[13 July 2015] - An Iranian juvenile offender whose fate and whereabouts had been unknown since he was due to be executed in February was able to call his relatives from prison over the weekend, ending five months of unbearable suffering by his loved ones, who did not know what had happened to him, Amnesty International revealed.
Saman Naseem, 21, was sentenced to death in April 2013 after a deeply flawed trial that relied on self-incriminating evidence extracted under torture. The day before he was due to be executed, he was transferred to an unknown location, which has now been confirmed to be Zanjan Prison, north-west of Tehran. Neither his family nor lawyers were given any concrete information about his whereabouts until now.
The Supreme Court has also granted Saman Naseem’s application for judicial review, which means that his conviction and death sentence are quashed and that he is entitled to a full retrial.
“The welcome revelation that Saman Naseem was not executed and will receive a retrial is incredible news for his relatives, but raises very troubling questions about what the authorities have been doing to him while they held him in secret,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“This story clearly illustrates the dysfunctional criminal justice system. During pre-trial interrogations Saman Naseem was kept in a small cell without access to a lawyer and repeatedly tortured to force a ‘confession’. He was below 18 at the time of the alleged crime and should have never been sentenced to death in the first place.
“The Iranian authorities must now ensure that Saman Naseem receives a fair retrial that neither relies on torture-tainted evidence nor resorts to the death penalty. They must also allow him immediate and full access to his lawyer, relatives and to any medical care he may require.”
Amnesty International members across the world have been campaigning for Saman Naseem to be granted a full retrial since September 2014.
Saman Naseem was sentenced to death following a grossly unfair trial in April 2013 by a criminal court in Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province. He was charged with “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth” because of his alleged membership of the Kurdish armed opposition group, Party For Free Life of Kurdistan. It was alleged that he took part in armed activities against the Revolutionary Guards when he was 17 years old.
Iran continues to impose and implement death sentences for crimes committed when the alleged offenders were below 18 years of age, despite being a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The execution of juvenile offenders is categorically prohibited under international law.