Iranian Protester Tortured & Sentenced to Death for "Apostasy"

Iranian authorities have handed a death sentence to a 35-year-old mentally ill man for allegedly committing apostasy and “insulting holy things” amidst the early stages of protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.

Javad Rouhi and two teenagers, 19-year-old Mahdi Mohammadifad and 18-year-old Arshia Takdastan, were accused of breaking into the traffic police headquarters in the city of Nowshahr in northern Iran, setting it on fire on September 21 last year.

They were also accused of throwing items from the headquarters into the street and burning various items, including the Quran. Iran’s Mizan news agency, run by the Iranian judiciary, stated that Rouhi had “confessed to the fact that he destroyed the headquarters and set it on fire.

On January 3, Rouhi was sentenced to death for three generic charges (waging war against God, corruption on Earth, and apostasy) and one specific charge of incitement concerning the incident in Nowshahr.

However, Rouhi’s state-selected defender Habibullah Qazvini said he wasn’t aware of any Quran being burned during the incident.

Concerning the event in Nowshahr, the transcript of the verdict read, “the review of the CCTV footage and the statements of Javad Rouhi only show his presence at the gathering place, and there is no evidence that he participated in burning and destroying public property. Turkish-based counseling and legal education center Dadban acquired a copy of the verdict’s transcript.

Human rights groups said Iranian authorities forced Rouhi to confess during his first days of imprisonment. Rouhi was tortured so severely in a detention center run by the IRGC that he could not talk and walk and lost his ability to control urination or defecation. He was also deprived of the right to choose his lawyer to defend him.

Iranian authorities allowed Rouhi’s family to visit him only once before his verdict, but “they didn’t allow any more visits or phone calls after that,” as stated by Rouhi’s father in a video message posted on social media last December 26. Rouhi was also revealed to have a mental health illness, and a source said he regularly took Tramadol, a strong painkiller.

Javad had separated from his wife due to mental illness and unemployment; in September, he had gone to Nowshahr to meet his ex-wife and try to bring her back. He didn’t have any money, so he had slept on the street during those few days in Nowshahr before his arrest.” Rouhi’s lawyer said in court, detailing his background.

The court argued that the guilty charge handed over to Rouhi concerned the deaths of five people during the protest named Hanane Kia, Hossein Ali Kiajori, Mehrzad Awadpour, Mohsen Malmir, and Amir Hossein Shams. The five people named were all protesters murdered by Iran’s security forces, and no security agents were killed during that incident.

Rights groups say that Rouhi’s case shows the weaknesses of Iran’s justice system, including the fact that dozens of protesters are at risk of torture and execution and considering that the regime has imprisoned around 40 human rights lawyers.

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