Khuzestan Kangaroo Court Sentences Two Protesters to Death, Life in Prison
Defense Lawyers Blocked from Accessing Case Files
The Two Brothers Were Arrested at Violently Repressed 2019 Protests
News of a death sentence and life sentence against two brothers who were denied the ability to defend themselves in court recalls similarly unjust trials against the brothers of an executed champion wrestler.
Abbas and Mohsen Deris, both members of Iran’s ethnic Arab minority in Khuzestan Province, were arrested during the country’s violently repressed November 2019 protests, which broke out across the country that month and which saw an estimated 100 protesters killed in Khuzestan alone.
A source close to the Deris family told the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) that the information used by the prosecution against the two brothers had only been conveyed verbally by judicial authorities to the defense—giving the defendants no ability to properly prepare an adequate defense—and that lawyers’ requests for written documents were all denied.
As is common in court proceedings dealing with trumped-up “national security” charges in Iran, the Deris brothers were isolated from their family and lawyers, subjected to torture, and coerced into making false confessions, according to HRANA.
After learning about Abbas Deris’ death sentence, his wife suffered a stroke and died. Their orphaned children now live with their grandparents.
“The prison authorities told Deris’s family four months ago that he has been sentenced to death,” a source told HRANA, which reported the story on December 5, 2021.
Deris was arrested with his brother, Mohsen Deris, for allegedly causing the death of a security officer, Reza Sayyadi, on November 18, 2019.
After a trial sorely lacking in internationally upheld standards of due process, Abbas Deris was sentenced to death on the charges of “waging war against the state,” “disrupting order,” and “being an accomplice in the murder of a member of the police special forces unit.”
His brother Mohsen Deris was sentenced to life in prison for allegedly being an accomplice in the murder.
The brothers of Navid Afkari, a champion wrestler in Iran who was unjustly executed in September 2020, were also denied due process during their trials in connection with the death of a security guard. Navid Afkari’s case garnered international calls for his release.
Their brother Saeed tweeted about the Deris brothers,“They have sentenced one brother to death on false charges of murdering a security agent and detained his other brother for being an accomplice in the murder. It’s such a familiar story.”
Habib Afkari has been sentenced to 54 years in prison and Vahid Afkari to 25 years for allegedly being accomplices to murder. They were also punished for participating in anti-state protests.
The brothers’ filed complaints against being tortured and forced to provide false “confessions” were denied without investigations.
Members of the ethnic Arab minority, the Deris brothers were arrested in Mahshahr, a port city in Khuzestan Province, which saw some of the bloodiest state-instigated repression of the November 2019 nationwide protests in Iran.
Some estimates put the number of people who were killed by security forces there at more than 100. Many were reportedly gunned down by heavy machine-gun fire as they tried to escape through reed beds.
A few weeks after the killings, in late December 2019, Iran’s official state television station, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), aired a number of forced “confessions” by alleged suspects with their faces blurred, about the murder of Reza Sayyadi, a member of the police’s special forces, allegedly by “two brothers.”
State media outlets meanwhile published an edited video purporting to show the moment Sayyadi was shot.
Yet the state’s version of events has been strongly contested.
“Based on the opinion of one of the investigators at the scene, Sayyadi was struck by a bullet in the back, not from the direction of the protesters,” Karim Dahimi, a human rights advocate for Iran’s native Arabs, told HRANA.
“… Even the court knows Abbas Deris is innocent,” he added.
In addition, Farzad Seifikaran, a reporter for Radio Zamaneh in Amsterdam, posted a series of tweets on December 4, 2021, challenging the official version of events and noting that the protesters were not armed.
“The examination of videos and photos from protests that took place at different points in Mahshahr in November 2019 tells us that the protesters were not armed,” Seifikaran wrote.
Calling almost all executions in Iran an arbitrary deprivation of life, UN human rights expert Javaid Rehman has urged the country to reform its laws to end imposition of the death penalty in violation of international law.
Read this article in Persian