‘If the execution goes ahead while the case is under review at Iran’s highest court, it would be an appalling miscarriage of justice’ - Said Boumedouha
A 24-year-old man in Iran is at imminent risk of execution for a crime which took place when he was 16 years old, despite the fact that his case is currently under judicial review, said Amnesty International as it urged the Iranian authorities to halt all plans to implement the sentence.
Hamid Ahmadi was 16 when he was convicted of fatally stabbing a man during a group fight. He was initially sentenced to death in 2009, though later that year the sentence was overturned by Iran’s Supreme Court and sent back for retrial because of doubts over the testimony of key witnesses.
Ahmadi was convicted of “intentional murder” on the basis of the principle of “knowledge of the judge”. This is a provision in Iranian law that allows judges to make their own subjective and possibly arbitrary determination of guilt based on circumstantial rather than conclusive evidence.
During his retrial Hamid retracted a “confession” he had made while in police custody that he had stabbed the victim in his chest. He stated that he had made that statement as officials had threatened to send him back to the notorious Police Investigation Unit (Agahi) if he did not admit to the crime. However, the court rejected this complaint and does not appear to have investigated the allegations of coercion, including the threat of torture, which are widely used in the Iranian police investigation units. Nor did the court raise concerns that a minor was interrogated without having access to a lawyer.
Hamid was sentenced to death in March 2010 by Branch 11 of the Criminal Court of Appeal in Gilan Province, and the sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in November 2010. However, a provision on juvenile sentencing in Iran’s 2013 Penal Code has allowed Ahmadi’s lawyer to submit an application for a judicial review based on his young age at the time of the alleged crime. The Supreme Court has confirmed that an application for a review of his case is currently being processed.
Iran is among a handful of countries that still execute juvenile offenders. Amnesty has received reports of at least 72 executions of child offenders in Iran since 2005, including at least 14 executions of people who were under 18 at the time of the crime in 2014 alone.
Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Said Boumedouha said:
“If the execution goes ahead while the case is under review at Iran’s highest court, it would be an appalling miscarriage of justice.
“The Iranian authorities should halt all plans to carry out this execution. They must allow justice to run its course without resorting to the death penalty.
“Hamid Ahmadi’s death sentence contradicts, once again, Iran’s repeated claims that it does not execute juvenile offenders and displays the authorities’ blatant disregard for one of the clearest prohibitions on the use of the death penalty.
“Instead of sending another young man to the gallows after a flawed judicial process, the Iranian authorities should be launching an independent investigation into the allegation that Hamid Ahmadi was forced to ‘confess’ and incriminate himself.”