Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Jonali Hadavand Mirzai’


Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Unknown


Date of Killing: February 14, 1995
Location of Killing: Qasr Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder

About this Case

With no evidence to go on, was sentenced to death on the basis of sworn oaths alone

News of the execution of Mr. Jonali Hadavand Mirzai’ was published by Keyhan on February 15, 1995.

Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’ was a native of Qal’ehno village in the jurisdiction of Javadabad, Varamin County, Tehran Province. His case pertains to the murder of another resident of Qal’ehno in the fall of 1989. According to existing information, an individual entered the victim’s house late at night and killed him with a sword inside the anti-insect netting surrounding his bed.

In the course of investigation, Varamin’s county governor and prosecutor sent petitions said to have been prepared by residents to judicial authorities and requested that the sentence be carried out speedily. Despite this, the investigation lasted five years because of a lack of evidence.

Two weeks before Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’’s sentence was carried out, the murder victim’s brother announced that he had been involved in the crime. According to reporting from Keyhan, the brother was arrested and questioned after making these claims. The investigating judge was convinced that the brother’s comments were without merit, however, and that he had only intended to prevent the execution.   

Arrest and detention

The arrest of Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’ followed a complaint filed against him by the wife of the murder victim. Further information regarding his arrest and detention is not available.


No information is available on Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’’s trial.


According to available information, the charge entered against Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’ was “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

The plaintiff in the case (the wife of the murder victim) claimed that she had seen Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’ fleeing from the scene of the crime. She further claimed that he had committed the crime after threatening and quarreling with the murder victim.

Given Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’’s denial of having committed the murder and the lack of evidence against him, Branch 140 of Tehran’s Criminal Court One deferred to “qassameh” to substantiate the charge.


Through all stages of the investigation, Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’ denied committing murder. He stated in court that he was spending the night of the incident at a friend’s house. This friend testified in court: “[Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’] came to my house, ate dinner, and went to sleep. I don’t know what happened after that.”


After investigations concluded, the investigating judge issued an indictment naming Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’ as the murderer and requesting a retaliatory execution sentence (“qesas-e nafs.”) The court then sentenced him to death. Upon Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’’s appeal the case was taken up by four branches of Criminal Court One (145, 146, 147, and 140). Ultimately, Branch 140 of Criminal Court One sentenced him to death by conducting “qassameh.”* Following its confirmation by Branch 127 of the Supreme Court in Qom, the verdict was sent for implementation.     

The sentence was carried out on February 14, 1995 in Qasr Prison. Mr. Hadavand Mirzai’ was hanged in the presence of the prison warden, Judge Askar, medical experts, and family members of the murder victim.


* “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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