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Iran. Death sentences and unfair trials against protesters. Stories about a quarter of an hour to defend yourself in court and torture in prison

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First there are the allegations after participating in anti-government protests in Iran. Later, more accusations, torture in prison and “confessions” obtained in this way, leading to the death penalty or a long prison sentence. This is not the end of the pathologies associated with show trials designed to sow fear in the hearts of Iranians. The stories of two young men show how appalling the Iranian judicial system is. Mohammad could not choose a lawyer, he had less than 15 minutes to defend himself in court. Seyyed was hanged on the day his lawyer was due to hear about his appeal against the death penalty. The lawyer himself was also repressed.

Four young men have been executed in the nationwide protests that erupted in Iran four months ago. Another 18 people were sentenced to death. According to advocacy organizations human rights convictions after grossly unfair mock trials. There may be many more similar situations, because many people are still waiting for the verdict of the court.

Karami’s story. A quarter of an hour to defend against a death sentence

Mohammad Mehdi Karami, a 22-year-old karate champion, was hanged January 7, just 65 days after his arrest. According to BBC sources, Persian had less than 15 minutes to defend himself in court. His story is an example of how authorities in Iran use show trials to strike fear into the hearts of protesters who demand freedom, respect for the law and an end to the religious regime.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Sejyed Mohammad Hosseini were convicted in IranReuters

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Karami was arrested on suspicion of murdering a paramilitary member named Basij on November 3, 2022 during protests in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran. He was later charged with another crime punishable by death – “corruption on Earth”. The term is used by the Iranian authorities to refer to a wide range of crimes, including those related to Islamic morality, for example against homosexuality.

A dozen people accused, including children. Death sentences were handed down

The award-winning karateka appeared before the Karaj Revolutionary Court on November 30, 2022, along with 16 others, including three children, also accused of involvement in the murder.

In Iran, defendants are entitled to legal representation, but in sensitive cases – such as this – or in espionage cases, they are not allowed to choose their own lawyers. Instead, the court appoints one lawyer from a list approved by the judiciary.

Journalists and family members of the accused are banned from the court. The only way to know what goes on behind closed doors is through video footage released by the judiciary that is heavily edited.

In one such courtroom video, Karami appears visibly distraught as he “confesses” to hitting a Basij member over the head with a rock. His court-appointed lawyer does not dispute or dispute this, but asks the judge for forgiveness. Karami then says he was “cheated” and sits down.

On December 5 last year, Mohammad Mehdi was found guilty and sentenced to death. Four of the co-defendants in the case were also sentenced to death. The children and eight other adults were sentenced to long prison terms.

Human rights organizations have condemned the Iranian judicial system for relying on “confessions under duress”. State-appointed lawyers effectively act as “interrogators” during trials, putting pressure on defendants rather than defending them, a source told BBC Persian.

Mohammed Mehdi KaramiReuters

“Daddy, they passed sentences. Mine is the death penalty. Don’t say anything to mom.”

Usually, the authorities put pressure on family members of the accused to remain silent. But Mohammad’s father, Mashaalah Karami, who works as a street vendor, gave an interview to the newspaper Etemad (also spelled Etemaad).

He reported that his son called him in tears on the day the court decision was made. – Dad, they passed judgments. Mine is the death penalty. Don’t tell your mother anything,’ the father recalled, assuring that his son was innocent.

Reports of torture, harassment and threats of rape

Later, the opposition activist group 1500 Tasvir posted a report on social media claiming that Karami had been tortured.

Poster of Iranian protests in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in BrusselsPAP/EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

According to the group, the Iranian told his family during a meeting in prison that he had been beaten senseless by the guards. The guards were supposed to assume he was dead and dump his body in a remote area, but when they left they realized he was still alive.

Karami also told his family, activists say, that security officials “touched his genitals daily and threatened to rape him” during interrogations.

France supports the protesting Iranians. The inscription “Stop executions in Iran” on the Eiffel TowerReuters

Fruitless legal fights

In the Iranian legal system, a death sentence issued by a lower court is sent to the Supreme Court for approval. But even if Supreme Court approves such a decision, it can still be appealed.

Karami’s father told the Etemad newspaper that he had repeatedly tried to contact the state-appointed lawyer, but he had not responded. As a result, the family tried to hire one of Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyers, Mohammad Hossein Aghasi.

– Mohammad (Mehdi Karami) called me three times from prison and asked me to represent him. His parents also insisted that I represent their son,” Aghasi said. The lawyer wrote to the local court and then to the Supreme Court. His writings were ignored or rejected. Also, an appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court was ruled out by the judge.

Hosseini’s story. His lawyer: He cried the entire visit. He talked about torture

Together with Karami, he appeared in court Sejjed Mohammad Hosseini, who was a former volunteer training children. He also parted executed by hanging on the same day as Karami. His family did not campaign on social media to save his life (Sejjed’s parents are deceased). However, many Iranians shared a post that read: “We are all Mohammad’s family.”

Hosseini, who suffered from bipolar disorder, managed to get independent legal representation after the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence. Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani’s lawyer visited him in prison in December and later described the visit on Twitter.

He cried the entire visit. He spoke of torture, beatings while handcuffed and blindfolded, kicking in the head and blacking out, Ardakani said. According to the lawyer, Hosseini’s confessions “were obtained under torture and have no legal force.”

Ardakani filed the required documents to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision and was asked to return to court on January 7. That day, when he was driving to the place, he learned that his client had been hanged.

The lawyer himself was later detained by the authorities. He was released on bail. A source – cited by BBC Persian – said he had faced a prosecutor’s complaint related to his tweet claiming that Hosseini had been tortured.

More than a hundred people could be executed

Following the hangings of Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini and Mohammad Mehdi Karami, Western countries and human rights organizations demanded that Iran stop the executions immediately.

According to Iran Human Rights, it threatens at least 109 protesters because they have been sentenced to death or accused of capital crimes. The age of 60 of them has been established – the average is 27, while three people are under 18. Four protesters have been executed so far.

In addition, in January 2023, it was announced that Alireza Akbari, Iran’s former defense minister, was hanged. He had previously been convicted of spying for Britain. In an audio recording obtained last week by the BBC, Persian Akbari claimed he was tortured and forced to “confess” to crimes he did not commit.

Protests in Iran. Nearly half a thousand people killed by security forces

Protests in Iran erupted in mid-September 2022, after the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the moral police because of “inappropriate headgear”. After the arrest, the woman fell into a coma under unclear circumstances and died in the hospital. Officially, the cause of death was sudden heart failure, but witnesses allegedly saw officers hit Amini, among other things, in the chest. in head.

The authorities recognized the demonstrations as riots and proceeded to brutally suppress them. According to Iran Human Rights, an organization based in Norwayat least 481 protesters were killed by security forces.

Main photo source: Reuters



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