With this letter I would like to inform you about the ongoing progress of the investigation into the murder of my parents, Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar. Moreover it is an opportunity for me to tell you about the difficult and disturbing new situation in which we have become involved in as the relatives of the murder victims, due to the court’s sentencing that was delivered on the 27th of January 2001.
As you may recall, the file that served as the basis for these proceedings was incomplete and full of contradictions and I had lodged my objections against it months before the start of the trial alongside the other involved relatives and lawyers. It was our understanding that no fair trial would be possible on the basis of this file.
In the first week of December the file was declared as complete by the court despite our objections. The 23rd of December was announced as the start of the proceedings.
After I had learned from my family’s lawyer that nothing had been changed, in spite of our protests regarding the form and content of the file, I travelled to Iran on the 15th of December to confront the situation head on.
Every attempt by the lawyers to have a constructive conversation with the judge was blocked. The judge even shared with me personally that our complaints about the contradictions present in the file, which concerned documented investigative work, were irrelevant.
He opined that the questioning of Said Emami – one of the main suspects, who died in prison – which had been removed from the file, showed no relation to the murder cases. He had apparently therefore decided not to permit us to look at the interrogation report.
The course of events leading up to the handing over of the investigation to military could be traced back to an order from the religious leader, Khamenei, said the judge. This order was however classified as secret. We were therefore unable to verify the truth of this statement.
The evidence given in the file that would cast doubt on the sequence of events on the evening of my parents’ murder could not be checked again, as too much had time had passed since the event, according to the judge. He also said that the photos from the scene of the crime, around one hundred pieces of evidence, had disappeared.
Following this conversation I wrote a letter to the highest judicial authority, Ayatollah Shahroudi, in which I expressed my doubts surrounding the upcoming trial and requested an appointment with him, which was unfortunately not granted. All attempts to sit down with the responsible parties before the start of the trial were dismissed. As a result of this, and since the relatives of the murder victims were sure that the proceedings would not lead to the truth being uncovered, we let the court know that we would not be taking part in the trial in an official letter dated the 20th December 2000.
At this point I would like to point out that under Iranian law, only charges that are listed in the indictment of the prosecution are relevant to the trial process. Everything that is not submitted in writing at the beginning of the trial is treated as irrelevant. This was the reason for our specific attempts to try and fill in the gaps of the incomplete record – for, as soon as the trial began, we didn’t have a chance to address the contradictions anymore.
On the same day that we informed the court of our decision not to take part in the trial process, the military court announced publicly that the proceedings would take place despite our absence, as we had not withdrawn our legal action concerning the murders.
On the 21st of December 2000 we filed a second lawsuit, this time to a special parliamentary commission that is responsible for private legal action. On the 23rd of December we were invited to a hearing because of this. The parliament promised us that they would pursue our case to the full extent of their means.
Over the course of the next five weeks, during which the trial was taking place behind closed doors, increasing amounts of opposition to the obstruction of justice developed amongst the population, as well as in the parliament and the media. The court did not acknowledge this growing reaction. On the 27th of January 2001 the verdicts were delivered. Three of the suspects who had committed murder were sentenced to death.
According to the verdict, the enforcement of the death penalty lay in our hands. This was because the murder cases were not treated by the court as political, but rather as private crimes, and so the immediate family members had to decide upon the enforcement of the death penalty, by the decree of Islamic law.
We had now been placed in an impossible situation, faced with making a decision that we hadn’t been looking for.
Our motivation for pushing on the investigation was not based on any desire for revenge that wanted the guilty parties to pay for their crimes with their lives. We had asked for a constitutional hearing process. Seeing as neither the investigation nor the trial had been carried out according to this criterion, we refused to take responsibility for the resulting verdict.
We feel committed to the political and moral principles of the victims. Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar had spent their lives speaking out against the death penalty. We are now faced with the decision of how to behave in this situation. The only way out of the human impossibility of this situation would be to initiate new proceedings that would be based on verifiable and complete investigative work.
At this point I turn to you, in the name of the other family members. Any response that calls the completed trial into question and speaks for new trial proceedings to be undertaken would help us in our situation.