal, even if they are contrary to government policies. Further, organizing and participating in demonstrations are legal and considered part of citizens’ rights provided they are not armed and not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.[vi] Although Principle 27 of the Constitution regarding freedom of assembly is somewhat vague, it seems that by “fundamental principles of Islam” it is meant the basic principles of the religion such as [belief in] a single God [Allah] and [the Prophet Mohammad as] his messenger. Furthermore, not only is the instruction of a mother tongue not a crime, but pursuant to Principle 15 of the Constitution, its is allowed in schools and is considered a part of citizens’ rights. A citizens’ right enumerated in the Constitution cannot be considered a crime. However, judicial and security officials found Mr. Sha’baninejad’s and his friends’ cultural activities to be against the law and a crime. The application of the crime of Mohharebeh to Mr. Sha’baninejad directly contradicts the facts of his case and fluies in the face of the rule of law. It has been reported in the media that there were other charges in the case. For instance, it is reported that Mr. Sha’baninejad was charged with acting against national security, but there is no such crime in the laws of Iran, and an individual cannotbe charged and tried for such a thing.4. Based on available information, the manner in which the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s trial was conducted, as well as the way in which his sentence was carried out, run against the principles of due process. For example, trial sessions were closed. Although in certain cases a judge can declare a trial closed (such as situations where a public trial can jeopardize security), the standard is to conduct trials in public. In Mr. Sha’baninejad’s case is that, a closed trial made no logical sense when his confession, which was obtained under torture, had already been broadcast on state television. Nor does it appear that a public trial would have jeopardized security. A closed trial and a ban on the publication of news related to his case makes it clear that the judicial authorities intended to carry out and continue their illegal conduct in secret and under a complete news blackout. The fact that the authorities did not disclose the date and time of his execution, even to his attorneys, who should have been notified by law, further illustrates the secrecy of their actions. Worse yet, even his burial place was kept a secret and not disclosed to his family.Security agents even prevented his family from consucting mourning rituals. All of this is inhumane and contrary to the principles of human rights and dignity.5. Based on published information, the late Mr. Sha’baninejad and his friends were deprived of legal counsel for months after their arrest, whereas, pursuant to Iranian laws, everyone is entitled to an attorney as soon as he/she is arrested. Although Iranian law limits an attorney’s right to intervene in the preliminary investigatory stage, the accused can, nonetheless, retain a lawyer, who is allowed by law to be present at that stage.6. Numerous other breaches of the late Mr. Sha’baninejad’s and his friends’ rights have been reported. For instance, even though they were allowed by law to have witnesses testify on their behalf regarding the peaceful nature of their activities - as well as about other matters - in order to prove their innocence, the judge ignored Mr. Sha’baninejad’s request to do so. Mr. Sha’baninejad and his friends did not have sufficient time to prepare a defense and get ready for trial. They had been tortured in detention and did not have access to medical treatment of the resulting injuries. The late Mr. Sha’baninejad and his friends had been kept in solitary confinement for extended periods. The rules of interrogation were not observed and they were repeatedly insulted and belittled. Their families were not able to obtain any information about the charges against them and the conditions in which they were being kept. All of these facts violate the principles of fair trial contained in Iranian laws and international instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.

 Decision

On July 7, 2012, the Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 2, sentenced Mr. Sha’bani and four other defendants in the case, to death by hanging. The transcript of the decision is not available. On January 9, 2013, however, it was upheld verbatim by the Supreme Court, Branch 32, presided over by three judges. The decision was communicated to the defendants. A passage from the final decision issued by the Supreme Court reads, “All of the defendants denied the charges against them at trial and declared their confessions before [the interrogators] to have been [obtained] as a result of torture as well as physical and psychological pressure. Further, they stated that their confessions before the investigating judge had been given under threats and through coercion by and in the presence of [law] enforcement agents. In spite of this assertion … the defendants and their counsel have not submitted any evidence to prove said claim … .” (Justice for Iran organization) 

In protest of the upholding of the death sentence by the Supreme Court, Mr. Sha’bani and four of the other individuals sentenced to death in this case went on an 18-day hunger strike in Karun Prison, beginning March 2, 2013. In his letter of May-June 2013, from Karun Prison, Mr. Sha’bani stated, “After three trial sessions, and after I had provided explanations of the subject matters raised in the case with the utmost transparency, a sentence of death was pronounced for me and four of my friends, which was amazing and astounding. Another friend, Rahman Asakareh, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in exile. This is an arbitrary and unjust sentence.” (Padmaz, May 21, 2013)  He further stated, “This letter is addressed to all human rights activists and institutions and is a request for immediate assistance. Our most important request is another trial, a fair and impartial one. I ask you to make all possible efforts so that this can be achieved.” 

Iranian and international organizations and institutions, as well as a large number of political and international figures, protested the issuance of a death sentence for the defendants in this case, including Mr. Sha’bani, based on the fact that the confessions had been obtained under duress. The British Foreign Office, the British Parliament, the Foreign Ministries of Germany and Norway, the U.S. State Department, the European Parliament, the Special Rapporteur on Iran, Mr. Ahmad Shahid, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, all condemned these individuals’ death sentences. The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation and twelve other human rights institutions also asked for the revocation of the death sentence. In December 2013, three members of the European Parliament asked Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to take immediate action [on behalf of and in order to influence] the fate of Hashem Sha’bani and Hadi Rashedi. On December 9, 2013, Amnesty International warned once again of the danger of these two Arab activists’ executions.

The exact date of Mr. Sha’bani’s execution is not clear. On December 7, 2013, security agents transferred Mr. Sha’bani and Hadi Rashedi from Karun Prison to an unknown location. Finally, on January 29, 2014, after 53 days of complete silence, agents of the Ministry of Information informed Mr. Sha’bani’s family that he had been executed three or four days earlier. According to their attorney, these prisoners’ request for a new trial had been submitted to judicial authorities and was being examined. No decision had yet been made in this regard. (HRANA, December 30, 2013)  His family was not told of the precise date and time when the sentence was carried out, nor where he had been buried. The authorities refused to surrender the bodies to their families and warned them against holding mourning rituals in mosques or other public places, allowing them only a limited mourning in their homes for 24 hours.

                       

* Sazman Melli Javanan (“The Youth Organization”) was established by the Khatami government in 1378 (1999). Its goals included the formation and spreading of NGOs and civil organizations for youth and the licensing and supervising of youth organizations, which were built by the citizens. When Sazman Tarbiat Badani (“The Organization of Physical Education”) merged with Sazman Melli Javanan in the year 1389 (2010), the new organization was named the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

[i] Principle 38 of the Islamic republic of Iran’s Constitution provides: “All forms of torture for the purpose of extracting a confession or acquiring information are forbidden. Compulsion of individuals to testify, confess, or take an oath is not permissible; and any testimony, confession, or oath obtained under duress is devoid of value and credence. Violation of this article is liable to punishment in accordance with the law.”

Similarly, Article 9 of the Law on Respect for Legitimate Freedoms and Protection of Citizens’ Rights of 2004 provides: “All forms of torture of an accused for the purpose of extracting a confession or forcing him/her to do other acts are forbidden and any such confessions shall have no religious and/or legal validity.” Islamic Penal Code of 2013, Article 169 provides: “Any confession obtained under duress, threat of force, torture and/or physical or psychological persecution, shall be devoid of value and credence, and the court is obligated to conduct a de novo investigation of the accused.”

[ii]  Islamic Penal Code (Ta’zirat Section), Article 578 provides: “Any judicial or non-judicial employee or agent of the government who subjects an accused to bodily harm in order to extract a confession, shall, in addition to Qesas or payment of Dieh, be sentenced to six months to three years imprisonment. In the event that a person has issued an order to that effect, only such person shall be sentenced to the aforementioned prison term. In the event that the accused dies due to the inflicted harm, the agent shall incur the punishment due a murderer, and the principal the punishment for murder.”

[iii]  General and Revolutionary Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure, Article 59, Note 1, provides: “In cases where the defendant’s confession, a witness’ testimony and/or testimony to a witness’ testimony constitute the basis for the court’s decision, the judge making the decision in the case must personally hear [such confession and/or testimony].” Further, the Islamic Penal Code, Article 218, Note 2, provides: “A confession is valid from a Shari’a standpoint only if it is made at trial before the judge.”

[iv] Islamic Penal Code Article 173 provides: “Denial after confession does not prevent punishment from being implemented except where the confession concerns a crime the punishment for which is stoning or the Hadd punishment reserved for murder, in which case the punishment shall be stopped at whatever phase it is in, even at the implementation stage, and, instead, in cases of adultery and sodomy, one hundred lashes, and in all other cases, fifth degree imprisonment shall be meted out.”

[v] Islamic Penal Code Article 218 provides: “In crimes requiring Hadd punishments, when the defendant claims lack of knowledge or intent or one of the bars to criminal responsibility at the time of the commission of the crime, in the event that there is the possibility of truthfulness in what he/she says, and if he/she claims that the confession was extracted through threat and intimidation or torture, such a claim shall be accepted [on its face and] without any need for evidence and oath.”

[vi] Principle 27 of the Iranian Constitution provides” Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”

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