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Iran: sham capital trials being held against at least 21 people - new research

Protests have been ongoing since September © Private

More than 15,000 reportedly arrested in protest crackdown, with the judiciary announcing 1,024 indictments in Iran province alone

Parliamentarians demand ‘no leniency’, and head of judiciary urges speedy trials and punishments

‘The Iranian authorities must immediately quash all death sentences’ - Diana Eltahawy 

The Iranian authorities are seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran since September, and to deter others from joining the movement, Amnesty International said today. 

Since 13 November, the authorities have announced, in separate statements, that Revolutionary Courts in Tehran have sentenced five unnamed individuals to death for “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth” over what they called acts of arson, destruction of property and fatal assault against a member of the security forces during protests in Tehran province. 

Since 29 October, state media have regularly reported on the trial of nine men on protest-related charges carrying the death penalty. It is unclear whether the five unnamed people sentenced to death are among these nine men. At least 12 other people, including a woman, are also facing capital charges in connection with the protests. 

Amnesty has issued detailed analysis on the cases of the 21 people at risk (more details below), highlighting the deeply flawed nature of Revolutionary Court proceedings amid the authorities’ shocking calls for speedy trials and public executions.

Given the thousands of people arrested and the number of indictments already issued, Amnesty fears that many others are at risk of facing the death penalty. Amnesty is urging all governments with embassies in Iran to immediately send high-level observers to ongoing trials where defendants are at risk of being sentenced to death. The Iranian authorities have said such trials will be public.

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

“The Iranian authorities must immediately quash all death sentences, refrain from seeking the imposition of the death penalty and drop all charges against those arrested in connection with their peaceful participation in protests.

“Two months into the popular uprising and three years on from the November 2019 protests, the crisis of impunity prevailing in Iran is enabling the Iranian authorities to not only continue carrying out mass killings but also to escalate the use of the death penalty as a tool of political repression.

“Member states of the UN Human Rights Council holding a special session on Iran next week must urgently establish an investigative and accountability mechanism to address this all-out-assault on the right to life and other human rights.”

Twenty-one at risk of death penalty

The cases of the 21 people at risk of the death penalty are at different stages and are taking place before various courts. 

Six men charged with “enmity against God” or “corruption on earth” have been referred to a Revolutionary Court in Tehran for a group trial. Their names are Mohammad Ghobadlou, Saman Seydi (Yasin), Saeed Shirazi, Mohammad Boroughani, Abolfazl Mehri Hossein Hajilou and Mohsen Rezazadeh Gharagholou. Three other men - Sahand Nourmohammad-Zadeh, Mahan Sedarat Madani and Manouchehr Mehman-Navaz - are facing separate trials before Revolutionary Courts in Tehran for alleged criminal conduct amounting to “enmity against God”. In eight of these cases, the charges carrying the death penalty involve no accusations of intentional killing and primarily stem from acts described as vandalism, destruction of public and/or private property, arson and disturbing public order.

Although the authorities have not disclosed the identities of the five people officially announced as having been sentenced to death, information revealed about their charges have led human rights activists to believe they are Mohammad Ghobadlou, Manouchehr Mehman Navaz, Mahan Sedarat Madani, Mohammad Boroughani and Sahand Nourmohammad-Zadeh.

Eleven other people are also facing trial on a charge of “corruption on earth” before a Revolutionary Court in Karaj in Alborz province. Among them is a married couple, Farzaneh Ghare-Hasanlou and Hamid Ghare-Hasanlou, who is a medical doctor.  

Amnesty is also aware of another man, 26-year-old Parham Parvari from Iran’s Kurdish minority, who has been charged with “enmity against God” in connection with the protests. According to his family, he was a bystander who was arrested in Tehran while returning home from work during the protests.  

There is evidence that at least three individuals have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, and that torture-tainted “confessions” have been used against the defendants in court. 

Deeply unfair trials

Documented violations of fair trial rights against the 21 individuals include denial of the rights to access a lawyer of their own choosing from the time of arrest and throughout the investigation and trial proceedings; and denial of the right to be presumed innocent, to remain silent and not to be compelled to incriminate oneself or to confess guilt. In Revolutionary Courts, defendants are also regularly denied the right to be protected from torture and other ill-treatment; to obtain full access to relevant evidence; and to receive a fair, public hearing before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal. Under international law, the imposition of the death penalty following an unfair trial violates the right to life and the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.

‘Show no leniency’

A statement from 227 of 290 Iranian parliamentarians has called on the country’s judiciary to “show no leniency” to protesters by urgently issuing death sentences against them as “a lesson” to others. The Head of the Judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, has also called for speedy trials and punishments, including executions.  

According to an official document reviewed by Amnesty, on 9 October the country’s Prosecutor General, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, instructed the prosecution authorities to expedite criminal proceedings against Mohammad Ghobadlou. In another official document dated 29 September, a senior police chief asked for the trial of Ghobadlou to be completed “in the shortest possible time” and that his death sentence be carried out in public as “a heart-warming gesture towards the security forces”. 

More than 15,000 reportedly arrested

Iran has been rocked by a nationwide popular uprising against the Islamic republic since the death in custody of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini at the hands of Iran’s “morality” police on 16 September. The security forces have responded with unlawful lethal force, killing hundreds of men, women and children, and injuring thousands of others. According to a leaked audio file obtained by the BBC Persian Service, the authorities arbitrarily arrested 15,000-16,000 people in the first wave of arrests since the protests began. Those arrested include protesters, journalists, human rights defenders, dissidents, university students and schoolchildren, and many have been subjected to enforced disappearance, incommunicado detention, torture and other ill-treatment, as well as unfair trials. On 8 November, the Iranian judiciary announced that 1,024 indictments had been issued in relation to the protests in Tehran province alone, without providing further details on the charges.

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