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Iranian Judiciary Must Reverse American Citizen's Death Sentence

Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

Judgment Issued in Summary Trial Without Due Process

The Iranian judiciary should immediately rescind the death sentence in the appeals court issued for Iranian-American citizen Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. In addition, the judiciary should provide a fair trial with full access to his lawyer and put an end to more than four months of isolation and lack of transparency about his arrest and prosecution, the Campaign said.

This is the first time an American citizen has been sentenced to death by the Iranian judiciary.

“We are seriously concerned regarding the death sentence, secrecy, and continued lack of transparency surrounding the prosecution of Iranian-American citizen Amir Hekmati,” said Campaign spokesperson Hadi Ghaemi.

“We ask the Iranian judiciary to adhere to international standards of due process and allow independent observers in the courtroom at his appeals trial,” he added.

A source close to the family told the Campaign that the US citizen entered Iran for the first time on 15 August 2011 to visit with his family members. He was arrested on 29 August 2011 on charges of espionage.

“When Amir supplied his background and applied for his passport processing at the Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC, he was assured that his prior employment with the US government was not going to impede his trip to Iran nor cause him any problems,” the source added.

Four months after his arrest in August 2011, Hekmati’s first court session was held on 27 December at Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. Presiding Judge Abolghassem Salavati denied Hekmati the lawyer hired by his family to represent him. Instead, a court-appointed lawyer represented him during the trial without ever seeing him beforehand.

Judge Salavati is one of Iran’s most notorious judges, well known for the unlawful and harsh sentences he has delivered to dozens of political prisoners during the post-election show trials. He has sentenced more than one hundred political prisoners, human rights activists, and peaceful demonstrators to lengthy prison sentences as well as at least nine execution sentences, earning the moniker “The Judge of Death.”

Over the past few years a number of Iranian-Americans who have traveled to Iran have faced similar charges, from undermining the Islamic Republic to spying for American agencies. In all such cases the defendants have been released after a few months and have left the country.

“Almost all the elements of Hekmati’s case fall into a classic pattern of Iranian intelligence’s spy-finding machine,” said Ghaemi.

The source close to the family told the Campaign that over the course of Hekmati’s arrest, Iranian authorities pressured them not to talk with the media, assuring the family they would release Hekmati soon. During his arrest and subsequent detention, Hekmati was never allowed to contact his family in the US.

According to state-operated Fars News Agency, Hekmati allegedly entered Iran with the aim of penetrating the country’s intelligence system. Further examination, according to a report by the Judicial-Legal Director of the Intelligence Ministry’s Espionage Unit, indicated that his goal was to accuse Iran of involvement with terrorism. His indictment alleged that Hekmati was recruited by the CIA in May 2009 to carry out espionage missions in Iran.

The family asserts that what was said in the indictment regarding Hekmati’s background, his prior service in the US military and his prior employment with the US government, is in the public record and he never hid what he did in the past. All the information regarding his background could be obtained from his passport application, as well as from his resume, easily accessible from his confiscated laptop.

Breaking their months-long silence, Amir Hekmati’s family issued a statement on 3 January 2012, asserting, “We have been asked by Iranian authorities to remain silent, and were told that Amir would eventually be released soon. After ... reports that a verdict is imminent we can no longer remain silent.”

Rather than release Hekmati without charges, on 27 December Iranian authorities televised a pale and emaciated Hekmati confessing to the charges. Today, 9 January 2012, Hekmati has been sentenced to execution.

“It has been 126 days since Amir Hekmati was detained by the Iranian government after having been granted permission by Iranian authorities to enter to visit his beloved family,” the family said in their statement from 3 January 2012. “[W]e believe the allegations made against Amir are false and believe that the purported confession was not voluntary and was made under severe duress.”

“The judiciary has claimed Amir Hekmati is a spy, citing evidence that only they are aware of,” said Ghaemi. “That evidence should be made public and the judiciary should be completely transparent. If such an accusation were based on credible evidence, there would be no reason to hold his trial without adequate due process.”

NIAC Urges Iran to Reverse Iranian American's Death Sentence

Press Release by National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

NIAC condemns the lack of due process afforded to Iranian American Amir Hekmati and urges the Iranian judiciary to overturn his death sentence. Hekmati’s rights, including the right to consular access and competent legal defense, were repeatedly denied, raising serious questions about the court’s verdict.

“The Iranian government’s disregard for the rule of law and the lack of due process in Hekmati’s case make it impossible to take this verdict at face value,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi. “The Iranian judiciary should provide Hekmati due process as part of a new, transparent trial consistent with Iran’s international obligations, or it should release him.”

Iranian officials initially told Hekmati’s family to remain silent, assuring them that he would be released. However, Iran - which has a long record of coercing confessions from prisoners - subsequently aired a confession by Hekmati on national television. When brought to trial, Hekmati was denied legal counsel by the lawyer hired by his family to represent him. Additionally, the judge in the case has been described as “one of Iran’s most notorious judges” by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, due to his sentencing of “more than one hundred political prisoners, human rights activists, and peaceful demonstrators to lengthy prison sentences as well as at least nine execution sentences.”

“Time and time again, we find ordinary Iranian Americans being caught in the crossfire between Iran and the United States,” said Abdi. “There is serious concern that this sentence is driven more by politics and enmity between these two countries than the actions of this young man.”

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