Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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



Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: June 18, 2003
Location of Killing: Qasr Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder

About this Case

News of the execution of Mr. Fath’ali was published in the Iran newspaper on June 19, 2003. Additional information regarding his prosecution was taken from  the Iran newspaper of September 12, 2002, and the Ettela’at newspaper of November 4, 1999.

Mr. Fath’aliworked at a slaughterhouse.

Arrest and detention

According to the Ettela’at newspaper, bodies of a woman and her two children, who had been murdered by blows of knife, were recovered at their house on February 3, 1998. This woman’s husband told the police that his brother-in-law had an enmity with them. Following the issuance of a judicial order, Mr. Fath’ali was arrested with a murder charge.


Branch 1607 of the Criminal Court of Tehran tried Mr. Fath’ali on November 3, 1999. (Ettela’at newspaper) No information is available on his trial.


The charge brought against Mr. Fath’ali was announced as “murder.”

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

According to the media reports, the evidence presented against Mr. Fath’ali was the existence of blood marks on his shirt that matched a victim’s blood type, his absence from work for hours when the murder took place, a missing slaughter knife that was always in his house, and testimonies of neighbors who had seen a man hastily escaping the murder scene with a car.


During his interrogation and trial, Mr. Fath’ali claimed innocence and never confessed to the crime. No other information is available on his defense.


The judge considered the case an example of Lowth* cases. Therefore, it was decided that the victim’s family decides the fate of Mr. Fath’ali by going through the Qassameh** ceremony. The family of the children’s mother pardoned him but the children’s father madeoath 50 times and demanded the court to condemn his brother-in-law to death.

The court condemned Mr. Fath’ali to death (two counts) based onQassameh performed by complainant and after Mr. Fath’ali objected to the ruling, the case was referred to Branch 31 of the Supreme Court that confirmed the ruling. Mr. Fath’ali was hanged at the Qasr Prison yard in Tehran on June 18, 2003.


*In the Shari’ law, Lowth is when the judge is suspected that the defendant committed the murder or injury but there is no evidence. Then, the plaintiff (victim’s family) can prove it by going through a Qassameh ceremony which is an oath by the victim’s family.
**“Qassameh” means an oath taken by a group of people. It is one of the ways that a defendant’s guilt or innocence can be proven for both intentional and non-intentional offenses. Per Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, “qassameh” is carried out in instances where a crime has occurred and no convincing evidence or witnesses exist which could prove the defendant’s guilt, and where a judge has doubt about the defendant’s guilt based solely on circumstantial evidence – a circumstance referred to in religious jurisprudence as “lowth.” Where “lowth” obtains, the judge is bound to ask the defendant to produce evidence disproving the charge. If the defendant demonstrates his innocence in this way, he is acquitted. Failing this, the plaintiff may perform “qassameh” in order to prove the defendant’s guilt, or request that the defendant perform “qassameh” to disprove the charges. This procedure, which requires a defendant to prove his innocence, is contrary to the principle of presumption of innocence and violates the defendant’s right to remain silent. The principle of the presumption of innocence - recognized in Iran’s constitution, Code of Criminal Procedure, and international agreements to which Iran is signatory – holds that all persons are to be considered innocent until proven guilty. A defendant should not be made to prove his own innocence. Proving the charges made against the defendant by presenting adequate evidence and witnesses is the duty of the prosecuting authority (in the Iranian context, the public prosecutor or a private plaintiff.) The right to remain silent is among the defendant’s rights of defense, affording him the right to refrain from answering questions regarding the charges entered against him. Such silence may not be treated as an indication or evidence of guilt or innocence.
In order to substantiate a charge of homicide through “qassameh,” an oath is required from 50 male relatives of the plaintiff. For the charge to be dismissed, fifty male relatives of the defendant must swear to his innocence. Should the number of male relatives taking the oath be less than 50, the defendant may repeat the oath himself in order to meet the required number of swears. In homicide cases, it is not possible for a plaintiff to repeat the oath in this way.
It is not necessary for those taking the oath to have witnessed the commission of the crime themselves.
In Hanafi jurisprudence, “qassameh” can only be carried out to disprove charges against a defendant, and a plaintiff may not use it to substantiate a defendant’s guilt. In Shi’a jurisprudence, however, “qassameh” is carried out in the first stage by the plaintiff to prove the charges against the defendant. Only where the plaintiff foregoes “qassameh” and requests that the defendant perform it himself, can the defendant use “qassameh” to see his charges dismissed.

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