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Interview with Lawyer and Human Rights Defender Abdolfatah Soltani
Case of those Accused in Shiraz Explosion Failed to Adhere to Due Process Standards
Sun 12 04 2009

Three of the defendants in the Shiraz Explosion case who were found guilty in their initial trial and sentenced to public execution by hanging, have had their sentences upheld in appeals court. The thirty-sixth branch of the appeals court of the Province of Tehran has sent the ruling by the 15th Branch of the Revolutionary Courts in Tehran to the Office of Implementation of Sentences. The ruling has been sent to the Office of Implementation despite the fact that the Appeals Court did not allow Abdolfatah Soltani, the lawyer representing Rouzbeh YahyaZadeh one of three persons accused in this case, to meet with his client and complete forms necessary to take on his legal defense. According to some rumors, the sentence is scheduled to be implemented on 11 April, 2009.

The trial of three of those accused in the Shiraz bombings was held on 22 November, 2008 in the 15th Branch of the Revolutionary Courts. The three, Mohsen Islamian, AliAsghar Pashtar and Rouzbeh YahyaZadeh were found guilty and the court sentenced them to public execution by hanging. According to Ahmad Siavashpour, the head of the Office of the Ministry of Justice in Fars Province, the court ruling was upheld by the appeals court in Tehran.

In a short interview with the site of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, Abdolfatah Soltani, emphasized the urgent need to uphold and adhere to due process standards, including the “right to defense.” He further emphasized that regardless of the charge and its accuracy or inaccuracy, this case raises serious questions with respect to fair trial and due process standards.

Soltani explained further that despite requests by the families of the accused men, in the first court hearing, these individuals were denied the right to choose their own lawyers, and court appointed lawyers were identified for the three. Some news reports indicated too that these individuals were tried in a public hearing, represented by court appointed lawyers.

In this respect Mr. Soltani explained further that: “after the 15th Branch of the Revolutionary Courts issued its ruling, the defendants appealed the ruling. The case was then sent to Branch 1 of the Supreme Court, presided over by Judge Haj Agha Mofid. At this stage, I was approached by the family of Mr. YahyaZadeh, to take up his legal defense. Unfortunately despite my repeated requests, Branch 1 of the Supreme Court refused to allow me to visit Mr. Yahazadeh in prison so that he could sign documents allowing me to represent him in the case. In other words, the Branch 1 of the Supreme Court did not grant the defendant in this case permission to select a lawyer of his own choosing for the appeals hearing and this is a clear violation of the accused right to defense.”

Soltani explained further that: “Branch 1 of the Supreme Court, after examining the case ruled that the appeals court in Fars did not have the authority to rule in this case and as such referred the case to the 36th Branch of the Appeals Court in Tehran Province. The 36th Branch of the Appeals Court in Tehran also refused to allow me to visit with Mr. YahyaZadeh and to have him sign documents allowing me to represent him in court. The 36th Branch of the Appeals court upheld the ruling issued by the 15th Branch of the Revolutionary Courts, and sent the ruling to the Office of Implementation of Sentences, so that the sentence of public execution by hanging can be carried out.”

As such, Mr. Soltani has requested Judiciary officials and in particular the head of the Judiciary to allow the case to be reviewed in an appropriate court with the presence of defense lawyers selected by those accused in the case, so that perhaps with adherence to due process procedures and standards the courts could review the charges in this case.

While expressing sympathy for the plight of the families of those killed in the bombings in Shiraz, Mr. Soltani explained that his intention was to ensure appropriate judicial standards and a fair trial as well as due process for the defendants in this case. Soltani also expressed regret about the sentence of execution issued in the case of Mr. YahyaZadeh, especially given the fact that according to reports Rouzbeh YahyaZadeh did not participate in the implementation of the bombing itself.

The main charge against these three defendants as announced by officials is the bombing in Shiraz on April 12, 2008 of the Rahpoyan-e Vessal Prayer Center in Shiraz, where 14 individuals were killed and at least 200 others were injured. According to the ruling by the courts these three individuals were found guilty on the following charges: “storing of weapons, enmity with god through membership and effective cooperation in an armed opposition monarchist group; engaging with full knowledge of the position and stance of this opposition group to plan and implement activities designed to overthrow the Islamic Republic; and providing weapons and explosives for the building of bombs.”

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