Iran Human Rights (IHR); September 1, 2020: Following the publication of the details of the Afkari brothers’ case, including gross judicial injustices, disregarding evidence proving the innocence of the defendant and evidence of confessions obtained under torture, the Islamic Republic Judiciary has issued a statement denying all evidence of torture and judicial injustices.
On August 29, IHR published a report about two individuals identified as Navid and Vahid Afkari who were arrested in connection with the July 2018 protests in Shiraz and sentenced to death and 25 years in prison after being tortured to confess to a murder.
Instead of providing legal evidence in the statement, the judiciary has instead pointed the finger of blame at the media and selected certain facts in the case. Contrary to the judiciary’s unsubstantiated claims, Iran Human Rights rejects the judiciary’s denials with document evidence.
Iran Human Rights also calls on the judiciary to accept the arbitration of an international inspection body to investigate the judicial process in the case. IHR will provide all its document evidence to the international human rights monitoring body.
According to the judiciary’s denial, “the investigation into the murder case continued until an individual named Navid Afkari was arrested after reviewing CCTV footage from the street where the defendant was pursued.”
Based on evidence IHR has access to, there are two misleading points in the statement. First, the CCTV belonging to Supermarket 110 is located in Dariush Street in Shiraz, which is a few kilometres away from the murder scene. The nearest CCTV to the scene of the murder belongs to a chicken shop. It seems that the real killer would have been seen better by this camera, yet even the person accompanying the victim could not identify Navid Afkari in the recording. In the defendant’s submissions to the appellant court (Document 19), it states: “Mr Hadi Ghazanvian, the victim’s co-worker who was with the deceased, Mr Turkman to the end, wrote in his testimony on page 24: ‘the only thing that matches the footage is the motorcyclist who talked to me who was wearing the same coloured trousers.’”
The “strong” evidence relied upon by the Islamic Republic’s judiciary to issue the death penalty has thus been the colour of the motorcyclist’s trousers. It should be noted that two months had passed since the murder when the CCTV footage was shown and even the colour of the trousers cannot be identified with certainty.
Second, the judiciary relies on the defendants’ “confessions” in the statement. They write: “The defendants in the case have given a detailed confession in their own handwriting to the investigators and at the trial stage.”
This is while documents obtained by IHR show that the defendants were severely tortured and forced to confess: “On page 403 of the case file, the honourable investigator of Branch Eight, Mr Behrouzi quoted Navid Afkari as saying: ‘I do not accept the charges and did not hit the late victim and do not accept my confessions’…in the 24 September 2019 session at Branch One of the Fars Province Criminal Court, page 579, the client Navid Afkari said: ‘I request an investigation into the torture of myself, Navid Afkari in the Intelligence Office by Captain Abbasi and Major Nikbakhti.’”
According to the documents, Vahid Afkari also “states on page 373 of the honourable investigator’s case: ‘I do not accept the allegations against me’ and in the 24 September 2019 session at Branch One of the Fars Province Criminal Court…clearly states: ‘I have been tortured by the relevant officers in the intelligence and criminal investigation offices.’ The client claims to have been tortured and put under so much physical and mental pressure that he attempted to commit suicide.”
Iran Human Rights reiterates that confessing under torture does not constitute evidence in a fair and impartial judicial system, but that torturers and judges relying on such ‘confessions’ must be held accountable and prosecuted.
The denial of the judiciary further states: “The counter-revolutionary media have also claimed that the defendants in the case were tortured. According to the investigations, after Navid Afkari’s confession, his appointed lawyer stated that the defendant’s family had claimed that he had been tortured. On the same day, during the investigation requested by the defendants’ lawyer, an order was issued to send them to forensic doctors so that if the confessions were made under torture, it may be re-examined. However, the accused stated in the presence of his appointed lawyer that he wasn’t tortured and will not go to the forensic doctors. This was also investigated by the Supreme Court and ruled out at the request of the defendant.”
The Afkari brothers have repeatedly stated before the trial judge that they were tortured. Contrary to the judiciary’s claims, Navid Afkari was sent to the forensic doctor three months after being tortured. Evidently, torture marks would have disappeared after three months. However, according to the document (pictured), the forensic pathologist confirmed that Navid Afkari’s arm was fractured, but said that due to the passage of three months and since the patient did not have access to a doctor at the time of the fracture, he could not link the lesion to the “incident” (torture).
Furthermore, Navid Afkari provided evidence of his torture which the court has ignored. The witness was an individual who was in custody in Shiraz at the same time as Navid and had no previous acquaintance or friendship with him. He provided an official testimony to the torture of Navid (including being hit with a metal club on his hand) but according to documents in IHR’s possession, the judge in the case ignored the testimony and refused to call the witness to testify in court.
If the judiciary of the Islamic Republic insists on having followed the correct judicial procedure, Iran Human Rights invites them to accept the arbitration of an international inspection body. IHR is ready to provide all its document evidence to a team of international jurists in order to clarify the judicial process and death penalty convictions in the Islamic Republic’s judicial system.