Five people were arrested and sentenced to death over protests that broke out in Khomeini Shahr, Isfahan province, in December 2017. Their situation remains acutely worrying and there are a number of outstanding questions the Islamic Republic is not willing to answer.
The judiciary agreed to a “retrial” of the case about four months ago. But no proceedings have been initiated since then, and human rights activists say the prisoners are in danger of being secretly executed.
The five, named Hadi Kiani, Mohammad Bastami, Majid Nazari, Mehdi Salehi and Abbas Mohammadi, were sentenced to death in February 2020.
Their arrests came after the family of a man killed during the unrest, Asghar Harun al-Rashidi, made a complaint to the IRGC, the Basij and the police force. The security agencies then arrested a total of 13 friends of the slain citizen. The other eight people were sentenced to flogging and imprisonment in the same trial.
The five death row inmates were charged with baghi [insurrection], moharebeh [“war against God”] and “corruption on earth”. In other words, among the charges were none that had to do with the alleged murder of Asghar Harun al-Rasheed. Even in their death sentences, the word “qisas” [retribution], the punishment for premeditated murder, was not used.
Aside from the total disconnection between the original incident and the charges, other aspects of the case are similarly contradictory. Several sources, including the Human Rights Organization of Iran, report that the accused said in court that they had been forced to confess under torture.
In addition, all those involved were arrested several months after the protests. The indictment states they were detained on February 13, 2019, following reports that “an organized armed gang had been formed to direct and lead the riots in the Jouyabad neighborhood in Khomeini Shahr.”
According to the news website HRANA, “Mehdi Salehi, one of the five defendants, said in his defense, of the reason for his presence at the scene of the protests in the city, that on the night of the Asghar Haroon Al-Rashidi’s death, Negahdar, Asghar’s father, had expressed his concern about his son in a telephone call, because a colonel had claimed that his son had been shot.
“Mehdi Salehi explained in court that he had witnessed Asghar Harun Al-Rashidi being injured in the back while attending the protest. He was wounded in the head by a plastic bullet when he tried to help by moving Mr. Harun al-Rashid.”
Some of those sentenced to death were also charged with “vandalizing public property”. Abbas Mohammadi has specifically denied playing a role in the destruction of the Pension Fund building, as well as the shooting of officers.
The head of Khomeini Shahr Saderat Bank, the head of the Khomeini Shahr Credit Fund and a legal representative of the Khomeini Shahr Municipality have been named as private plaintiffs over the vandalism charges.
The manner in which the authorities were informed of the verdict was also suspect. On June 26, 2020, the Chief Justice of Isfahan Province, not in a press conference but in a speech before Friday prayers, and without mentioning the names of the defendants, issued a verdict of “corruption on earth” for “eight participants in the 2017 and 2019 protests”.
These verdicts were in turn approved by Branch 19 of the Supreme Court in August 2020 by the votes of Judges Abdolhamid Mortazavi and Farhad Afsharnia.
Wall of Silence Worries Activists, Friends and Family
Since August 2020, when the five men on death row lost contact with their families, human rights organizations and relatives of the convicts have repeatedly expressed concern about their imminent execution.
A retrial request was finally accepted by the Supreme Court in February 2021. But no further news has been published since then. This has raised concerns about what the authorities plan to do next, which have intensified on social media over the past few days.
Hassan Nayeb Hashem, a human rights activist, recalled the execution of Navid Afkari for the murder of a security official during the protests in Shiraz in December. He told IranWire that the sentencing of the five is a similar situation, in which the Islamic Republic is trying to blame the violence used to supress the protests on ordinary people and demonstrators.
In the case of Navid Afkari, there was no credible evidence that the young wrestler was involved in the murder of a security officer: a fact repeatedly challenged by him, his lawyers, his family and human rights activists.
“In the months since the death sentences of these five were confirmed,” Hassan Nayeb Hashem said, “their families have repeatedly protested in front of the city’s courthouse to express concerns about their possible execution.
“But not only did these protests not lead to greater transparency in the case, they worsened the pressure on the defendants’ families to remain silent. The defendants’ lack of access to a designated lawyer, and the fact that they have been cut off from their families, have also made it difficult for them to defend their own rights.
“The secret execution of political dissidents has increased dramatically in recent years. A large proportion of recent executions were carried out in secret, and the conditions of these defendants are very difficult. Social media users need to be proactive in this case.”
Source » trackpersia