Condemned Man's Wife: My Husband Confessed Under Torture

August 14, 2020
Shahed Alavi
6 min read
Heydar Ghorbani has been sentenced to death for allegedly being the driver in a crime spree late last year
Heydar Ghorbani has been sentenced to death for allegedly being the driver in a crime spree late last year
Sharareh Sadeghi, Gorbani's wife, is terrified and insists her husband is innocent
Sharareh Sadeghi, Gorbani's wife, is terrified and insists her husband is innocent
Ghorbani is also accused of being a member of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, which he denies
Ghorbani is also accused of being a member of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, which he denies

Fears for the life of Kurdish political prisoner Heydar Ghorbani have been raised after he was sentenced to death by Branch 27 of the Supreme Court, with the sentence passed down to the Execution Division.

Ghorbani’s family say he was deprived of his right to a fair trial. In an interview with IranWire, Ghorbani’s wife Sharareh Sadeghi insisted her husband is innocent and said he was forced to confess under torture. An informed source close to the trial has also told IranWire the sentence was issued contrary to the law.


What Happened to the Ghorbanis?

"On the evening of 12 October 2016,” Sadeghi said, “about 10 intelligence agents raided our house. They knocked on the door, but before we could open it they entered our house over the garden wall. They had covered their faces. They did not show any warrant, but handcuffed my husband Heydar and my brother Mahmoud and took them away. Ten minutes later several other officers returned and this time searched the house, and finally, when they found nothing, they took our mobile phones away."

Sadeghi said she was terrified and too shocked to speak, but one of the officers told her to go with them: "He said, ‘Either you will come with us or we put a sack over your head and take you with us."

The victim's wife was taken to the Kamyaran Police Station but released a few hours later. "Our misery had only just begun. We didn’t know anything about my husband and brother for a long time, and didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know if they were alive or dead.”

On January 5, 2017, two months and 25 days after the raid, Heydar Sadeghi called his wife and told her that he was alive. "I was in hospital then,” she said, “because I was sick. My husband's two sisters had contacted Sanandaj intelligence services a few days earlier and begged them to inform the family about their brother. On January 5, the phone rang and Heydar said, 'We are alive, don’t worry.' But he still didn’t say where he was."

For more than three months after the call, Heydar and Mahmoud Ghorbani's family had no further news on where the pair were being held, their condition or even why they had been detained. "The interrogations took a while and then we were back to the beginning, where we did not know if they were alive at all; no one answered us. It was a full six months later that were they transferred to Sanandaj Central Prison. After being transferred to prison, Heydar was able to contact us once a week week, and after almost a year, they allowed us to visit him in a cabin."


Accused of Killing Three Basijis

On March 8, 2017, while Heydar Ghorbani was still at Sanandaj Intelligence Detention Center, a video called of his supposed confession, called "Death Driver", was broadcast on Press TV, the English-language network of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the video, he spoke in front of the camera without the presence of a lawyer and while still in solitary confinement. Ghorbani was made to say that he had been the driver for three crimes committed in late 2016, including the assassination of three Kurdish citizens from Kamyaran and an attempted kidnapping.

News reports at the time said that the victims, Shaho Karimian, Sediq Amini, and Jabbar Ebrahimi, had been collaborating of the Revolutionary Guards. Karimian was a border trader importing cigarettes, Amini was a farmer and Ebrahimi was a driver who had worked for Sediq Amini. Amini and Ebrahimi were assassinated on September 30. 2016 near the village of Takhtezangi, while Shaho Karimian was murdered a few days later in front of his house in Kamyaran.

A local source who spoke to IranWire said these three men were well-known members of the Basij: “During the public hearings at Sanandaj Criminal Court, it was repeatedly emphasized that they were Basijis. The same confession video included a confirmation that the victims were close to the security services."

However, despite the investigation having drawn to a close, the trial of Heydar Ghorbani and Mahmoud Sadeghi was postponed for a long time. It would be three long years of uncertainty before the pair were tried in the First Branch of the Sanandaj Criminal Court.

Heydar Ghorbani was charged with assisting in premeditated murder, tampering with license plates, kidnapping and handling stolen goods. The court sentenced him to 14 years in prison for the three counts of premeditated murder, and for other charges, to another 11 years in prison and 200 lashes.

Ghorbani was hauled before the court again on January 13, 2020, this time on charges of membership in the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and “revolt against God’s government”. He was tried in the First Branch of the Revolutionary Court of Sanandaj, presided over by Judge Saeidi, and on January 21 he was sentenced to death.


A Mis-application of Justice?

Morteza Javanmardi, Ghorbani's lawyer, appealed against the verdict and the case was finally referred to Branch 27 of the Supreme Court. But on June 8, 2020, the court upheld the death sentence.

A Tehran-based lawyer told IranWire that given Ghorbani has two cases on file, his lawyers could now ask for the death sentence to be suspended and the trial to be resumed. "Given the fact that the Supreme Court has negated the verdict of Branch 1 of Sanandaj criminal court, which deals with private plaintiffs and breaches of people's rights, the death sentence issued by the revolutionary court cannot be carried out until that verdict is finalized."

The source close to the case also believes the charge of “revolt against God’s government” applicable to Heydar Ghorbani according to its definition in law. They added that the sentence was “substantially flawed” and should be annulled, because Ghorbani was only being tried for aiding and abetting murder, not actually carrying it out. In addition, there is no evidence that he is a member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan. Finally, they said, “He has never been armed and has never used firearms. During the proceedings, including in court, he claimed that he was forced to cooperate with the assailants under pressure."

According to Article 287 of Iran’s penal code, people who take part in armed uprisings against the regime are considered to have "revolted against God’s government". The law also states that those who are found guilty will only face the death penalty if they were armed during the perceived “revolt”. Heydar Ghorbani's non-use of weapons means he cannot be guilty of this crime.


Family Left Praying For a Reprieve

Sharareh Sadeghi repeated that her husband was not a member of any political party and had never used a weapon or killed anyone.

"I ask all human rights organizations and conscientious people, help save my husband's life. My husband does not deserve to be executed. For myself and my two sons, these four years have passed like a thousand years."

Ghorbani's lawyer submitted a petition for retrial to the Supreme Court, to Sanandaj Revolutionary Court  and to Kamyaran Public Prosecutor’s Office. “We’re waiting to see what happens," he said. "We hope that the law will be observed and that Heydar’s death sentence will be struck off."


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