The news that Mr. Sattar Beheshti was murdered while in custody was announced by
different sources including HRANA (Human Rights Activists News Agency) (November 6, 2012) and Kaleme website (November 6, 2012). The additional information about this extrajudicial murder has been obtained from the interviews of Mr. Beheshti’s lawyer with the media, interviews of his family, the report of National Security Commission of the Iranian Parliament, the announcement of Prosecutor’s Office of Tehran, the interview of the speaker of the Judiciary, and other sources.*
Mr. Sattar Beheshti was a bachelor blogger from Robat Karim. He had a middle school education and was a simple day laborer who lived with his mother in a slum in Robat Karim. He was the breadwinner and legal guardian of his old and sick mother. According to Sattar’s mother, he loved a simple life and always said, “It doesn’t matter how long you live, and any person should have a fruitful life.” He said, “Why do some people have so much money that they don’t know what to do with it and some others have a difficult life?”
Mr. Beheshti was the admin of “Criticism. Long live Iranians and Iran I sacrifice myself for Iran”. He performed most of his activities on social networks such as Facebook, Google Plus, and his own weblog using an alias. He posted and commented on materials and news about political prisoners and cases of human rights violations of the Islamic Republic in his weblog and objected to the tyranny and the widespread corruption of the government. He also fiercely criticized the regime’s officials by quoting their statements. He mentioned being threatened in the last post he sent on his weblog on October 29, 2012 and wrote, “I have threatening calls day and night, as if we have to shut our mouths as soon as they say so. I, as an Iranian, say that I can’t stay silent in the face of all this tragedy. I say that you gentlemen talk too much and have led the country to destruction with all this nonsense. I won’t stop talking, even if it means that I will die. Wherever I am, I don’t care about the threats from anybody. You gentlemen shut your mouth, do not be cruel or we will expose you.”
Mr. Sattar Beheshti’s death in custody provoked many reactions nationally and internationally. Amnesty International (November 8, 29, and December 13, 2012), Human Rights Watch (November 9, 2012 and March 7, 2013), Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists (November 10, 2012), the United States Department of State and the European Union issued announcements demanding that Islamic Republic officials carry out an investigation and explain his death. Civil society organizations and political groups including Islamic Iran Participation Front, Alumni Organization of University Students (Advar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat) and Assembly of Qom Seminary Scholars also issued some announcements stating that this murder was a felony, condemning the continuing murder of political protestors and critics and demanding an end to torture in detention centers and prisons. Following these reactions, the special committee of investigation of Sattar Beheshti’s death was formed in Islamic Consultative Assembly.
A number of the witnesses of this case who agreed to testify formally, were followed and subjected to judicial harassment. Among those was Mr. Beheshti’s doctor in the Evin Prison clinic, Mr. Reza Heidarpur, who was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence agents and was sentenced to six months of imprisonment in branch 28 of the Islamic Revolutionary court (Kaleme, Jun 1, 2016). One of the political prisoners in ward 350 of Evin Prison who had testified in favor of Sattar Beheshti in his interview with the investigating judge of the case, was later exiled to Karun Prison in Ahvaz, which has harsh conditions, in order to be punished, although the judge had guaranteed that he would not be penalized (Kaleme, November 11, 2013).
According to Saham news, Mr. Beheshti was also arrested during the protests in the Tehran University dormitory in 1999.
Arrest and detention
Mr. Sattar Beheshti was arrested in his mother’s house located in Robat Karim by the FATA Police- Iranian Cyber Police - agents on October 30, 2012. The agents didn’t show any warrant to him. According to Mr. Beheshti’s mother, when she asked the undercover agents to show her a warrant, they showed her their guns. The officials’ statement about the existence of an arrest warrant is contradicted. Ali Motahari, a member of the Iranian parliament from Tehran and Robat Karim, in a formal session in the Islamic Consultative Assembly announced that according to his investigations, the arrest of Mr. Beheshti was done without any court orders. But according to the parliamentary committee and the statement of the speaker of Judiciary, the arrest of Mr. Beheshti was based on judiciary orders (ISNA, January 6, 2013). The agents confiscated Mr. Beheshti’s computer and manuscripts while arresting him.
According to the National Security Committee of the Parliament’s report, Mr. Beheshti was transferred to General Prosecutor and Revolutionary Court of Robat Karim after the arrest and after they charged him. He was granted bail, but due to his inability to provide the bail, he was transferred to FATA Police detention center in Tehran. The day after the arrest (October 31, 2012) at 4:20 P.M. Mr. Beheshti was transferred to Evin Prison’s ward 350 according to the court order of branch four of Media Court Inspection Office. The next morning (at 11:10 November 1, 2012) because of the request by FATA Police which was accepted by the aforementioned branch, he was delivered to FATA Police agents and was transferred to FATA Police detention center for further investigation.
On the only night that Mr. Beheshti spent at ward 350 of Evin Prison, he was transferred to the prison clinic twice because of his unnatural physical situation. The first time was at 8:30 P.M. October 31, and the second time was at 9:10 A.M. November 1 when he was treated in the Evin Prison’s clinic and they prescribed a sedative for him (ISNA, January 6, 2013). Political prisoners of Evin prison’s ward 350 testified in an open letter that there were obvious scars and marks on Sattar Beheshti’s body that indicated he was beaten and tortured. “He stated in the presence of other people in ward 350 that in the security police headquarter they hung him from the wall and beat him, afterwards the police tied his arms and legs to the chair and beat him again. Sometimes they handcuffed him and beat him and other times they put him on the ground and kicked him in the neck and head savagely with their boots. While they were torturing him, they cursed him and his family badly and threatened him with death repeatedly… when they brought Sattar to the ward 350, the signs of torture were all over his body. He was wounded and in a very painful situation. His face was wounded, his head was swollen, his wrists were bruised and it was obvious that he was hung from the ceiling. On some parts of his body like his neck, stomach and his back, signs of trauma and bruises were visible…” (Kaleme, November 10, 2012)
Although Mr. Beheshti’s physical and mental torture while in custody in the detention center of Robat Karim and the detention center of FATA Police of Tehran was denied at first, it was finally acknowledged by the speaker of the Judiciary, Forensics Office and National Security Committee. According to Mohseni-Eje’i, the speaker of judiciary, Mr. Sattar Beheshti was beaten since the day he was arrested. In the Forensic Office’s report, they acknowledged that there were bruises, swelling and scratches on different parts of his body (ISNA, December 3, 2012)
Mr. Beheshti was deprived of visiting and contacting his family and lawyer while he was in custody.
There was no trial regarding Mr. Sattar Beheshti’s arrest. He was charged in the Public Prosecution Office of Robat Karim and Branch four of the Media Court Inspection Office of Tehran and according to the speaker of Judiciary, he was granted bail of one hundred million Tomans.
Mr. Sattar Beheshti was charged with “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran, insulting the system’s values, and gathering and conspiring against state security” (Parliament’s report)
Evidence of guilt
According to Parliament’s report, some evidence that was used against him included having links to “political activists whose goal was to overthrow the regime” abroad, creating pages in Facebook named “Sattar Beheshti” and “Sa’id Azad” and publishing false news and propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the system’s values in his weblog articles. According to the same report, Mr. Beheshti accepted the charges and confessed that he was against the system’s politics, wrote articles and emailed them abroad.
No trial took place to consider the charges against Mr. Sattar Beheshti and he was denied the right to defend himself. His lawyer Ms. Giti Purfazel wasn’t allowed to see her client. According to Sattar Beheshti’s mother, he gave Ms. Purfazel’s number to her some time before his arrest and said to call her if he was arrested (Deutsche Welle, November 30, 2012).
In a voice message which was recorded shortly before his arrest, Mr. Sattar Beheshti reported continuous threats from security forces. According to him, security forces came to his house twice. The first time was ten days before the time he recorded the message and second time was 18 or twenty days before that. While searching the house they took some of his manuscripts and other evidence away.
Mr. Beheshti expressed concern about the pressure on his elderly mother and emphasized, “I swear to God, if they came and got me right now saying they are going to hang me, I would say dying this way is better than living this life, living this miserable life, because we don’t live a life, We are lackeys, we are slaves.” (Kaleme, November 12,2012).
During the time Mr. Beheshti spent in Evin Prison ward 350 (only one night), he wrote a letter to the person in charge of Evin ward 350, mentioning his torture by the FATA Police, warning about the consequences of transferring him to FATA Police again and demanding an investigation, “I, Sattar Beheshti, was arrested on 10/30/2012 by the FATA police in my home without any warrant and I was threatened and tortured several times in two days of interrogation, they swore at my mother and myself with words such as (…), your mother is not a decent person, and insulted me in other ways. They tortured me a lot , beat me, tied me to a desk and kicked my head, and now on 11/1/2012 FATA Police have summoned me again and they will take me away and if anything happens to me, FATA Police is responsible for that and any confession I make will be under torture. During the 12 hours that I spent in ward 350 room two, my roommates saw the signs of torture on my body. And I visited the medic two times and I will finally give my report to you and want you to investigate this issue” (Kaleme, November 8,2012).
One day before his arrest, Mr. Beheshti wrote on his weblog that he received death threats, “Yesterday they threatened me ‘Tell your mother she should wear black very soon and shut your pie hole.’ I say, ‘Why would I shut my mouth? I don’t do anything.’ They say, ‘You talk too much.’ I say, ‘I write anything I see and hear.’ They say, ‘We do anything we want and treat you in any way we like. You should shut up and not report, otherwise you will be shut up without anybody knowing about you and about what happened to you!’” (Sattar Beheshti’s weblog, October 29, 2012)
No official ruling was issued against Mr. Beheshti. According to official reports, Mr. Sattar Beheshti passed away in the evening of November 3, 2012 in the detention room of FATA Police of Tehran. “The security forces of FATA Police of Tehran” informed Mr. Beheshti’s family about his death in the detention center by summoning his brother-in-law on November 5, 2012. When he asked about the cause of his death, they said, “Shut up! Don’t ask anything!” (The audio interview of Sattar Beheshti’s sister broadcast on social networks)
The officers didn’t deliver Mr. Beheshti’s body to his family and the ritual for washing his body was performed by the security forces without the presence of his family. Mr. Beheshti’s family were not allowed to see their child’s body. Mr. Beheshti’s funeral was conducted on November 7 by the security forces with the presence of his family in Robat Karim Cemetery.
The security forces threatened and pressured his family not to conduct a funeral (on the third and seventh night) in a mosque.
Mr. Beheshti’s death was widely reported in the media and national and international institutions. The statements of the Judiciary officials and the police about Mr. Beheshti’s death were contradictory and ambiguous and they didn’t explicitly take responsibility for his death. The officials claimed that he died of natural causes in their early statements. In particular, on November 12, 2012, the Speaker of the Judiciary referred to the first statement of the Forensics Office, claiming that Mr. Beheshti’s death was caused by shock and was natural and he denied any torture and the allegations in Mr. Beheshti’s complaint from the ward 350 in Evin Prison. The head of the Forensic Office also announced in an interview that based on the tests done on Sattar Beheshti’s body, there were no signs of suffocation or poison in his body and they confirmed that he had died of natural causes (Mehr News Agency, November 19).
With the increase in national and international protests, Tehran’s Public Prosecution Office issued an announcement about “the clarifying results” from additional research and reporting the arrest of some police officers and personnel of FATA Police in connection with the case, but didn’t explain the details of these “clarifying results”. The last theory of the Medical Committee of seven members (specialists on the Forensic Office) on 11/20/2012 was also mentioned in the announcement, which stated, “Currently, considering the examinations carried out and the available data, it is not medically possible to determine the exact cause of death, but since in the examination of the body and further assessments there were no signs of a disease that could cause death, the most likely cause for his death can be the shock resulting from one or more beatings to sensitive parts of his body or severe stress. These factors can be the cause of the abovementioned shock” (the website of the Prosecution Office, November 22, 2012).
The chief of the police also mentioned several cases of “failure in the arrest and custody of Sattar Beheshti” by the FATA Police agents including the poor detention center in Robat Karim, having him delivered from Evin Prison on a holiday, prohibiting him from taking the sedative pills prescribed by the clinic medic in the Evin Prison, and keeping him in custody in the administrative division which was not a standard place, but he emphasized that, “There are no signs of assault on his body.” (Mehr News Agency, November 27, 2012).
On December 1, the head of FATA Police in Tehran was removed. In an interview, the speaker of the Judiciary, Mohseni-Eje’i, confirmed the torture and assault on Mr. Beheshti by FATA Police agents for the first time, “The deceased was assaulted since the day he was arrested…also the medics declared that there were bruises on some parts of the accused’s body such as his shoulders and legs that were fading, which shows that they might have been formed three to four days before his death.” But he immediately added that those beatings did not cause his death. He also added that there was a theory that, “The whole Sattar Beheshti case has been created by the counter-revolutionary currents” and that there were some clues and evidence of this such as the time the news was reported for the first time and Mr. Beheshti’s complaint from Evin Prison which he revealed in this interview(ISNA, December 3, 2012).
On January 6, 2013, the report by the National Security Committee of the Parliament was read publicly which emphasized the torture and assault on Sattar Beheshti, “In the light of the direct confession of the deceased to the alleged crime, the charges and the bail, there was no need for arbitrary physical and mental pressure on the deceased and it was illegal.” In addition, based on the report of the National Security Committee of the Parliament, the custody of Mr. Beheshti in the detention center of FATA Police in Tehran was against the rules and illegal and the FATA Police agents were responsible for that. The head of FATA Police didn’t monitor and inspect the behavior of the agents. Although based on this report, “The first arrest of the deceased, charges, bail, and finally his arrest due to his inability to post bail” were legal. Mahdi Davatgari, the person in charge of making reports for the National Security Committee of the Parliament, announced in an interview that the violations of the agents involved with the death of Sattar Beheshti were arbitrary and were not organized. He objected, “The report that was recited about the cause of Sattar Beheshti’s death, the confessions of the suspects of the case, i.e. the arrested agents, have been omitted” (ISNA, January 6, 2013).
The case of Sattar Beheshti’s death led to the issuance of an indictment with the charge of “manslaughter” for one of the FATA Police agents which was sent to the Public Court branch 1057. The trial was conducted on April 8, 2014 without the presence of the plaintiffs. The reporters were also not allowed to be present in the court and cover the news, and ultimately, the main offender of the case was charged with assault and harassment which is subject to article 578 of the fifth book of the Penal code of 1996, and sentenced to three years in prison, two years of mandatory residency in a certain place and 76 lashes. The verdict was accepted by branch 14 of the appeal court of the province (ISNA, April 8, 2014).
Mr. Beheshti’s family stated that their child was healthy and did not even use “painkiller pills,” and that the FATA Police had murdered their son, and they filed a complaint to the court. According to the family, the reason for murdering Mr. Beheshti was that, “He only stated his objections. Although Sattar was not highly educated, he was aware and they were scared of his awareness, so they killed Sattar and people like him.”
Late in the summer of 2013, Mr. Beheshti’s case was sent from branch one of Persecution Office to the court with an indictment for “Manslaughter.” According to Mr. Beheshti’s lawyer, at first the prosecutor of the case charged “Murder”, but the assistant prosecutor changed it to “Manslaughter.” The issuance of the indictment for manslaughter was objected to by Mr. Beheshti’s family and lawyer. Mr. Beheshti’s lawyer explained the reason for the objection, “This case is charged with manslaughter but I believe it should be murder and for this reason I object. The reason that I believe it is murder is that the FATA Police didn’t have any authorization for taking Sattar Beheshti from Evin Prison and keeping him in a detention center for three days.” (ISNA, September 14, 2013). Since the court is in charge of resolving the dispute between the assistant prosecutor and the prosecutor, and with the objection of Mr. Beheshti’s lawyer to the indictment, the case was sent to the Criminal Court of the Government Officials and in March, 2014, the court approved the assistant prosecutor’s decision and issued the indictment for manslaughter. (IRNA, February 28,2014).
In objection to the indictment for manslaughter, Ms. Gohar Eshghi, Sattar Beheshti’s mother said, “Every time, before the issuance of indictment, that we saw Mr. Shahriari, the prosecutor of the case, he talked about Sattar’s death being a murder and he always said to us that we should forgive Sattar’s killer like Imam Ali forgave his killer. He said he is young and has a family. But now I don’t know why they issued the indictment for manslaughter. They are trying for the killer, who is an interrogator, not to get punished … the day that they showed us the killer, I was with my daughter and our lawyer in the prosecutor room. They brought in four people, three of whom left the room because the hjad only failed to follow proper procedures. One of them, whose we didn’t even know his name until a few days ago, remained in the room . They said that he was the main culprit and the killer of Sattar. I asked him, ‘How did my Sattar die?’ He said, ‘Sattar mocked me and I beat him, he mocked me over and over and I beat him continuously until he died’” (the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, October 9, 2013).
After the case was sent to the court, Mr. Beheshti’s lawyer, Ms. Purfazel, got permission to read the case and the Forensics Office’s report on it for the first time. Ms. Purfazel saw for the first time a forensics report that indicated the cause of Sattar Beheshti’s death was a blow to the head. “Sattar’s case is 3 thousand pages and I read all of it. According to the theory of Ms. Purmobaraki, a doctor at the morgue of the Forensic Office, the cause of Sattar’s death was internal bleeding caused by torture and blows to different areas of the kidneys, gut and the sphenoid bone of the brain. I printed this theory and showed it to different specialized doctors. All of them agreed that the cause of death was blows to different parts of the body, internal bleeding and cells got deprived of oxygen.” Despite the clear theory of their own doctor, the Forensic Office announced that they couldn’t determine the exact cause of death (Jaras, June 7, 2014).
Ms. Purfazel announce that her clients dropped the case for manslaughter and said, “The prosecutor believed that the killer didn’t have any motivations for murder and the assault was not deadly whereas the beatings made Sattar’s lungs, kidneys and sphenoid bone bleed and this bleeding caused the deprivation of oxygen to his organs, therefore, he died. She said, “Sattar Beheshti’s next of kin believe that the death of their son is murder and given the fact that they don’t want the blood money, they won’t participate in the court session on April 8.” (ISNA, April 8, 2014)
After filing a complaint to the court and following up the case, Sattar Beheshti’s family and lawyer received pressure and threats. According to Gohar Eshghi, Sattar Beheshti’s mother, three days after the seventh day ceremony of Sattar’s death, agents took her to a place to show her the killer of her son. She recognized three people that had come to her house to arrest Sattar. According to Ms. Eshghi, they showed her an arrest warrant for her daughter and wanted her to consent to withdraw her complaint against the people who were involved in her son’s death. “They had my daughter’s arrest warrant. They said, ‘Sign or we will arrest her.’ I had to do it. I didn’t want to lose another child. I had to and I signed. I didn’t want my daughter to get arrested and taken away. They forced me to sign it with threats.” (Deutsche Welle, November 30, 2012).
According Ms. Purfazel, “The first complaint was from Sattar’s mother but they gained an “invalid consent” from her so they could stop the case, but this time we demanded retaliation using Sattar’s father’s authorization.” (ISNA, January 9, 2013). Purfazel explained the reason for the invalidation of the consent, “I haven’t seen the consent letter, but as the prosecutor explained it to me, it was about the FATA Police agents’ charges. I believe this consent letter is not legal, because it was signed in a special situation, even before the real offender was found.” She stated that she doesn’t know the reason why they took this impulsive action and said, “I said to the prosecutor of the case that this consent will not change anything in the case.” (ISNA, December 12, 2012).
According to Ms. Purfazel, despite the statements of the people in charge of the case, sending the case to the court was delayed several times for no specific reason. There was one time when Sattar Beheshti’s father suddenly went missing. Ten days later her daughter found him in the police office where they were filming him and opening an Alzheimers case for him. Mr. Beheshti’s lawyer stated in an interview that the reason for opening an Alzheimers case in the police office without the presence of any doctors was to set the stage for saying that he is incompetent in order to buy some time so that the case wouldn’t be sent to the court. (ISNA, January 27, 2013).
Ms. Purfazel considered the Islamic Consultative Assembly’s report “unjustified and shallow” and emphasized that according to the statement of the prosecutor of the case and based on the final report of the Forensics Office, Sattar Beheshti didn’t die of natural causes. “Something that is ambiguous to me is that the interrogator is identified. Based on case’s facts, there were four interrogators, one of whom was the main culprit. It means that his death happened because of his tortures and assault.” (ISNA, January 9, 2013). Ms. Purfazel criticized the note of the article 128 of the Criminal Procedure and stated, “It is common all around the world that when the defendant is being interrogated he could ask for his lawyer to be there. Of course our law addresses this issue too but the note that is added to the article 128 of the Criminal Procedure, indicates that the judge, based on his own opinion can decide about the presence of the lawyer.” (ISNA, January 27, 2013)
Other sources: the report of the National Security Committee of the Parliament (ISNA, January 6, 2013), ISNA (November 14, 22, 23, December 12, 2012; January 6, 9, 21, 27, 2013; April 8, September 14, October 14, 21, December 14, 2013; April 8, August 7, 2014), Kaleme (October 29, November 1, 8, 6, 10, 11, 17, 19, 23, 2012; April 21, 2015; June 2, 2016), IRNA (February 28, 2014), the website of the International Amnesty (November 8, 29, December 13, 2012), the website of Human Rights Watch (November 9, 2012; March 7, 2013), Deutsche Welle (November 30, 2012), Sattar Beheshti’s weblog (October 28, 29, 2012), (Mehr News Agency, November 19), the website of the Public and Revolution Prosecutor's Office (November 22, 2012), the website of BBC Persian (November 8, 10, 11, 14, 2012), Mehr News Agency (November 12, 18, 19, 27, 2012), the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (October 9, November 6, December 5, 2013), Jaras (June 7, 2014), Saham News (November 6, 21, 2012), HRANA (October 30, November 6, 2012), Social Networks (YouTube, December 13, 2013; November 6, December 14, 2012)
Article 578 - “Any governmental official or employee, whether judicial or non-judicial, who physically tortures or torments an accused person to force him to confess will, in addition to retribution-in-kind or payment of blood money, be sentenced to imprisonment from six months to three years, depending on the case, and if someone has ordered the same, only the person giving the order will be given the said punishment of imprisonment and if the torture and torment results in death, the perpetrator shall be sentenced to the punishment for murder, and someone who ordered the [torture] will have the punishment prescribed for ordering a killing.”
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