Sunday , 21 April 2024

Father of Executed Protester in Iran Faces Imprisonment for Seeking Justice

CHRI – The ongoing state persecution of Mashallah Karami, whose son was unlawfully executed following protests that erupted across Iran in September 2022, epitomizes a wider campaign of repression against families seeking justice in Iran, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“This grieving father’s pursuit of justice is being stifled by the state’s relentless efforts to silence him,” remarked Ghaemi. “His case is emblematic of the oppressive tactics used against anyone daring to demand justice and accountability within the Islamic Republic.”

Mashallah’s son Mohammad Mehdi Karami, 22, was hanged along with co-defendant Mohammad Hosseini, 39, in Tehran’s Evin Prison on January 7, 2023, in connection with their involvement in major anti-state nationwide protests that came to be known as Iran’s “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement.

The two were accused of being involved in the killing of Ruhollah Ajamian, a Basij member present at the 40th-day memorial ceremony for Hadis Najafi, a young woman who was killed by state security forces in the city of Karaj. The Basij are a paramilitary group under the authority of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) that were heavily involved in the violent suppression of the protests.

Both Karimi and Hosseini were tortured in state custody, and denied due process, according to the UN’s independent, international Fact-Finding Mission on Iran (FFMI). Their court proceedings consisted of only four sessions, with each defendant having one hearing only.

The FFMI quoted a witness noting that both Karami and co-defendant Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini were “subjected to severe torture including by being hung and beaten with stun guns after they were dosed with water and being tied in what is known as the ‘chicken position.’” Both men made “confessions” just to stop the torture.

Eight months later, Mashallah Karami, a street vendor from a humble background who made it his mission to keep his son’s memory alive by repeatedly publicly commemorating him, is facing an initial court hearing at the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Karaj, west of Tehran, scheduled for April 17, 2024.

For peacefully raising his voice, he has been detained since August 2023, and is facing charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state.”

Sympathy Donations Painted as Foreign Funding to Incite Protests

Karami’s use of social media to highlight his family’s plight and commemorate his son led to an outpouring of support for the grieving family, sometimes in the form of donations, which are now being painted by the Iranian government as “illegitimate income” and “money laundering,” charges he will be facing at a trial held later at the Criminal Court in Nazarabad, Alborz province.

Despite never personally soliciting the donations, CHRI has learned that judicial authorities have filed a 1,200-page case against Karami for receiving them, in a case that includes accusations against dozens of others, including a co-defendant whose name has not been publicized.

Karami and other defendants in the case are being accused of using the private donations from inside and outside Iran to incite protests and organize other justice-seeking victims of state violence.

Over time, Karami also received donations to support other families whose children died because of state violence. After he distributed these donations to other grieving families, the authorities claimed that Karami and the unnamed co-defendant were being funded by opposition groups based abroad, and they were charged with “assembly and collusion against national security.”

Three other defendants in the case, whose names remain sealed, collected donations from Iranians abroad and transferred it to Karami. One of them, who lives abroad, is vilified in the case for participating in street demonstrations against the Islamic Republic. An exchange of critical text messages against the Iranian government is also part of the “evidence” being used against this individual.

CHRI’s investigations show that these individuals were trusted friends of the Karami family who offered their bank accounts to facilitate the transfer of donations from abroad because international sanctions block direct transfers. Yet the authorities have pointed at this arrangement as “proof” that Karami used the donations to harm national security.

Among the numerous cases brought against relatives of victims of state violence in Iran over the years, this one is unique in that the authorities are falsely accusing the defendants of financial crimes and linking them to “national security” crimes.

Contrary to these allegations, the donations simply represent the compassionate support extended to the Karami family during their ordeal, according to a source with detailed knowledge of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity for security purposes.

The so-called “evidence” against Karami includes his distribution of free meals in Karaj, with his son’s name and that of co-defendant Mohammad Hosseini on the packaging, for which he faces charges of “propaganda against the state.”

CHRI has also learned that in the process of building their case against Karami, the government may soon broadcast forced “confessions” he made under extreme duress on state television, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Such confessions, typically extracted under torture, are routinely and illegally broadcast by the Islamic Republic’s state media to prepare the ground for convictions.