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Thursday, January 26, 2023

A small group of judges is sentencing Iran protesters to loss of life


Iran’s authorities is doubling down on repression to stamp out the months-long rebellion bent on its ouster. On the coronary heart of those efforts: a small circle of judges related to the nation’s clerical leaders and safety providers, meting out lengthy jail phrases and loss of life sentences to protest supporters.

There’s little judicial transparency in Iran, the place cost sheets and verdicts are sometimes stored beneath wraps, so it’s tough to find out the true scale of arrests, sentencings and executions. However an image of the trials and the judges presiding over them has emerged from a spread of sources — together with state media shops, rights teams, activist telegram accounts and networks of attorneys in and out of doors of Iran.

In current weeks, seven judges — Abulqasem Salavati, Mohammad Reza Amoozad, Hadi Mansoori, Musa Asef al-Hosseini, Ali Mazloum, Iman Afshari and Morteza Barati — seem to have issued between them at the very least 17 loss of life sentences, a few of which Iran’s excessive court docket has overturned on attraction. The names of judges issuing loss of life sentences in different circumstances stay unconfirmed.

These trials, which rights teams say are a part of a brutal marketing campaign designed to crush the rebellion, are “managed by only a few judges that collaborate 100% with safety businesses,” mentioned Hadi Ghaemi, govt director of the Centre for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group. “They’re trusted and dependable and they’re believed to observe orders which have already been made extrajudicially about what the sentences must be.”

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The protests, by which ladies and youths have performed a number one function, broke out mid-September following the loss of life of Mahsa Amini, 22, in police custody after she allegedly violated the nation’s conservative costume code for ladies. The demonstrations have since cascaded right into a broad rebellion pushed by calls to finish clerical rule. Safety forces have killed greater than 500 protesters and authorities have issued at the very least 22 loss of life sentences and charged greater than 100 folks with crimes that would advantage the loss of life penalty, in keeping with the activist information company HRANA.

Detainees and their households are beneath heavy stress to remain silent, making it inconceivable to tally the variety of arrests and sentences, however HRANA estimates that there have been practically 20,000 arrests, and a few 700 have been sentenced.

On the heart of most of the most critical trials is a clique of judges whose identities have develop into identified to, and feared by, the general public.

The USA has vowed to accentuate sanctions on these concerned within the lethal repression. The USA positioned Salavati, nicknamed “the decide of loss of life,” beneath sanctions in 2019 for overseeing “the Iranian regime’s miscarriage of justice in present trials.” Six different judges accountable for issuing loss of life sentences are not beneath U.S. sanctions, which might entail tightened journey bans and frozen belongings. In late December, the Biden administration added Iran’s normal prosecutor, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, to its blacklist for human rights abuses.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury, talking on the situation of anonymity beneath departmental protocol, mentioned they might not supply touch upon whether or not sanctions concentrating on these judges had been or had been thought-about. Afshari, Mazloum and Amoozad had been positioned beneath sanctions by the UK on Dec. 9 for “prosecuting protesters with egregious sentences together with the loss of life penalty.”

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A majority of protesters jailed are launched on bail and pending trial. However an unknown quantity stand accused of nationwide security-related crimes, similar to alleged assaults on safety forces, in a system stacked in opposition to them. Reasonably than going through trial in a prison court docket, political prisoners are tried in the Revolutionary Court docket, a parallel judicial system arrange after the 1979 revolution to guard Iran’s system of clerical rule.

These judges “strongly imagine in and rely on the ruling Islamic institution and because of this have absolute or blind obedience,” Iranian lawyer Saeid Dehgan, who lives in Canada, mentioned in an electronic mail. Dehgan fled Iran to flee persecution for attempting to defend purchasers earlier than a few of these judges.

Within the Revolutionary Court docket, defendants are sometimes denied entry to their lawyer and can’t evaluation the proof in opposition to them, mentioned Dehgan. They’re regularly pressured to make false or incriminating statements beneath torture or excessive duress, in keeping with Ghaemi and different rights teams, whereas judges usually depend on fabricated or deceptive proof to subject heavy sentences in speedy trials.

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Members of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and the intelligence wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a safety power with wide-ranging powers designed to defend the Islamic Republic, conduct interrogations. Within the courtroom, interrogators sometimes information sentencing fairly than judges, mentioned Dehgan.

Rulings are sometimes “written by the authorized division of the intelligence and safety businesses,” he mentioned.

Detainees or their attorneys don’t typically obtain official copies of the verdicts. Generally the presiding decide’s title is stored non-public “as a result of they know the way a lot their choices improve public anger,” mentioned Dehgan. He mentioned colleagues concerned in current loss of life penalty circumstances within the northern metropolis of Sari shared verdicts with him, however the decide’s title had been deleted, “most likely for safety causes.”

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The judges of branches 15, 26, 28 and 29 of the Revolutionary Court docket in Tehran — Salavati, Afshari, Amoozad and Mazloum — have been among the many most infamous for lengthy and harsh sentences amid the protests, mentioned Shiva Nazarahari, a member of the Volunteer Committee to Comply with Up on the Scenario of Detainees, an activist group based mostly exterior Iran.

Salavati and Amoozad presided over the trial of the primary participant within the ongoing protests to be executed, Mohsen Shekari, a 23-year-old barista from Tehran.

Salavati has sentenced at the very least three different protesters to loss of life, together with a 19-year-old whose mom mentioned he suffered from bipolar dysfunction. Iran’s excessive court docket accepted appeals for the 2 different confirmed circumstances, although the defendants stay jailed. The outcomes of three different loss of life penalty circumstances tried in his court docket stay unclear, in keeping with information experiences and a listing by the detainees’ committee.

Amoozad has issued loss of life sentences to Manouchehr Mehman-Navaz, 45, and author and artist Mehdi Bahman, Dehgan mentioned.

On Dec. 12, authorities hanged Majid Reza Rahnavard, a 23-year-old shopkeeper sentenced to loss of life by Mansoori in keeping with protection of the trial by Mizan Information Company, which is affiliated with Iran’s judiciary. On Jan. 7, Tehran executed two protesters, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, 22, and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, 39, after they had been discovered responsible by al-Hosseini.

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Karimi and Hosseini had been amongst 5 folks al-Hosseini sentenced to loss of life in a mass trial, which included three minors, charged with killing a member of the IRGC volunteer police power, in keeping with Mizan. The excessive court docket suspended the opposite three sentences on attraction.

Barati has sentenced three folks to loss of life by hanging, in keeping with Dehgan and native media experiences: Saeid Yaghoubi, Majid Kazemi and Saleh Mirhashemi, accused of killing safety power members.

Each Mazloum and Afshari have every issued one loss of life sentence, in keeping with HRANA, although the excessive court docket has accepted repeals in every case, the Committee to Comply with Up on the Scenario of Detainees discovered.

Verdicts “don’t match the crime, if one was even dedicated,” mentioned Nazarahari. As a substitute, these judges “take heed to orders from excessive or what interrogators say. They don’t subject their verdicts in keeping with any regulation.”

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