Lawyer of Juvenile Offender on Death Row Says Client Mohammad Kalhori Should be Pardoned
Despite being diagnosed with mental and emotional disorders, Mohammad Kalhori is facing imminent execution in Iran for a crime he allegedly committed at the age of 15, his attorney Hossein Aghakhani told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on February 28, 2019.
With the sentence already issued and confirmed, Kalhori’s lawyer has asked the victim’s family to pardon him on the grounds that he was just a minor without mental maturity at the time of the crime, as allowed by the presiding court in the city of Boroujerd, Lorestan Province.
“Unfortunately, my client’s execution order has gone through the full judicial process and he could be hanged at any moment,” Aghakhani told CHRI. “The enforcement office has told his family that time is limited and if they don’t get a pardon from the victim’s family, he could be hanged soon.”
“[The victim Mohsen] Khashkhashi’s family has so far refused to grant a pardon but on the other hand, there is evidence and medical documents to show that the judiciary should have reviewed the death sentence because of my client’s mental and emotional disorders,” he added.
On February 21, the UN called on Iran to “halt the execution of this child offender and immediately annul the death sentence against him, in line with its international obligations.”
According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is illegal to execute someone for crimes committed under the age of eighteen. Iran is party to both treaties but remains one among a handful of countries still putting juveniles to death.
According to Article 91 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, “If mature people under 18-years-old do not realize the nature of the crime committed or its prohibition, or if there is uncertainty about their full mental development, according to their age” they can be spared the death penalty.
In September 2016, Branch 2 of the Criminal Court in Lorestan sentenced Kalhori, who was born in March 1998, to death for murdering his teacher in November 2014. In April 2016, the medical examiner of Lorestan Province determined Kalhori was not mentally mature when the crime was committed.
“My client was 15 when the murder happened,” Kalhori’s attorney, Hassan Aghakhani, told CHRI on February 22, 2018.
“According to the medical examiner’s opinion, his action was not based on reason or logic and he was lacking mental development,” he added. “His adviser in the juvenile reform center also says that he didn’t have the mental ability to understand his action.”
The attorney added: “Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code should be applied to him but unfortunately, the court has not paid attention to this matter.”
Interference with the Judicial Process
Aghaghani told CHRI that his attempts to reverse the death sentence had been unsuccessful because a deputy education minister and an influential member of Iran’s Parliament had asked the court to “look after” the victim’s family.
“We lodged an appeal and made two requests [in June and October 2017] for a judicial review by Branch 33 of the Supreme Court presided by Judge Mohammad Niazi,” Aghaghani said. “But [Judge Niazi] believes in retribution. When it was time to consider the appeal, unfortunately there was a letter from a deputy education minister and two letters from Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who is the member of Parliament from Boroujerd [city] and chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for National Security and Foreign Policy, requesting that the judge to look after the victim, not the murderer.”
Aghakhani continued: “When it was determined that my client did not have sufficient mental development, we did not expect the political and security officials to get involved. This kid could have been saved if the law followed a normal course, without the court being influenced by the political climate, but unfortunately, they interfered in this case.”
Kalhori killed his physics teacher, Mohammad Khashkhashi, with a pocket knife after allegedly being physically attacked for alleged disobedience on November 22, 2014, at the Hafezi High School in Boroujerd, Lorestan Province.
“At the preliminary stage [March 2016], Branch 1 of the Criminal Court in Lorestan Province sentenced my client to three years in prison and ordered him to pay blood money to the victim’s parents,” Aghakhani told CHRI.
“But the victim’s family appealed the decision [in September 2016] and Branch 31 of the Supreme Court struck down the ruling and ordered a new trial, which resulted in a death sentence against my client without regard to Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code,” he added.
According to Islamic law, Diyah, known as “blood money” in English, is paid as financial compensation to the victim or heirs of a victim in cases of murder, bodily harm, or property damage.
Kalhori has been held at a juvenile rehabilitation center in Lorestan Province since November 2014.
In a UN report on the human rights situations in Iran covering the period of January 2018 to October 2018, Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman called on Iran’s Parliament to “urgently amend legislation” to prohibit the execution of people who committed crimes while under the age of 18 and amend the legislation to commute all existing sentences for child offenders on death row.”