The Illegal Execution of Rahim MohammadiOctober 08, 2009
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The Illegal Execution of Rahim Mohammadi
HRA- the defense lawyer, Mohammad Mostafai, says his client was hanged in Tabriz without his knowledge. He explains the circumstances and decisions taken by the judiciary in the process that led to his client’s unlawful hanging on Tuesday October 5th.
Rahim Mohammadi went to the gallows yesterday. His family and I, his lawyer, were kept in the dark about his execution. The troubled young man and his wife had fallen into a trap set by some lustful government workers, a mistake that he paid for with his life. In a joint decision, five judges of the 2nd district of Tabriz’ provincial appeals court sentenced Rahim Mohammadi and his wife Kobra Babai to die by hanging and stoning. The ruling was confirmed by two judges of the 27th district of the Supreme Court. Rahim Mohammadi’s sentence was carried out yesterday, and Kobra Babai will be stoned to death shortly.
Against all procedural regulations, the officials in charge of Rahim Mohammadi’s case sent him to the gallows in secrecy. My client became the victim of a society which itself was responsible for the troubled circumstances of his life. He fell victim to a group of ignoble individuals who took profit of his disadvantaged life and abused his wife. He was the victim of wolves disguised as faithful Muslims. He became victim of a society which does not care about its members.
My question to the head of the judiciary is: How are the foundations of Islamic law, a law which is supposed to be based on the superior place of human life, respected when a young man is executed in such an unlawful manner? Mr. Larijani, human dignity has been forgotten by our judicial system. A young man is hanged and his family is not informed. His body is not given to his poor parents. What kind of place is there for human dignity when the defense lawyer is not notified of his client’s execution? Mr Larijani, the young people who are being hanged in our country do not deserve their fate. Mr. Larijani the rule of justice is not possible when your eyes are closed to what is happening. Mr. Larijani, I urge you to put a stop to these executions before it is too late, and before the young men and women of this country become the victims of some revengeful officials. Mr. Larijani, I wrote a letter to the Tehran prosecutor but never got an answer from him. My client was hanged and he lost whatever sign of life that was left in his weak body. Dear Mr. Larijani, if Qisas is a personal right and you are responsible that this right be lawfully carried out, then explain to me which personal right was involved in Rahimi’s execution. Mr. Larijani, please read the letter I wrote to the prosecutor to see why two innocent people, Rahim Mohammadi and Kobra Babai, were sentenced to death.
In my letter to the prosecutor I wrote:
Article 18 of the amendments made to the procedures of common and revolutionary courts has not been respected in the following judgments:
1- judgment 291 of 2nd district of provincial criminal court on 31/1/1387 in regards to court case 3313-2-87
2- judgment 159 of 27th district of the Supreme Court on 31/1/1388 in regards to court case 21/27/1424
Therefore, I hereby file the following arguments to prove that Islamic Sharia laws have not been respected in the cases of 1- Rahim Mohammadi – sentenced to execution on charges of Lavat, as well as stoning to death on charges of adultery and 2- Kobra Babai sentenced to stoning.
I am urging that the aforementioned article be respected in future court or legal proceedings.
The file that is in front of you is an exceptional case that the judicial system has rarely dealt with in the past. Nevertheless, there are plenty of similar cases in society. This case is a clear example on how some families are driven to committing criminal acts as a result of their poverty or other unfortunate circumstances. In most cases their acts are uncovered by the authorities. The accused, in this case, took the careless and unprecedented step of filming their acts. In my humble opinion, this was done to show the authorities the circumstances that led to their demise. Rahim Mohammadi, who is the main defendant, suffers from a type of insanity but has not been examined by the experts of the medical examiner’s office. This in itself is against all legal and religious standards. It is also further proof that the ruling against him and his wife was based on the prejudices around his actions.
I was contacted by their families and went to Tabriz prison on Wednesday 7/12/1387 to meet with both of them. Even before telling me their stories they both started to cry. They were unable to speak. They were married to each other 16 years ago and have an eleven year old daughter.
Rahim started to talk about their life a few minutes later. At the beginning of their married life they were getting help from the “Imam Aid Committee”. After their marriage Rahim had to leave for his military service. They were living in his parents’ house while he was doing his military service. Then his wife started not to get along with his parents and Rahim and his wife were forced to leave. Rahim, who was a soldier, did not have enough income to pay for his family or to rent a house. He was forced to sell all their belongings. After a short while he had sold off everything they owned, including Kobra’s dowry. Rahim then absented himself periodically from the military and took odd jobs to pay for his family. His absences from the military added to his problems; he was detained and his service length was extended. Rahim told me with tears in his eyes:
“My wife and I did not have money to afford a house and had to rent a house in a poor neighborhood. There was no running water or electricity in the house. We carried the water from somewhere else. A neighbor had agreed to let us use his electricity for the only light bulb in the house. We had sold our refrigerator, and in the summer we had to drink warm water. We had to eat all of the food we cooked or it would have gone bad. Regardless of all my problems, I had to get on with my military service and was detained for my absences each time I returned to the barracks. My wife had to stay alone in the house with no electricity or running water. She was surviving on bread crumbs and water and was crying all the time. I don’t know if it was our bad luck or our poverty that made me seek help from some friends. They all had their eyes on my wife in return for their help and this made me depressed. My mental and emotional state along with our poverty led to repeated disputes between me and my wife. We went to the court several times to divorce. We finally decided to continue our miserable life together for the sake of our daughter. My military service finished, and with a lot of difficulty I got a taxi driver permit. I rented a taxi and started to work. Little by little we bought furniture. As our life was beginning to get better, I had a serious car accident. The owner of the taxi I had rented took back the car and pressed charges against me. Once again I had to sell all our belongings and give it to him along with all our savings. In the winters we were shaking in the house since there was no heater. I went to the governor’s office and asked for a heater. They sent down an official who looked at our house. After some time they gave us a heater. I swear to God, I did not even have money to pay for the eye glasses my daughter so badly needed.”
B- The Case & the Statement of Defense
It is the responsibility of the justice system in every country to make sure that those in charge of enforcing the law are acting free of prejudice or personal views, that they are looking into all the circumstances surrounding the case, and are basing their rulings on the law and nothing but the law. In the case of Rahim Mohammadi, charges of “Lavat” (Lavat is an act of congress between males) were brought up against him. The evidence that was introduced was not up to the standards defined by articles 114 to 118 of Islamic criminal law. It seems that sentencing my client to death on charge of Lavat served only to facilitate an execution ruling, which is far easier to carry out than a stoning ruling. The real circumstances around the charges brought up against both my clients are as follows:
1- Lavat charge against Rahim Mohammadi and the reasons of his innocence
My client was arrested in July 2008 and charged with extortion. During a search by the police, several video tapes were found at his house. The tapes contained evidence of adulterous relationship implicating 33 people who were all charged. With the discovery of the tapes the initial extortion case changed to a case of adulterous sexual relationships. Rahim Mohammadi was named as the main defendant because of his role in producing the tapes. His wife was named as the co-defendant in the case because she was living with her husband at the time the tapes were made. Lavat charges were only brought up later and during the judicial investigations.
Both the initial and the appeals courts’ rulings refer to charges pressed by Hojat Abollhasani, who alleges he was forced to strip and was raped and penetrated by my client. Both courts then found my client guilty of Lavat and sentenced him to death by hanging to be carried out in Tabriz prison. Both court rulings did not take into consideration the fact that my client never confessed to the charge and Lavat charges were not backed by any evidence.
It is essential to the case to pay attention to:
First – as I mentioned it before, in my opinion, the Lavat charges were only brought up to facilitate death by hanging, and the evidence of guilt is not sufficient enough to justify the ruling. As it is clear in the rulings, two different sentences have been issued for my client: Death by hanging and death by stoning. We all know that stoning is a sentence which is not easy to carry because it is not practiced in other countries, and because it will lead to unwanted national and international reactions. Therefore, the easiest way to avoid this hurdle is to sentence the accused to death by hanging. Additionally, if the charge of Lavat was considered and investigated as a separate charge and not in connection to other charges, the accused should not have been sentenced to such punishment, which brings me to my second point.
Second – section 2 of chapter 2 of book 2 of the Islamic criminal punishment act sets clear standards for proof of Lavat in court cases. One possible proof is if the accused confesses in four occasions in front of a Sharia Ruler. In this case the accused has not confessed to committing Lavat or any act of penetration. Additionally, considering his emotional and psychological state, his sanity is questionable. Therefore, sentencing the accused to death solely based on the testimony of one plaintiff – which he retrieved along with his complaint later- is against the law and Sharia. One other proof in Lavat cases is the testimony of four just male individuals who have personally witnessed the act. Anything short of four witnesses is not considered to constitute sufficient proof. In this case, there are no witnesses and the tapes suggest no act of Lavat or penetration has taken place.
Based on the arguments I presented above, it is clear beyond any doubt that my client is not guilty of Lavat charges and, therefore, court rulings on such charges are ambiguous and not up to the standards set by Sharia laws.
2- Adultery charges against Rahim Mohammadi
One key reason behind the Lavat charges and the haste with which the honorable judges acted to sentence my client to death is the indecency of his actions and the sensitivity of this matter. The statement of charges – which does not include the conditions of his life as I explained in this letter – suggests that my client made acquaintance with an individual named Shahram. This person, who throughout the hearing represented himself as a naïve person, knew of a woman who, in return for money, was having sexual relationships with several men. Shahram, who knew of Rahim’s financial difficulties, took advantage of his naivety and proposed to Rahim to let him use his house in return for money. Contrary to what is said in the ruling by district 27 of the Supreme Court, Rahim’s wife was completely unaware of such arrangements. My client agreed to Shahram’s proposal out of desperation. If he was not in such a dire financial situation, or if he was getting financial help from the government, he would have refused to go along with the proposal. Regrettably, in order to provide for his family, he decided to accept the proposal. Time had passed and Rahim’s financial difficulties had not gotten any better. He had asked all the people he knew for help. He had asked his friends for a loan to start a business, but no one wanted to help. One cold winter in Tabriz, the family did not even have enough money to afford a heater. He asked for help from every person he could think of but could not get any money. He then had to go to the Imam Aid Committee, and, finally, after writing several letters and a thorough investigation, he got a gas heater.
All his life, my client was subjected to enormous emotional and psychological pressure. He finally gave in to temptations and accepted Shahram’s proposal. He went back to the people who had refused to help him in the past and found out that they were happy to pay a lot of money in return for sexual services. 31 other people were arrested along with my clients, most of whom were government workers. Mohammad Reza Rasouli, an employee of the East Azarbayjan provincial governance, Faramarz Zehni 2nd lieutenant in police, Hossein Ghorbani employee at Behran Company, Ali Shoja Amin of Tabriz Taxi Company and a few others were among the people that my client had unsuccessfully approached in the past for help. However, when Rahim approached people who were also accused in this case and who, for the most part, are married and have good jobs, and offered them sexual services, they all accepted willingly to go to his house. All of them pleaded innocent and blamed my clients for their adultery. The court agreed with them and found my clients guilty. My client was so resentful of the people whose sexual acts he had filmed – under extreme emotional stress – that he kept the videos himself. After viewing the videos, the authorities arrested three people. Those who were single were sentenced to flogging, and, with the exception of my clients, the sentence for those who were married was reduced from stoning to flogging.
The court ruled out stoning sentences in the cases of the accused who were married, on grounds that they were simply unable to restrain themselves sexually, or simply because the accused claimed that their wives were traveling, sick, or had marital problems and, therefore, engaged in adulterous relationships. However, a look at what really took place proves that if the other accused had helped my client when he needed help, instead of using him for their own lustful pleasures, he would have never committed the immoral acts he was accused of. In any case, my client has testified on the adulterous acts of the other accused, and they have accepted the charges, but the irony is that my client was sentenced to stoning, whereas the others were sentenced to flogging. My client was suffering from temporary insanity and had no control over his actions. Regrettably this very important fact was set aside by the court in its ruling and he was sentenced to the maximum penalty. In order to carry out the death sentence in an easy manner, the court found him guilty on Lavat charges – charges that he denied and that were retracted by the person who had brought them up. I would like to urge the honorable prosecutor to take this very important fact into consideration, as that is the only way in which the interests of justice will be served in an unprejudiced fashion. Otherwise we will send a man to his death for crimes that were caused by the circumstances of his life, circumstances for which society and the government is responsible.
Perhaps a superficial judgment into the actions of my client will result in a ruling like the one issued by the 2nd district court of Tabriz. However, a more profound look into the matter will prove that my client and his wife were victims of their financial difficulties and the hard conditions of their life. It was the constitutional responsibility of the government to provide them with a job, a place to live, and to help them with their day-to-day needs. In the absence of such help my client, against his will and unknowingly, committed illegal acts. It could be argued that financial difficulties of a person do not justify committing crime. My answer is that a brief look at the number of cases currently in courts shows that the main motive for most of the extortion, theft and even kidnapping and murder cases is the poverty of those who commit these crimes. My client is not an exception to the rule; for years he and his family struggled with countless problems. He reached out to people around him and asked for help and they refused to give him a hand. Then he saw that the same people were ready to pay in order to have sex with a woman. This is what caused him to become a criminal. But does he deserve to be killed for committing an illegal act caused by his unfortunate life conditions? Unfortunately, in our country officials think more of killing the person as ways of eliminating the problem, rather than trying to solve the social problems that cause violence and crime in society. Such actions not only do not remedy the problem in short term but will only cause more long term damage; i.e., they will result in an increase in the number of offenders and, therefore, will compromise the social peace and security.
Based on the above arguments, it is clear that the ruling against my client is against the Sharia in some regards I, therefore, urge you to overturn the ruling and, by considering the insanity of the defendant, order a stay of execution and stoning in his case.
3- The Adultery Charges against Kobra Babai and the reasons of her innocence
The mere fact that Kobra Babi was aware of her husband’s actions resulted in her unimaginable sentence. She was sentenced to stoning for committing adultery, a charge that she has always denied. There is no evidence that proves she is guilty of the charge. My client stayed alongside her husband during even the hardest times. Every time she was accompanying her husband to different offices, certain employees were watching her with a certain look in their eyes. One such incident was in an insurance office (car accidents section) where the employee looked very interested in her. She informed her husband, who encouraged her to become friends with that employee. After insistence by the employee, Kobra invited him to come to their house. When they were alone she stripped. The employee, who was aware of her marital status, insisted on having sex with her but nothing happened. Rahim Mohammadi was filming them in order to extort money from him later. This act alone shows the degree of his emotional and psychological instability. No person in his right mind is capable of behaving in this manner towards his wife. My client has denied repeatedly that she ever committed adultery, and the persons who were in contact with her have also denied having any adulterous relationship with Kobra Babai.
It is clear beyond any doubt that her actions were caused by her financial difficulties. As I emphasized, she has repeatedly denied having committed adultery but has agreed that she stripped. There are no reasonable grounds for finding her guilty of adultery or for sentencing her to stoning. There are no religious grounds for such a punishment to be carried out unless we want to kill an innocent person for something she has not committed.
Therefore, based on all the points that I have brought up, and considering that neither of my two clients deserves to be hanged or stoned (or killed in any fashion), I ask you to order a review of their cases. I am confident that you will take into consideration that they committed their acts without any prior motive and were not aware of the consequences of their illegal acts. Their acts, as such, do not make them eligible for death by hanging or stoning. I am hopeful that with your help and your thoughtful decision, the ruling will not be carried out. Both my clients have expressed remorse for their past acts and are asking for your help. I hope that we will be able to uproot the problems in the future by understanding their reasons and can rehabilitate the offenders instead of eliminating them.
I call on you to be the judge and look into the unjust execution of this young man who died needlessly. You shall not deny my request if you want to act in all fairness. Rahim Mohammadi was flogged severely a few days before his execution and was hanged while his body was crushed because of the lashes he had received.