[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]

 

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

 

Honourable Head of Branch…... of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of ……

 

Respectful greetings!

Concerning file reference 902102 before the respected court pertaining to ……, by virtue of which the defendants are charged with propaganda activities against the regime and in the interest of groups in opposition to the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, pursuant to Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, and for which a hearing is scheduled to commence at 9:00 a.m., on 7/5/1391 [28 July 2012], the following statement of defence is herewith submitted for your consideration:

With regard to the substantive defence of my clients, as you are well aware, for any conduct to be considered criminal, the existence of three elements—legal, material, and intellectual [mens rea[1]]—is necessary.  The alleged offence [in this case] is no exception, and can only be proven in light of the establishment of the said elements.  Consequently, examination of each of these elements is required to determine that the alleged offences have been committed by the defendants. 

  1. With respect to the legal element, notwithstanding that Bahaism is not recognized as an official [religion] in the Constitution, and we Muslims cannot accept it [as such], but according to Article 19 and 20 of the Constitution, and according to the Qur’án—Surat Al-Ḥujúrát [49:13] wherein it says, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another…,” all people of Iran have equal rights and by the same token, based on Article 23 of the Constitution, no one should be interrogated based solely on their beliefs, nor be considered in opposition to the political system and the government because of it.  Similarly, based on the said article, as well as Article 24 of the Constitution, the expression of one’s beliefs by real persons or legal entities is not a crime, and is in fact permitted.  That is to say that the defendants, protected by two articles of the Constitution, are free to hold their beliefs and verbally express them, and, as minorities, they are guarded by the Holy Qur’án and the Constitution.  Furthermore, the principle of ‘legality of crimes and punishments’ [Latin: nullum crimen sine lege, nulla poena sine lege[2]] demands that the law be interpreted in favour of the accused, and, by applying the principles of criminology to criminal matters, avoid misinterpretation of the accused persons’ actions.  Accordingly, the allegations against my clients of having verbally expressed their beliefs can be interpreted and explained within legal boundaries.
  2. As for the material element of the charges, it must be noted that in order to establish the material element of the crime, two very important facts must be considered.  One, what Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code considers a crime is ‘propaganda activity’ which is continual, persistent, and widespread in approach; [activity] that would require the use of certain tools, such as the media or delivery of lectures, or that would target a certain group through repeated and persistent efforts; whereas an isolated incident of propaganda involving one other individual cannot be regarded as ‘activities’ and does not fit within the parameters of the said article.  Furthermore, this article [of law] is only applicable to those who directly engage in the act of propaganda, and not to those who merely accommodate, assist or encourage such acts.  In other words, there is no reference to ‘auxiliary to the crime’ in this article.  Two, reference to the word ‘regime’ in this article denotes ‘political regime’, and/or ‘political dominion’.  Although a political system could be based on religious principles and doctrines, as in Islam, its pillars and framework are the three branches of judicial, legislative, and executive, as well as some other political and executive organs.  Therefore, ‘propaganda activities’ would have to be against these pillars of the political system and target the political dominion in its entirety, or [to be the act of collaboration] with the opposition groups, to be considered under Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code.  In other words, differentiation must be made between a ‘political system’ (as intended by the lawmaker) and a ‘belief system’.  Such ‘propaganda activities’ against a belief system would [naturally] include ‘utterance of blasphemy’ and ‘insults to the Blessed Prophets or the Holy Imams’, which has been considered a crime by the lawmaker in some other articles of the Islamic Penal Code.  What is certain, however, is that the above mentioned acts are not the same as ‘propaganda against the political system [regime], or the political dominion’, and are indeed different.  In the case at hand, the defendants do not and never have opposed Islam, and in fact believe in its righteousness, the mere mention of a belief that is not supported by Islam cannot be considered as ‘propaganda against Islam’, and does not mean that such belief is anti-Islamic.  Even if it were anti-Islamic, it would not constitute ‘propaganda against the political system, or in the interest of the groups in opposition to the political system’, as they [anti-Islamic utterances] would be subject to other articles of the law. 
  3. With respect to the intellectual element [mens rea] of the allegations, it must be noted that the ‘intent’ to create propaganda against the political system [regime], or in the interest of the opposition groups, must be such that would harm the pillars of the political dominion, either potentially or de facto[3], which has not been the case here.  The defendants have repeatedly mentioned in their statements that they have never been engaged in political activities, and fundamentally are not politically-minded, as shown in their records.  And if they have said anything about their beliefs, it has been in response to questions asked by others and the people of their own religion, and not to non-Baha’is.  They never intended to promote their beliefs or engage in propaganda against the political dominion in its entirety, to which their file also testifies, inasmuch as there is no substantive evidence or records that would raise a concern that these defendants intended to damage or inflict any harm on the political system [regime]. 
  4. The report in the file contains certain points that require some deliberation and close examination so as to uncover the truth.  Firstly, the institution referenced in the report is a gathering exclusive to Baha’is concerning the personal affairs of their community and matters pertaining to their religion and worship, and has no political or social agenda.  In fact, up until 1387 [2008], when the legal authorities across the country banned any communal and exclusive activities, these gatherings functioned but were under the supervision of the provincial legal and security organs, and it was in coordination with such authorities and with their permission that such gatherings were held.  After [the above-mentioned date], the functioning of these institutions came to a halt and the defendants set aside their activities within those institutions.  Given these facts, the allegation that the defendants continued their involvement in the [Baha’i] administrative institutions is false.  The information concerning their activities dates back to the time prior to the ban, during which time these activities were held by the permission and under the supervision of the authorities.  Moreover, the Feast is a devotional observance and its function is to worship the Almighty God, which, according to the defendants, must be held every 19 days, and the allegation in the report of such gatherings being held every week is incorrect.

Secondly, contrary to what the report alleges, that the defendants are still in contact with the central coordinating committee in Tehran, it must be noted that the central coordinating committee in question was dissolved in 1387 [2008], and its members have been in prison ever since.  How would it be possible, therefore, for the defendants to still be in contact with them?  Furthermore, the group was comprised of seven members, not three, all of whom have been in prison ever since.  Such information demonstrates a lack of impartiality and lack of honesty in drafting the report in question.

Thirdly, the above-referenced report refers to Mrs. Farzaneh Rasouli Emadi, and the Ramezani and Ramezanipour families, etc., as the complainants in this case.  It should be mentioned that all of the individuals mentioned are, in fact, only one family, i.e., Mr. Ramezani, or Ramezanipour, is the husband of the above-mentioned Mrs. Rasouli Emadi.  That is to say, we are only dealing with one family here—comprising Mr. Ramezani or Ramezanipour and his wife Mrs. Farzaneh Rasouli Emadi.  The report, however, does not clearly state this information; instead it makes it sound as if the defendants have committed an offense against several families.  Moreover, Mrs. Emadi, according to her own evidence during the interrogations, has stated that her intention was to take advantage of the defendants’ beliefs and circumstances for the purposes of obtaining refugee status [in another country], and that was her primary intention for contacting the defendants.  In fact, the defendants are the ones who were used here so that she [the complainant] and her family could achieve their illegal and dishonest objectives, such as gaining refugee status.  Otherwise, there would have been no attempt by the defendants to discuss their beliefs with her.  Moreover, as the honourable justice is well aware, according to the law and judicial procedures, if there is a complaint, and should there be some truth to that complaint, the complainants must be present in court in order to give evidence to establish the truth of the allegations against the defendants, and it is based on their evidence that the prosecution can substantiate its case.  Otherwise, the mere mention of the complainants by name and their claim against the defendants of a criminal offense cannot be sufficient proof to establish guilt. 

  1. Furthermore, it must be noted that the defendants are all regular people with families who have never had a prior record of interest in political and security matters, or any familiarity with such issues, for that matter.  They have always been obedient citizens and well-wishers of the nation.  Fundamentally, their involvements have been within their own religious community concerning its internal affairs, which is essentially of no concern to non-Baha’is and followers of other religions.  The defendants have never engaged in promoting their beliefs and have not converted anyone to their faith; and this fact is evident in the report.  In line with the best interests of the regime and the orders of the authorities, the defendants terminated all their activities within the framework of the previous administrative institutions, and if they have participated in observances and worship particular to their own religious beliefs, it has been personal and within their own families.

 

In conclusion, in light of the principle of interpretation of the law to the advantage of the defendants in criminal matters, legality of crimes and punishments, and presumption of innocence, as well as Articles 19, 20, 23, and 24 of the Constitution; and in accordance with the principle of Islamic justice and equity and ethical treatment of non-Muslims, as indicated in Article 14 of the Constitution, and the text of Surat Al-Mumtaḥinih [60:8] wherein it says, “God does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with those who have not fought against you because of your religion and who have not expelled you from your homes…;” and by exercising Islamic mercy and compassion—a priceless treasure left to us from the beloved Prophet Mohammad (PBUH); and considering the defendants’ clear record, and keeping in mind that all the defendants, given their age and family circumstances, are in such a position that their incarceration would cause irreversible damage to their families and children; and furthermore, even if the defendants were guilty, considering that the court has the power to exercise Articles 22 and 25 of the Islamic Penal Code, which will be more appropriate for the defendants, given their particular circumstances; as the allegations have been adamantly denied by the defendants, the court is hereby asked to acquit them on all charges and order that the items seized from them be returned

“God commands justice and charity.”

 

Respectfully,      

 

 

 

 

[1] [Mens rea (the state of mind when committing an act that makes a person guilty of the crime; the guilty intention that goes with doing something illegal]

[2] [Nulla crimen sine lege, nulla poena sine lege (Latin: “No crime, no punishment without a previous penal law”) is a legal principle, requiring that one cannot be punished for doing something that is not prohibited by law].

[3] [De facto is a Latin expression that means “concerning fact.”  In law, it often means “in practice but not necessarily ordained by law” or “in practice or actuality, but not officially established.”]