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03/29/13

Iran: Investigation of Haleh Sahabi's Death Closed Without Visual Evidence Review

Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran


Haleh Sahabi, a member of the Mothers for Peace group, died at her father’s funeral on June 1, 2011, after security forces attacked her and she sustained a blow to her body.

Two years after the death of Haleh Sahabi at her father’s funeral, a Tehran Court has declared she died of “natural causes” and closed the investigation. In an interview with Rooz Online, Sahabi’s husband stated that the court refused to review films and photographs pertaining to the incident despite the court testimonies of four eye witnesses who had seen an individual strike Sahabi before her death.

Haleh Sahabi, a member of the Mothers for Peace group, died at her father’s funeral on June 1, 2011, after security forces attacked her and she sustained a blow to her body.

Taghi Shamekhi, Sahabi’s husband, told Rooz that the family wrote a letter to the Head of the Judiciary, asking for a review of videotapes and photographs captured by cameras at the scene of the incident, but so far they have not received a reply from the Judiciary. Despite the announcement about the case’s closure, Sahabi’s husband said, “We plan on lodging another complaint to demand that the individual who inflicted the blow must be put on trial for that act and that a legal investigation be launched. We are hopeful that our perseverance pays off someday and for the real cause [of death] to become known.”

Haleh Sahabi, the daughter of Ezatollah Sahabi, author and founding member of Nationalist-Religious Coalition, was arrested by plainclothes forces in August 2009 during a Tehran gathering. Branch 26 of Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced her to two years in prison and cash fines in lieu of lashes on charges of “propaganda against the regime through repeated attendance in illegal assemblies and disrupting public order.”

Sahabi was released on bail to attend her father’s funeral on June 1, 2011. She died at a clinic in Lavasan, outside Tehran, after security forces assaulted her at the funeral, according to eyewitnesses who talked to the Campaign immediately after her death.

“An attorney representing us has requested an investigation into the incident of Haleh’s death,” Hamed Sahabi told the Campaign some time after his sister’s death. “We requested an investigation so that the culprit who planned what happened at our father’s funeral, leading to Haleh’s death, be identified. We declared that Haleh’s death was not natural and that it was caused by the events of that day, and the court asked us for witnesses. So we introduced four witnesses to the court after coordinating with them,” he added.

“If the court has the intention of shedding light on this case it must ask the security forces, or whatever organization, who were filming the funeral procession that day, to hand over the recordings to the court.... We are certain that there are recordings of the funeral ceremony from different angles, which can be used as evidence in the court.... It was impossible for others to film the events that day. Anyone who was even recording with his cell phone was arrested immediately, or the mobile phone was taken away. Other than the police themselves who were openly filming, no one else had that possibility,” Hamed Sahabi told the Campaign.

Nevertheless, according to Taghi Shamekhi, two years after Haleh Sahabi’s death the court closed the case without reviewing any of the photographs or video recordings of that day.

“We pursued the case through the judicial process. Our lawyer told the court, ‘We believe the cause of death to be the blow Mrs. Sahabi sustained and we have witnesses for this, and you have access to films and photographs the review of which will clarify a lot of things,’ asking for their investigation and judicial action. During the course of the court proceedings, they asked for our witnesses and we introduced four witnesses. They appeared in court. Two of them directly said that they saw the individual who dealt the blow and hid in the crowd. Two others said that they didn’t see the individual who dealt the blow, but they saw the blow itself and Mrs. Sahabi’s falling after the blow,” Taghi Shamekhi told Rooz Online.

Ahmad Montazeri, the grandson of the late Ayatollah Montazeri, is one of the witnesses who participated in the court case. During his testimony, he specifically described seeing the blow hit Haleh Sahabi in the upper torso, after which she went into heart failure.

“After our witnesses provided their testimony, the court issued its final and un-appealable ruling, stating, ‘There is no relationship between the cause of death and the incident. Even if there was a blow and the witness testimonies are accurate, because the causal relationship cannot be established, therefore no direct relationship exists and we see no reason to review the photographs and films from the cameras present at the location. The death was normal and the case is closed,’” Mr. Shamekhi told Rooz, citing the court’s ruling.

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