The long wait for the criminal trial of Keyvan Emamverdi, a former student at the University of Tehran's Faculty of Literature alleged to have drug-raped dozens of women, was finally over this weekend. In October last year, Tehran’s police chief claimed the bookstore owner had confessed to raping “more than 300” women over 10 years, after no fewer than 30 people made complaints against him.
On Sunday, Emamverdi made his first appearance before a judge at Branch 28 of Tehran Revolutionary Court. Shima Ghosheh, a lawyer and women's activist representing five of the plaintiffs, wrote on her Twitter account that Emamverdi said he considered himself a “victim” of the #MeToo movement, which he claimed was led by “hostile networks” and aimed to discredit famous men. She added that despite last year’s reports he vehemently denied the allegations.
In an interview with Iran Watch, she added that this had only been meant as a preliminary hearing. The charges against Emamverdi were read out, and some of the female plaintiffs re-submitted their written statements to the court.
Nothing but Denial From Widely-Accused Defendant
One of the women is named Fataneh. She was one of just a handful of alleged victims who went to the Revolutionary Court on Sunday, and told IranWire: “Just four people represented by Ms. Ghosheh attended, despite having been invited.” The reason for the others’ absence is not yet clear.
Fataneh alleged that she went to Emamverdi’s house in August 2018 on his invitation. After accepting a drink, she said, she lost consciousness and came to naked on his bed the next morning. She added: "Kamyar Emam, Keyvan's brother, [also] appeared in court on charges of hiding the means of the crime. But he himself did not speak. Their lawyer, in his defense, basically denied it and asked many times over, ‘What crime?! What crime?!”
Instead of defending himself, Fataneh confirmed, Emamverdi had spoken at length about the #MeToo movement. “He said it was launched by dissident networks. He said ‘All the women you see here, both the plaintiffs and their lawyers, are followers of this Western feminist organization’ – and that the #MeToo movement in Iran was launched to discredit Iranian men and celebrities. That is to say, he considered himself representative of Iranian men and celebrities."
Fataneh said the judge’s response had been firm: “These issues have nothing to do with the court, and Keyvan Emam must present his defense based on the matters on which he is accused." Emamverdi, she said, then denied all the charges – which include “corruption on earth”, an offence that carries the death penalty if “proven”, as well as rape – and bizarrely claimed he had not been accused of anything.
In court, Fataneh said, Shima Ghosheh reminded those present that 46 videos had been among the incriminating documents seized by police last year. They pointed to the rape of dozens, she said. “His answer was that if a video had been found, it did not relate to any of these female complainants. The question is, how do we know that these videos aren’t to do with us? We haven’t seen them. Then again this court has a public-facing aspect so it doesn’t really matter if it is our image [in the films] or the image of another woman. And the police also found evidence in his home like alcohol and anesthetics.”
Despite this, Fataneh said, Emamverdi continued to deny everything – including allegations of past offences. "The asked Keyvan Emamverdi if he had any previous convictions. He answered ‘No’! But Ms. Ghosheh said he does have a conviction. He was lying. He had previously been arrested on Qeshm for carrying alcohol.”
Austere Judge Leaves Little Room for Manoeuvre
Fataneh insists she still does not want the death sentence handed down to her alleged rapist. Rather, she wants to see a fair trial and justice served for herself and the other women who complained. “I wrote again in my form [on Sunday] that I want my rights. I don’t want to see the ‘corruption on earth’ charge proved. I am seeking his long-term imprisonment. If he is either released or executed, this will not be justice for us. The fate of this case is very important for a great many women. They are waiting to see what the outcome is, so as to decide whether to accuse those who raped them, too."
Fateneh said the court’s presiding judge Mohammad Reza Amouzad stated his own position at the start of proceedings. She said he indicated “he would not show mercy within the law and would issue the most severe sentence. Related to this, he announced that he had rejected Emamverdi’s requests for parole and bail. The judge told him he would not lessen the sentence if he ought to face the death penalty.” But also, she added, Judge Amouzad said “if he was sentenced to five years, he would still not reduce it – and if the law said he should be released, he would release him. He meant to say that he didn’t care about the words of any person, institution, or the media, and would only act in line with the law.”
Judge Amouzad is one of the “advisor judges” who have worked for many years under the supervision of notorious hanging judge Mohammad Moghiseh. His masked face alongside that of Judge Abolghasem Salavati at the trial of dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam is etched in the memories of many. He is known to have issued death sentences to at least three people – Zam, and November 2019 protesters Amir Hossein Moradi and Saeed Tamjidi, the detainees of the November 2019 protests, in the fewer than five months last summer.
Emamverdi’s strategy of politicizing the case therefore seems like a poor one. According to Fateneh, the defendant had also claimed Shima Ghosheh would be publishing information about the hearing “as soon as she leaves the court. The judge replied that it had nothing to do with him.”
“We’re the Only Ones Who Can Save Him”
For her part, Fateneh published her account of rape by Emamverdi and that of others she knew about in summer 2020. Her reason for doing so, she said, was to inspire others to come forward. "In my opinion, Keyvan Emamverdi gave the very weakest of performances in this hearing. Instead of trying to appease us, he made us even more upset. I haven’t been active on Twitter for more than 10 months and now, I’ve decided to reactivate my accoiunt. As far as I know, others have also decided to pursue the case with more vigor. We are the only way Keyvan Emamverdi can be saved. Therefore, if I were him, I would try to compensate [for the crimes] emotionally, apologize, and relieve the people he hurt in any way he can, not do them further injury."