Heavy Bail Amounts Are Not in Accordance With Law: Abdollah Momeni’s Bail at $800,000
The judge in the case of student leader Abdollah Momeni, who was arrested after the Iranian elections and has been in prison for more than eight months now, has issued an $800,000 bail order for his freedom. Bail is a cautionary measure, which must maintain a reasonable relation to the suspect’s charges. Quoting his wife, Kalame web site says about the case of the Spokesperson for the Islamic Iran Alumni Association (Advar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat) that his family is not able to post his bail. Prior to his arrest, Abdollah Momeni was a teacher. He lost his job after his arrest and he has no other source of income. During the time he has been in prison, his wife and two children have faced severe financial problems. His family have filed a request with the courts for reduction of his bail amount, but court authorities have not yet replied to this request.
Previously, a $500,000 bail had been set for journalist Ahmad Zeid Abadi, and his family were also unable to post the amount. If we assume that on the average an Iranian journalist’s income is around $500 per month, he would need to work for close to 100 years to work and save all his money in order to be able to post such bail. Zia Nabavi, a “starred student” (deprived from education) who has been in prison for months, has also received a $500,000 bail ruling, which his family is unable to provide.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran asks the Iranian Judiciary to end demanding high bails for political prisoners, where there is no reasonable relationship between the bail amount, the suspect’s charges, and his/her annual income. It seems that, in an attempt to relieve public opinion pressure for their unwarranted detention of political prisoners, Iranian judicial authorities are now issuing high bail orders that are impossible to raise for their families, in effect continuing to keep the prisoners in prison. Such an action is tantamount to forced detention of prisoners and is even in serious conflict with Iranian Penal Code approved in 1999.
Article 132 of the 1999 Iranian Penal Code defines bail rulings as a measure to ensure access to the suspect for his timely presence at the courts when necessary, and to prevent his flight or hiding or mutiny with others. The Article emphasizes that, “[T]he judge is obligated to read the charges and issue one of the guarantee measures.” Item 4 of this Article state, “[R]eceiving bail which could be in cash, bank guarantee notes, and property real or not,” as ways to have access to the suspect, and in a note under the item explains: “Note–the judge is obligated to issue an acceptance of the bail or custodianship [of the suspect] to the individual who is accepting custody [of the suspect], or posting bail (if the individual posting bail is other than the suspect himself), and to inform the individual that if the court summons the suspect and he does not appear without an acceptable excuse, or if the custodian or the individual posting the bail is unable to present the suspect, the custody funds and the property will be confiscated and proper legal actions will follow.”
It appears that while the law has clearly put limits on the judge’s framework for determining bail, judges are setting bail amounts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for intellectuals and political activists. Article 134 of the said law emphasizes that “…bail determination must be reasonably related to the importance of the crime, severity of the punishment, reasons and evidence for the charges, the probability of the suspect’s flight and destruction of crime evidence, the suspect’s record, his health, age, and reputation.”
According to Article 139 of the same Code, the bail poster’s bail amount remains in custody of the Iranian Judiciary Organization and “when the suspect appears at the set time or later with an acceptable excuse, or when the case file is completed, the bail amount is refunded or the custodian is released from responsibility.”
If the suspect does not appear at stipulated times, the bail poster’s responsibility becomes limited to the bail amount he has posted. Article 140 of the same Code addresses this responsibility as: “When a suspect is released on bail or custody does not appear at the necessary time without an acceptable excuse, on orders from the judicial authority, the bail amount will be received and confiscated from the suspect…”
Also, in Article 144 of the Code, the law obligates the judge to eliminate the need for bail under special circumstances. Therefore, “if the court issues an order for discontinuation of pursuit or acquittal of the suspect, or if the case is completed in any way, all bail orders will become null. The judge is obligated to remove legal requirements for the bail amount or property.”