Iran’s 2022 protests witnessed death sentences for Mohsen Shekari, Mohammad Ghobadlou, and Saman Saidi, and these orders were signed by a familiar person: Judge Abolqasem Salavati.
Throughout the 44-year history of the Iranian regime, certain judges have become notorious for their association with death, executions, and imprisonment in the collective memory of Iranians. Among them is Sadegh Khalkhali, who initiated his gruesome executions from the rooftop of Refah School, in the presence of regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, and later carried out group executions at the Kurdistan airport. Another dark chapter includes the “death commission” responsible for the 1988 prison massacre in Tehran, featuring figures like Ebrahim Raisi, Hossein Ali Nayeri, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, and Morteza Eshraghi.
The judgments handed down by Abolqasem Salavati, also known as ‘Khalkhali II’ and ‘The Judge of Death,’ represent a continuation of this troubling legacy within the regime’s judicial system. Critics of his authority argue that accused individuals receive verdicts in rushed court proceedings, often without legal representation, often based on coerced confessions, and frequently influenced by interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards.
Salavati’s death sentence for Mohsen Shekari received confirmation from the Supreme Court. Shekari became the first person executed during last year’s protests in Iran, preceding individuals like Majidreza Rahnavard, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, Mohammad Hosseini, and the three individuals responsible for the Isfahan House.
Abolqasem Salavati’s name is indelibly linked to the imposition of death sentences and imprisonment upon numerous civil, student, and political activists, as well as women, throughout these years. Notably, his primary targets have often been members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization (PMOI/MEK).
According to data from Iran’s Prisons Atlas, Judge Salavati has handed down a staggering 322 sentences, with 30 of them being death sentences. These sentences collectively amount to a shocking 1,515 years of imprisonment for the defendants. Alarmingly, in 91 trials over which Judge Salavati presided, defendants were denied access to their chosen legal representation.
It is worth noting that Abolqasem Salavati tends to impose the harshest punishments on the accused, frequently convicting them on charges such as ‘Moharebeh’ (enmity against God), ‘Corruption on Earth,’ and ‘sedition.’
Abolqasem Salavati was born in the city of Tuyserkan in Hamadan province. There is limited information available regarding his educational background, and it is suggested that he may not possess a law degree.
During the Iran-Iraq war, Salavati served on the front lines for a period of time. Upon his return in 1987-1988, he joined the judicial police in Kurdistan province. Four years later, he was appointed as a judge and subsequently served as the deputy prosecutor of Sanandaj. In 1995-1996, he rose to the position of the head of security for the Iranian Courts Department. Notably, in 2002, Saeed Mortazavi, another notorious judge in the regime’s so-called Revolutionary Courts, appointed him as the head of the 15th branch of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, a position he has held for two decades.
Prior to assuming leadership of Branch 15, there was limited available information regarding Abolqasem Salavati’s activities within the judiciary.
One of the initial verdicts handed down by Abolqasem Salavati was the death sentence for Majid Kavousifar and his nephew. Majid Kavousifar and Hossein Kavousifar were condemned to death on charges of killing one of the regime’s criminal judges, Hassan Ahmadi Moqadas.
Judge Abolqasem Salavati gained widespread recognition and attention during the trial proceedings of a group of political opponents after the nationwide protests that followed the 2009 elections. Interestingly, some of the defendants involved in that trial, which was even broadcast on Islamic Republic TV, later revealed that prior to the trial, Judge Salavati, along with Jafar Dolatabadi, then the head of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, had conducted rehearsals with the defendants to ensure a more polished and orchestrated performance during the trial.
Abolqasem Salavati issued the death sentence for Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian citizen who was arrested shortly after the protests on the Ashura of 2009 and accused of drug trafficking.
Bahrami’s family vehemently denied the allegations of drug possession and sales, asserting that these charges were concocted by Iranian authorities to justify her arrest and execution amid the anti-government protests of that year.
Furthermore, Ali Saremi, Jafar Kazemi, and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei, who were supporters of the PMOI, had been convicted and imprisoned during the early years of the revolution. They were released after serving their sentences but were arrested again during the 2009 protests. Abolqasem Salavati issued their execution sentences, charging them with membership in the PMOI. This marked a deeply controversial and tragic chapter in their lives.
In May 2009, a deeply tragic incident unfolded when Farzad Kamangar, a dedicated Kurdish school teacher, along with Farhad Vakili, Ali Heydari, and Shirin Alamholi, were executed on charges of belonging to Kurdish opposition groups. These individuals received their death sentences during a shockingly brief seven-minute court session presided over by Judge Salavati.
Shirin Alamholi, in her final letter, expressed her frustration at being brought to court despite her limited proficiency in the Persian language.
Additionally, the fifth person executed alongside them was Mehdi Eslamian, the brother of Mohsen Eslamian, who had been executed earlier on charges related to a bomb explosion at Hosseinieh Rahpouyan in Shiraz.
As for the accusations against Mehdi Eslamian, the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office alleged his involvement in the bombing by claiming he was attempting to escape while carrying the injured Mohsen Eslamian. Tragically, the families of these executed individuals were not informed of the burial locations, adding to the anguish they endured during this distressing period.
In 2009, Judge Salavati presided over the trial of Maryam Akbari Monfared, the sister of several PMOI martyrs executed by the regime. Salavati sentenced Ms. Akbari Monfared to 15 years in prison on charges of supporting the PMOI. In a distressing exchange during the court proceedings, Judge Salavati directed harsh words at this political prisoner, saying, “You have been punished because of your brothers and sisters. Bring her children so they can shed some tears, and let’s see what happens.”
It’s worth noting that Maryam Akbari Monfared’s brothers and sisters were members of the PMOI, all of whom had been executed in the 1980s. Over the course of the nearly 15 years since her imprisonment, Maryam Akbari Monfared has not been granted a single day of furlough and has endured exile to Semnan prison.
In 2011, following the issuance of verdicts by Abolqasem Salavati, he presided over the trial of 13 individuals accused of “spying for Israel.” It is worth noting that three months prior to this extensive arrest and the charges related to the “assassination of nuclear scientists,” Majid Jamali Fashi had been convicted and subsequently sentenced to death by Judge Salavati on the same charge. Majid Jamali Fashi was later executed.
Continuing his judicial career, Judge Abolqasem Salavati handed down a death sentence to Mohsen Amir Aslani in 2013. Mr. Amir Aslani was executed in October of the same year. The basis for his execution were charges of “corruption on earth,” “heresy in religion,” and the accusation of “insulting Prophet Jonas.”
In October 2017, the 15th branch court presided over by Judge Abolqasem Salavati, issued a death sentence for Dr. Ahmadreza Jalali on the charge of “espionage.” Dr. Jalali’s wife expressed that, despite their efforts to change their chosen lawyer multiple times, Judge Salavati did not accept any of their chosen legal representatives.
There have been reports and discussions suggesting that Iran is pressuring Sweden to swap Ahmadreza Jalali with Hamid Nouri, a former prison guard in Gohardasht prison who was sentenced to 25 years in jail by a court in Stockholm for his role in the 1988 massacre.
Ramin Hossein Panahi, Zaniar Moradi, and Loqman Moradi were executed in 2018 on charges of murdering the son, nephew, and the driver of the regime’s Friday prayer leader in Marivan. These individuals were among the many convicts who faced Judge Salavati.
Their case garnered significant attention and controversy, as their lawyers encountered numerous difficulties, and the defendants claimed they were coerced into making confessions due to torture and the threat of sexual assault. The circumstances surrounding their trial and execution raised serious human rights concerns and led to international condemnation.
It’s indeed a tragic aspect of their cases that the bodies of Ramin Hossein Panahi, Zaniar Moradi, and Loqman Moradi were not returned to their families after their execution.
In July 2020, Judge Abolqasem Salavati sentenced three individuals, Saeed Tamjidi, Mohammad Rajabi, and Amirhossein Moradi, to death on charges of ‘destruction and incitement with the intention of confronting the government of Iran’ in relation to their participation in the 2019 nationwide uprising that was triggered by a sudden hike in the price of gasoline.
However the verdict was later overturned in the appeals court under international pressure, and as a result, they were released from prison last year.
Judge Abolqasem Salavati was indeed presiding over the high-profile case involving environmental activists. He sentenced the defendants in this case to a cumulative total of 58 years in prison, and their charges notably included allegations of ‘espionage and collaboration with the US government.’
Another notable death sentence issued by Judge Abolqasem Salavati was that of Ruhollah Zam, a media activist. Zam was kidnapped from Iraq and subsequently executed in 2020. His case drew widespread attention and condemnation due to the circumstances of his arrest, the lack of due process, and the secrecy surrounding his execution. It added to the list of controversial cases associated with Judge Salavati’s tenure as a judge.
Abolqasem Salavati’s inclusion on the sanctions lists of both the United States and the European Union is a clear indication of international concerns regarding his judicial decisions and human rights violations. Being placed on these sanctions lists reflects the international community’s efforts to hold individuals accountable for actions that are deemed to be violations of human rights and a threat to justice and due process. These sanctions underscore the gravity of the issues associated with his role as a judge in Iran’s Revolutionary Court.
It’s important to acknowledge that within Iran’s judicial system, individuals like Abolqasem Salavati receive praise and recognition for their work.
A letter of appreciation from the Vice President of Human Resources and Cultural Affairs of the regime’s Judiciary commended Abolqasem Salavati for his efforts in the field of justice and the protection of individual and social rights within the judiciary of the regime. It highlights the belief within the Iranian regime that individuals like Salavati contribute positively to their interpretation of justice and the preservation of their revolutionary ideals.
Source » irannewsupdate