May 19, 2023

Three Protesters from “Isfahan House” Case Executed Despite Grave Concerns with Legal Proceedings

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Saleh Mirhashemi, Majid Kazemi, and Saeed Yaqoubi, who were charged in the case referred to as “Isfahan House,” were executed on the morning of May 19. The news was announced by Tasnim News Agency, referencing the Media Center of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic.

Numerous appeals to halt the executions of Mirhashemi, Kazemi and Yaqoubi were put forth in recent days by a wide array of individuals, including citizens and significant figures in politics, culture, and the arts, both within and outside of Iran. Moreover, many Isfahan residents gathered at Dastgerd Prison on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning to express their anxieties regarding the impending executions, but were confronted by security forces. Comparable demonstrations occurred in the cities of Tehran and Sanandaj.

Mirhashemi, Kazemi and Yaqoubi were apprehended, put on trial, and given death sentences for their alleged involvement in the murder of two members of the Basij volunteer paramilitary organization and a Special Forces colonel. The incident occurred on November 16, 2022, in the security square of the “Isfahan House” district. In a statement issued May 18, Amnesty International urged the global community to take firm steps to prevent the execution of these three protestors who were incarcerated and subjected to torture by Iranian authorities.

On May 16, a handwritten note by these three individuals was posted online, wherein they sought help and wrote, “Don’t let them kill us.”

The report by Tasnim alleged that Mirhashemi, Kazemi, and Yaqoubi “undertook a premeditated act of terrorism, where they initiated gunfire with the intention of killing civilians and officers after brandishing weapons.”

Numerous legal professionals and attorneys expressed substantial concerns about the judicial proceedings in this case, particularly citing that all the admissions from the defendants were extracted under duress and in ambiguous circumstances.

Last week, state television in Iran broadcasted a video of the confessions made by the Isfahan House defendants. Given the Islamic Republic’s practice of executing defendants after the airing of “coerced confessions,” this act heightened worries regarding their execution and sparked protests both within Iran and on the international stage.

In the broadcast last week, all three individuals, situated outside the prison and dressed in everyday clothes, stated that they had access to “weapons” and that there was “a lot of shooting.” They also acknowledged the presence of others who “fired shots”, but they did not claim to have shot at the security forces.

Following the event on November 16 of the previous year, security forces rapidly commenced widespread arrests of the protestors. Ultimately, in the court proceedings held for the five defendants, Yaqoubi, Mirhashemi, and Kazemi received death sentences for the murder of three security personnel. In the same case, Amir Nasr Azadani, a football player who had earlier voiced worries about his situation, was handed multiple prison sentences, the lengthiest being a 16-year term associated with the charge of “aiding in Moharebeh.” Sohail Jahangiri, the fifth defendant in this case, was also sentenced to a two-year term in prison. 

On January 13, 2023, Kazemi recounted maltreatments and tortures he had undergone during a voice call from prison with several of his family members, characterizing the confessions extracted from him as forced. In the disseminated audio recording, Mr. Kazemi asserts that the confession ascribed to him was extracted under duress and that he neither possessed any weapon nor killed anyone.

Kazemi stated: “I didn’t carry a weapon, I didn’t commit any act. All these confessions were made under torture… they beat me and instructed me to declare that this gun was mine, I complied… they hit me and demanded that I go to the scene of the crime, I acquiesced… they assaulted me and commanded that I say this in court… All of this happened under torture, otherwise, I would not have been armed and I would not have done anything.”

“Dadban,” a “special legal advisory and educational center for activists,” through their Twitter account, noted that their lawyers have scrutinized the case and declared it “laden with basic errors and defects, with no clarity as to what evidence the Supreme Court used to affirm the death sentence.”

The center states, “one of the main flaws and defects of the Isfahan House case is that the supposed weapon used in the crime against the primary defendant (Saleh Mirhashemi) has never been found, making it fundamentally uncertain if it even exists or not.” Furthermore, “the alleged firearm, as per Saleh Mirhashemi’s legal officials, was used to shoot at the officers, but it has never been located, and it remains uncertain which weapon fired the bullets that ended the officers’ lives.”

The legal advisory and education center for activists stated: “In this case, the only evidence available is the coerced self-incriminating and mutual accusations from the defendants. Even the scene’s photographic evidence reveals nothing. The defendants are merely individuals who were present at the site of the protests that night. None of them conceded to firing at the officers. The sole evidence of the defendants shooting at the officers comes from their forced confessions against one another. They did not even coerce a confession implicating themselves in the shooting.”

All the protestors apprehended in the Isfahan House case were held in detention for several months and were not granted access to a lawyer of their choosing until after the issuance of the death sentence.

NIAC deplores and strongly condemns the Islamic Republic’s flagrant violation of its international human rights obligations prohibiting arbitrary executions, torture and forced confessions. At least seven individuals connected to the nationwide protests that began in September 2022 have now been executed by the Iranian government, amid a much broader escalation of death sentences in recent weeks.

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