Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, son of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, began his 10-year prison sentence on August 9.
As he arrived Evin Prison to begin his sentence, and as family and journalists looked on, Hashemi Rafsanjani called for his trial to be broadcast on radio and television
On June 11, behind closed doors, the Revolutionary Court presided over by Mohammad Judge Moghisei sentenced Hashemi to 10 years in prison, a cash fine and a lifetime ban from government jobs in connection with corruption and embezzlement charges. His lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, has stated that the verdict against his client is contrary to both civil and religious laws and that the court has not treated his case fairly.
According to a recent IranWire exclusive , judges in several high profile corruption cases have been pressured to reach verdicts, including in the cases of billionaire Babak Zanjani and Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei spoke to IranWire about the case.
On August 9, Mr. Hashemi started serving a prison sentence that you believe is unlawful. Do you have any legal recourse?
One of the legal remedies that we had was to ask the Supreme Court to reopen the case. but when we noticed that the case was going to be sent to a particular branch, Mehdi [Hashemi] retracted the appeal and said,“neither the lower nor the appeals courts had treated the case fairly. I retract the appeal if the Supreme Court is going to behave in the same way.” So we just invoked Article 477.
What does Article 477 say?
Article 477 of the new Criminal Code of Procedure states that if for whatever reason the head of judiciary decides that a verdict is against sharia law, he can vacate the verdict and send the case to a branch of the Supreme Court. This is our only legal recourse.
So you want Sadegh Larijani, the head of the judiciary, to analyse the case and rule on it?
Yes. I suggested to Mehdi that we ask for Article 477 to be invoked, but he has yet to decide and give me permission.
Do you think that Mr. Larijani will find the verdict to be against sharia law?
I believe that if he is informed of the irregularities that occurred in the court, he would definitely invoke Article 477.
What happened at the court?
From the beginning, we did not accept the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Court in this case. We insisted that the trial be public. We had our reasons, too. We said that that certain media were informed of the entire case and had published all charges on their sites and in their newspapers and magazines even before the case was complete. If the trial was to take place behind closed doors, then we could not respond to them.
Unfortunately, they did not accept and the trial took place behind closed doors. For this reason I cannot say what happened in the court. One of the requests that Mehdi insisted on as he was going to prison was that the trial proceedings be broadcast so that people would know. The question is not what has happened to Mehdi Hashemi per se but the impact on a genuinely revolutionary family. The media have accused the whole family, not just Mehdi. We request that the whole court proceedings be published.
Was it the same situation at the appeals court?
There are about 70 appeals court branches, and we requested that the case not be sent to two of them, but to any of the 60-plus others. But they did exactly the opposite and sent the case to a branch supervised by a judge whom we had complained against because he had meddled in the case. We presented the same argument at the Supreme Court. We said we want to reopen the case and that my client should be treated like any ordinary person who appeals. But suddenly Mehdi was alerted to what was going on. He called to say that we must withdraw the appeal because, he said, “they want to send the case to a particular branch that is biased against the Hashemi Rafsanjani family.” Regrettably, the judiciary spokesman announced that we wanted the case to be sent to a particular branch — but we never asked for such a thing. We wanted the case not be sent to a particular branch. We were just asking that among about 70 branches of the Supreme Court, the case not be sent to one particular branch.
You have stated that Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani believes this verdict to be unlawful. Earlier he had said that if this illegal verdict is carried out, he would object. Do you know anything about this objection?
Undoubtedly, it will be a legal objection. We are going through the legal process. The last time we spoke, based on what he knew about the process of reviewing the court’s verdict, he considers it to be against civil and sharia laws.
Is he going to talk about it?
I have no idea. The decision is his.
You have mentioned the judiciary’s lack of cooperation more than once. Are you optimistic about the judicial review of this case?
We are pursuing the matter, but what I want to say is this. The murder of Mr. Rouhalamini’s son led to deliberations on the process of preliminary investigations. [Mohsen Rouhalamini, the son of a prominent conservative, died at Kahrizak Detention Center during the unrest that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election.] Since then, we receive less news about the torture or abuse of prisoners. In the same way, I think Mehdi’s case will result in changes in the judiciary establishment. These are problems that we have witnessed and talked about for years, but nobody listened. Now this has happened to Mehdi Hashemi, the son of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani.
I have to tell you that if he were not the son of Ayatollah Hashemi, today Mehdi would have been a cabinet minister. His qualifications for management and his knowledge is far superior to most cabinet ministers. I hope this will make people listen to him and that this will change judicial processes for the better.
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