The Iranian authorities must urgently overturn the death sentence for a shop worker who was tried unfairly on drugs-related charges, Amnesty International said, amid fears his execution is imminent.
On 1 August, Saeed Sedeghi was transferred from Tehran’s Kahrizak detention centre to Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj, 50 km west of the capital.
The transfer came just days after he was brought before Tehran’s Revolutionary Court – without having a lawyer present – and made to sign a document informing him that his death sentence would be implemented.
“By transferring Saeed Sedeghi so soon after informing him of the intent to carry out his death sentence, we fear the Iranian authorities are gearing up to execute him,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“His death sentence should be overturned immediately and he should be retried in full accordance with international fair trial standards, without recourse to the death penalty.”
Before his transfer from the capital, Sedeghi had applied to Iran’s Amnesty and Clemency Commission for a pardon, but never received a response about the outcome.
On 2 June 2012, the Revolutionary Court had sentenced him to death for purchasing – along with three other men – and possessing 512 kg of methamphetamine (“crystal meth”).
In addition to execution, the court handed Sedeghi a fine of 2 million rials (approximately US$163) and sentenced him to 20 lashes for individual possession of 21 grams of opium and marijuana.
The convictions came after the shop worker underwent an unfair trial in which he had no contact with his state-appointed lawyer before appearing in court.
He told his family he was tortured and otherwise ill-treated while at Kahrizak detention centre – including having several teeth knocked out by officials there.
The Kahrizak detention centre was reportedly closed in 2009 on the order of the Supreme Leader following allegations of torture which led to several deaths in custody.
Subsequently, a new facility is reported to have been opened there under another name – Soroush 111 – though locals in Iran continue to refer to the facility as Kahrizak.
The vast majority of executions in Iran in recent years have been for drug-related offences, despite there being no clear evidence that the death penalty serves as an effective deterrent against such offences – the country has one of the highest rates of drug addiction in world.
Under Iran’s Anti-Narcotics Law, the death penalty is mandatory in cases of possession or trafficking of more than a specified amount of various drugs. In December 2010, the law’s scope was expanded to include a wider range of illegal drugs, among them methamphetamine.
Under Article 32 of the law, death sentences handed down by lower courts are subject to confirmation either by the head of the Supreme Court or the Prosecutor General and it appears that those sentenced to death are not granted leave to appeal, in contravention of Iranian and international law.
Iran is second only to China in terms of the volume of death sentences carried out annually, with many of the more than 600 executions believed to have taken place in 2011 carried out behind a cloak of secrecy.
By the third week of July 2012, the Iranian authorities are believed to have executed at least 272 people, including 98 executions that have not been announced by the authorities. More than 65 per cent of all executions this year have involved drug trafficking.
International standards prohibit the use of the death penalty except for “crimes with an intention to kill which resulted in the loss of life”, and the UN Human Rights Committee has on numerous occasions found that drug-related offences do not meet this criterion.
“Drug-related offences like those of which Saeed Sedeghi was convicted do not meet the ‘most-serious crimes’ threshold prescribed for the use of the death penalty,” said Ann Harrison.
“We urge the Iranian authorities to urgently review the Anti-Narcotics law to remove the death penalty as a possible punishment, and to commute the death sentences of all prisoners currently on death row.”
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.