Kahrizak Trial Ends: Families Await Ruling on Deaths in Prison
The eleventh and final session of the trial for the deaths in Kahrizak Prison of three detainees in 2009 was held on Wednesday, May 22. Though the judge has not yet announced the adjournment of the trial, the lawyers told the press that the defendants had issued their last defense and there would be no further sessions. By law, the court must announce its verdict within 10 days. The Kahrizak court sessions ended without the summonses of any of the eyewitnesses the plaintiffs had suggested. All sessions were held behind closed doors, and therefore all details of the trial have remained concealed.
Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht, a lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs, told a group of reporters at the last trial session that according to evidence and documents in the file, former Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi is accused of delaying the transfer of Kahrizak detainees to another prison for 38 hours, thereby leading to the deaths of the three young men. He added that seven prominent physicians from the Medical Examiner’s Office announced that the three men died as a result of “blows to their soft tissue during the 72 hours prior to their deaths.” The lawyer said that had Saeed Mortazavi not delayed their transfer by 38 hours, the three men would not have died.
At the last Kahrizak session, Mortazavi and Judge Ali Akbar Heydarifar, two of the three defendants, apologized to the family of Mohammad Kamrani, one of the plaintiff families. “At this session, because of what happened to the late Mohammad Kamrani (because he was a young age, but was not considered a child), I expressed remorse and regret,” said Ali Akbar Heydarifar, according to IRGC-affiliated Fars News Agency. The case has two other plaintiff families, to whom no apologies were apparently extended.
The May 22 session met once in the morning and once in the afternoon at Branch 76 of the Tehran Province Penal Court under Judge Siamak Modir Khorasani, and suspects provided their “last defense.” Like all the previous sessions, the third defendant Judge Hassan Zare Dehnavi, also known as Judge Haddad, was again absent, and his lawyer defended him.
The Kahrizak trial is related to the murders of three young men, Mohammad Kamrani, Mohsen Rooholamini, and Amir Javadifar, inside the Kahrizak Detention Center in 2009. According to the indictment issued by the Prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi was charged with “participation in murder,” “participation in illegal detention,” and “participation in creating untrue reports through ordering or encouraging the related officers to write reports to himself,” and Zare Dehnavi and Heydarifar were charged with “participation in illegal detentions.”
The top defendant in the case, Saeed Mortazavi, did not accept any of his charges and stated that he and the other suspects had not committed any wrongdoing, and that was not one shred of evidence for their charges. Mortazavi had earlier said that the court was not qualified to review this case and had asked for a public trial. At the third court session, Judge Ali Akbar Heydarifar claimed guilt and responsibility for everything, saying he had ordered the transfer of the detainees to Kahrizak Prison in the summer of 2009.
One Victim’s Family Released Mortazavi
A shocking development in the case was the unexpected release of Saeed Mortazavi from the charge of “participation in murder” by the late Amir Javadifar’s family. Ali Javadifar, the father of one of the young men who lost their lives at Kahrizak, went to court one day before the tenth session and signed a release form. The release, which was issued without the knowledge of Javadifar’s lawyer, shocked all plaintiffs at the tenth session. Saleh Nikbakht, the Javadifar family’s lawyer, told reporters that day that he had been unaware of this decision. Asked whether Saeed Mortazavi had threatened his client to receive the release, he told reporters, “I don’t know.”
So far the elder Javadifar has not provided any clear answers about the reasons for the release. “Some considerations and reasons in the closed-session court, about which I cannot talk right now, brought us to the conclusion that considering the current conditions in the country, we would give him the release,” the elder Javadifar’s brother told reporters.
Did Mortazavi’s 38-Hour Delay Lead to the Deaths?
Though the Javadifar family released Saeed Mortazavi of the charge of “participation in murder,” the family’s lawyer called Saeed Mortazavi the main culprit of the Kahrizak murders. According to ISNA, on Wednesday the Javadifar family lawyer said, despite the release, that “as a lawyer with 35 years of experience,” within just a few court sessions he had reached a different conclusion about Mortazavi’s involvement in the case.
According to Fars News Agency, lawyer Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht told reporters: “Mortazavi says that he was on vacation on Saturday, July 11, and Sunday, July 12, 2009, but he has admitted that he attended a political committee meeting or another type of meeting as a member or as an official inside the Intelligence Ministry that Sunday night. At this meeting, the sitting Intelligence Minister issued orders for the transfer of Kahrizak detainees. Therefore, if you imagine that this meeting lasted for at least three hours, Mortazavi was made responsible for the transfer the detainees from Kahrizak to another facility such as Evin beginning on Sunday night, July 12, 2009.”
According to Saleh Nikbakht, on the morning of Monday, July 13, 2009, the Chairman of the National Security Council emphasized the transfer of Kahrizak detainees; however, the detainees remained inside Kahrizak until Tuesday, July 14, after which they were transferred to Evin Prison.
Saleh Nikbakht emphasized that the Kahrizak Detainees’ transfer was delayed by 38 hours, from the afternoon of Sunday, July 12, until the evening of July 14. “Considering this conclusion, the 38-hour delay in taking the victims out of Kahrizak was the cause of death, and this is my opinion as a lawyer about the case of ‘participation in murder,’” he said.
“Seven prominent medical examiners provided their opinion, published on page 2,251 of Volume 11 of the case inside the Tehran Military Courts, that the sole reason for the deaths of the three victims was stated as blows to their soft tissue during the 72 hours preceding their deaths,” he added.
There is speculation that the court’s final decision may be affected by the release given to Mortazavi by the late Amir Javadifar’s father. Referring to Article 612 of the Islamic Penal Code, Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht told reporters, “The plaintiff’s release does not eliminate the public aspects of the crime.” He also pointed out that Amir Javadifar’s family released Mortazavi only of the charge of “participation in murder,” but they remain plaintiffs with respect to the other two charges leveled against Mortazavi.
Following the disputed presidential elections of 2009, dozens of protesters arrested by security forces were transferred to Kahrizak, a horrific detention center in southern Tehran. According to accounts provided by many individuals released from Kahrizak, they were exposed to psychological and physical torture and sexual abuse at the facility.
Mehdi Karroubi, a presidential candidate in 2009, asked Members of the Parliament to pursue allegations of rape inside the Kahrizak Detention Center in 2009. After an initial flurry of reports, the subject was dropped and the individuals responsible for finding facts about the situation were imprisoned. The mistreatment and torture of detained protesters inside Kahrizak led to the deaths of at least three young men, Mohammad Kamrani, Mohsen Rooholamini, and Amir Javadifar. The families of the three victims insisted that the “judicial official who issued the orders that led to the set of events” be put on trial, and more than three years after the incident the trial began in early 2013. After the media attention, the Kahrizak Detention Center was closed down in 2010.