'Moral Outrage' As Iranian Court Upholds Student's Death Sentence
By Golnaz Esfandiari,
Mohammad Amin Valian, a student at Iran's Damghan University, can be hanged at
any time. Iran's judiciary has announced that an appeal court has upheld a death
sentence against Valian in connection with a December antigovernment protest. He
is among at least 11 people sentenced to death in trials following the protests
that erupted after last year's disputed presidential election.
Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman with the International Campaign for Human Rights In
Iran, tells RFE/RL that Valian has been convicted of "moharebeh" or "waging war
against God," based on a photo taken during a protest on the December 27
religious holiday of Ashura.
"He was charged with moharebeh, which is just about the most serious charge that
anybody in Iran can be charged with," Rhodes says. "And what this guy did -- he
is a bright young student who was politically active -- he took part in several
demonstrations, not as a leader but he was photographed throwing some rocks. And
on the basis of those photographs he's received those charges."
During the Ashura holiday, opposition members launched fresh antigovernment
protests in Tehran and several other cities. Bloody clashes were reported and
dozens of protesters were arrested; at least eight were killed.
An opposition supporter stands near a police motorcycle set on fire during
with security forces in Tehran on December 27. (photo:
The opposition website "Iran Green Voice" reports that the judge who issued the
initial moharebeh verdict referred to a speech by a senior cleric, Ayatollah
Makarem Shirazi, who had reportedly said that "desecrators of Ashura" are "mohareb,"
or enemies of God.
The website, which has called for a campaign to save
Valian from death, says that the student comes from a religious family and that
his activities have always been within the framework of the law. According to
the website, there have been no proven links whatsoever between Valian and
groups and organizations outlawed in Iran.
of others could be similarly accused, convicted, and face being
Valian is a member of the reformist Islamic Association at his university in the
northern town of Damghan. He reportedly campaigned for opposition leader and
defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi, who has said that last
June's presidential vote was massively rigged in favor of President Mahmud
It is not clear when he was arrested, but he went on trial in early February.
Rhodes describes the death sentence against Valian as a "complete moral
"It's an attempt to intimidate other students, other young people like him, who
just want to exercise their basic human rights and their political rights,"
Rhodes says. "Any number of others could be similarly accused, convicted, and
face being hung."
Rhodes says the "grossly disproportionate sentence" devalues the life of a
promising young man.
A prominent human rights lawyer, Abdol Fatah Soltani, tells RFE/RL's Radio Farda
that the charge of moharebeh is being misused by Iranian judicial authorities.
"None of those who are being arrested in protest demonstrations can be charged
with moharebeh because they participate in peaceful protests and they're after
their civil rights," Soltani says. "The essential condition for moharebeh is
when someone has taken up arms and attacked people and created riots."
Soltani believes that throwing stones does not rise to the charge of moharebeh.
Iranian authorities have said that five arrested in connection with the Ashura
unrest have been charged with moharebeh.
Iran has so far executed two people sentenced in trials following the
postelection unrest that has plunged the Islamic republic into its worse crisis
since the revolution.
Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmani Pour were hanged on January 28 after
being charged with moharebeh over their membership in an exiled monarchist group
that aims at overthrowing the Islamic regime. The two had been reportedly
arrested before the presidential vote.
Radio Farda broadcaster Elahe Ravanshad contributed to this report
Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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