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At the end of this article, see the action you can take to help save Ebrahim
Must a man hang because he is accused of being gay?
By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
Eighteen year old Ebrahim Hamidi has been sentenced to death by a court in the Iranian city of Tabriz, on charges that he sexually assaulted another man. His accuser has since withdrawn the assault claim in a sworn affidavit, admitting that he lied under parental pressure. But Ebrahim is still scheduled to hang.
Two years ago, the alleged sex attack victim was caught by Ebrahim damaging his father’s crops. There had been a history of feuding between their families. A fist fight ensued, involving Ebrahim and some friends. During the fracas, the accuser’s trousers slipped down 20cm, which he claimed was evidence of a sexual assault.
Two hours later, Ebrahim and three friends were arrested on sodomy charges and tortured in a detention centre for three days. Ebrahim was hanged upside down by his legs and badly beaten. To stop this abuse, he signed a confession.
There is no evidence that Ebrahim is gay or that a sexual assault took place; just the word of one person against another and a confession under torture, which was later retracted.
At his first trial in 2008, Ebrahim was sentenced to hang on the the basis of the “knowledge of the judge” – a bizarre legal protocol whereby, in the absence of sufficient evidence to convict in sodomy and adultery cases, a judge is free to assess that a person is guilty.
Ebrahim’s death sentence is in defiance of the Supreme Court of Iran, which has twice rejected the local court’s guilty verdict and ordered a re-examination of the case, citing errors in the legal investigation and an “issue of doubt.” These two Supreme Court rulings against conviction and execution have been ignored by the judiciary in Tabriz.
At the third and most recent trial in June, Ebrahim’s three co-defendants were acquitted. He was not. Two of the five Tabriz judges cleared him of all charges but the other three upheld his execution order.
Soon afterwards, a third appeal was submitted to the Supreme Court. Alas, at this crucial stage in his appeal, Ebrahim suddenly has no legal representation, which puts him in great peril. His lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, was forced into hiding after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He has since fled Iran, fearing that the government was planning to jail him over his highly publicised efforts to stop the stoning to death of a 43 year old woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, on charges of adultery. She, too, was sentenced by a Tabriz court.
Without a lawyer, Ebrahim cannot further challenge the death sentence. If the Supreme Court this time confirms his execution, he could be hanged in a matter of days. Hanging in Iran is not by the trapdoor drop method, which breaks a person’s neck swiftly. It is by sadistic strangulation. The noosed victim is hoisted by a crane, which causes them to writhe and convulse. They die a slow, painful death from asphyxiation.
Ebrahim’s case highlights the flaws and injustices of the Iranian legal system. It is further evidence that innocent people are sentenced on false charges of homosexuality, often after torture.
To avoid the hangman’s noose, Ebrahim’s best hope is to persuade the Chief Justice of Iran, Sadeq Larijani, to veto his hanging. I have written to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, urging him to press the Chief Justice to halt Ebrahim’s execution, annul the death sentence and order a re-trial. I hope MPs, and the public, will lobby the Iranian Ambassador, to save both Ebrahim and Sakineh.
What you can do to help save Ebrahim
Write a polite letter of protest to the head of the judiciary and to the supreme leader of Iran, urging Ebrahim’s release:
Head of the Judiciary
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh (Office of the Head of the Judiciary)
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran 1316814737, Iran
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or via the official website: http://www.dadiran.ir/tabid/75/Default.aspx
First starred box: your first name; Second starred box: your family name; Third starred box: your email address
Supreme Leader of Iran
Sayed Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Email: via the official website: http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/index.php?p=letter (English)
Thank you, Peter Tatchell