Kurdish Political Prisoner Held for 25+ Years Should be Freed Under Revised Penal Code, Says Lawyer
One of the longest-serving political prisoners in Iran, Mohammad Nazari, is eligible for release but is being arbitrarily denied freedom, Mohammad Hossein Aghasi told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Nazari, who is of Kurdish descent, has been in prison for more than 25 years after being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1994 for allegedly being a member of the banned Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), a separatist opposition group that was based in northwestern Iran at the time.
According to Aghasi, the 48-year-old Kurdish political prisoner’s life sentence should be overturned because the law he was sentenced under was revised in 2013 to include a maximum sentence of 10 years, not life.
Article 10 states, “… [I]f, after the offense is committed, a law is passed that provides mitigation or abolition of the punishment or security and correctional measures, or is favorable to the perpetrator in some other way, it is applicable to the offenses committed prior to the passage of the law until the final judgment is issued.”
“We requested a judicial review based on Article 10 of the Islamic Penal Code and Article 477 of the Criminal Procedures Regulations,” Aghasi told CHRI on November 6, 2019. “In the previous version of the Islamic Penal Code, those who were simply supporters of militant groups were considered enemies of the state and sentenced to death.”
“Mr. Nazari was arrested [on May 30, 1994] for being a PDKI supporter and accused of plotting to kill three security officials in Boukan [West Azerbaijan Province] with a hand grenade,” he added. “They extracted a confession from him and he was sentenced to death along with two others. But Intelligence Ministry officials in Boukan were opposed to their execution because they thought it could undermine security in the region. They suggested that the sentence should be reduced to 10 years in prison, but the court decided to give them a life sentence.”
Following is CHRI’s translation of Aghasi’s statements:
According to the Islamic Penal Code ratified in 2013, those who are members or supporters of militant opposition groups are not considered enemies of the state and sentenced to 10 years in prison. When I petitioned for a judicial review [in 2018] and requested his release, Mr. Nazari had already endured 24 years behind bars.
When the Revolutionary Court in Mahabad [in West Azerbaijan Province] rejected the request, I appealed to the Supreme Court. Usually the court decides within a month, but in this case, it took three and a half months. To me, this was a sign that there was a problem. When I agreed to represent Mr. Nazari, he told me that the Intelligence Ministry does not want him to go free because he had turned down certain requests.
Nevertheless, the case was reviewed by a good Supreme Court judge. He was around 75-years-old and I didn’t expect him to turn down my request for a revised sentence. The law was very clear… But three and half months later, without issuing the verdict to me, the Supreme Court declared that my request had been rejected.
What Mr. Nazari is upset about is that the authorities are not enforcing their own laws. This applies not just to his case but others’ too, and it’s only because the security officials dislike them and don’t want to see them go free. There have been cases where prisoners have been released in light of revisions in the law, but sometimes the security officials are reluctant and the judges listen.
On Friday [November 1, 2019], Mr. Nazari called me and said he had been asked to present some documents so that he could be put on a list for a possible pardon. But I’m not sure how that will turn out, since the request for his release was turned down.
Initially, Branch 1 of the revolutionary court in the city of Mahabad, and Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Orumiyeh, both in West Azerbaijan Province, sentenced Nazari to death. Although his appeal failed, in 1999 a pardon issued on the occasion of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha reduced his sentence to life imprisonment.
Aghasi had requested that his client to be paroled based on articles 10, 99, 120 and 728 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code but the authorities have not acknowledged Nazari’s eligibility.
Nazari has also repeatedly been denied requests to go on furlough to seek medical treatment outside prison, most recently for a stomach tumor.
Political prisoners in Iran, including elderly inmates, are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of medical care. The threat of withheld medical care has also been used as an intimidation tool against prisoners who have challenged the authorities or filed complaints.
Read this article in Persian.