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Iran: Authorities must drop death penalty and false charges facing tortured protesters

The three protesters have been brutalised and tortured

They were accused of inciting arson or vandalism by dancing, clapping, chanting or throwing headscarves into bonfires

The three men live under the shadow of execution while those responsible their sexual abuse and other forms of torture enjoy absolute impunity’ – Diana Eltahawy

The Iranian authorities must immediately quash the convictions and death sentences of three young protesters who were subjected to gruesome torture including floggings, electric shocks, being hung upside down and death threats at gunpoint, Amnesty International said today.

The organisation learned that Revolutionary Guards agents raped one and sexually tortured another by placing ice on his testicles for two days.

Arshia Takdastan,18, Mehdi Mohammadifard,19, and Javad Rouhi, 31, each received two death sentences in December 2022 for “enmity against God” (moharebeh) and “corruption on earth” (efsad-e fel arz).

The court stated the young men “incited…widespread” arson or vandalism by dancing, clapping, chanting or throwing headscarves into bonfires during protests in Noshahr, in northern Manzandaran province on 21 September 2022. The prosecution provided no evidence of Javad Rouhi or Arshia Takdastan’s involvement in such acts.

Javad Rouhi received a third death sentence for “apostasy” based on his “confessions” under torture that he burned a copy of the Quran during protests. The men’s appeal is before the Supreme Court.

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“The fact that Arshia Takdastan, Mehdi Mohammadifard and Javad Rouhi and their anguished relatives live under the shadow of execution while Revolutionary Guard agents and prosecution officials reasonably suspected of responsibility or complicity in their sexual abuse and other forms of torture enjoy absolute impunity highlights the sheer cruelty and inhumanity of Iran’s judicial system.

“The Iranian authorities must immediately quash the convictions and death sentences of these young men and drop all charges related to their peaceful participation in protests. They must also order a prompt, transparent and impartial investigation to bring all those reasonably suspected of responsibility for their torture to justice in fair trials.

“It is abhorrent that while the majority of the world’s states have consigned the death penalty to history, the Iranian authorities are increasingly imposing it for offences such as arson or vandalism, in gross violation of international law.

“We urge the international community to take all necessary measures to pressure the Iranian authorities to end their violation of the right to life. We further urge all states to exercise universal jurisdiction over all Iranian officials reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law and other grave violations of human rights.”

Weeks of harrowing torture

Javad Rouhi was arrested on 22 September 2022 and held for more than 40 days in solitary confinement at Shahid Kazemi, a Revolutionary Guard detention centre. According to information obtained by Amnesty, he was subjected to severe beatings and floggings - including on the soles of his feet - while tied to a pole, shocked with stun guns, exposed to freezing temperatures, and sexually assaulted by having ice put on his testicles.  

Revolutionary Guard agents repeatedly pointed a gun at his head and threatened to shoot him if he did not “confess”. As a result of this torture, Javad Rouhi suffered numerous injuries including urinary incontinence, digestive complications and mobility and speech impairment. He continues to experience severe pain in his back and hips and numbness in his right leg, which require specialist medical care unavailable in prison.

According to informed sources, during Mehdi Mohammadifard’s arrest on 2 October 2022, Revolutionary Guards severely beat and pushed him to the ground breaking his nose. Amnesty has learned that following his arrest, he was held for a week in solitary confinement in a cell infested with mice and cockroaches, and during this period, he was severely beaten, hung upside down, and raped, leading to anal injuries and rectal bleeding, which required hospitalisation.

Arshia Takdastan was arrested on 24 September 2022 and held in solitary confinement at the Shahid Kazemi detention centre for 28 days. According to Amnesty’s research, he was subjected to beatings and death threats, including having a gun pointed at his head if he did not “ ‘confess’ in front of a video camera”. Interrogators also threatened to detain and torture his father.

Gross violation of right to fair trial

All three men were denied access to a lawyer during the investigation and to a lawyer of their choice at their trial, which consisted of a single hearing lasting under an hour for each.

The court relied solely on their “confessions”, obtained under torture, which in Javad Rouhi’s case, was that he forcibly entered a traffic police booth and threw items from it. In Arshia Takdastan’s case that he threw stones and a glass bottle at a police car and blocked a road.

The court also cited Javad Rouhi’s “confession” that he warned other protesters against entering the governor’s office claiming that proved his “leadership” role. Javad Rouhi maintained in court that his participation in the protests was peaceful.

The prosecution similarly cited Mehdi Mohammadifard for supposed “confessions” that he set fire to state buildings and that a video clip purportedly showed him throwing Molotov cocktails into the same traffic police booth. In court his lawyer said the clip did not prove he provoked or participated in widespread arson and that his “confessions” were obtained under coercion.

Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception; the death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.


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