Another hearing in the criminal trial of Iranian alleged serial rapist Keyvan Emamberdi was cancelled last week, days after some concerned plaintiffs published an open letter asking for supportt.
Emamverdi, a bookstore owner and former student the University of Tehran's Faculty of Literature, was arrested in August 2020 charged with drug-raping dozens of women. In October that year, Tehran’s police chief claimed that he had confessed to raping “more than 300” women over 10 years, after 30 people made complaints against him to the force.
Shima Ghosheh, a lawyer and women's activist representing some of the alleged victims, tweeted to say the presiding judge is on a leave of absence. As a result the fifth session, scheduled for June 8, was postponed. This is the third time out of five that a hearing in the case has been put on hold.
In their letter published earlier in June, the plaintiffs wrote that the court was not taking the case seriously, expressing concerns that Emamverdi could be released on bail. In the so-far heard sessions, they added, Emamverdi had been accompanied by his entire family every time, whereas they were travelling from across the country without so much as notification of a canceled hearing.
"It's So Painful"
“Today’s Keyvan Emamverdi trial session was once again canceled,” Shima Ghosheh tweeted on June 8. “It's the same scenario: the judge is on leave, the nerves and spirits of the plaintiffs are shattered, and the victims' psychological situation is treated with disdain.”
In the letter they published before the cancellation that was published on the Persian #MeToo" (میتو) Instagram page, the plaintiffs wrote that they had no supporters except other women. They expressed hope that the June 8 session would be held "properly" and not meet the fate of the precedingones.
If things continue like this, they said, Emamverdi could be released in August when his two years of temporary detention is over and "it is horrifying to imagine one could breathe in a city in which he can freely move". Days later, the post had been taken down without explanation, and the fifth hearing was on ice.
“This process has lasted two years and we still haven't reached the end,” a complainant going by Plaintiff M. told IranWire about 10 days ago. “I am extremely worried that things will continue the same way for the remaining two months, until Keyvan Emamverdi can legally post bail and be released. We are talking about the death penalty here, so even if the bail is very high, his family who have supported him all along will put it together and help him escape from Iran.”
On June 8, she said, "When we got to the court, we were told that the session had been cancelled because the judge was on a leave of absence. We insisted that the next session be scheduled then and there, and it was arranged with the prosecutor’s representative as well. They told us the next session will be held on June 22.
“It's really painful every time the trial session is canceled. Every time, from a few days before the session is due to be held, I'm really stressed, I can't sleep, and I have nightmares when I do sleep. Sometimes I dream that they're executing him and I'm present as a witness. Each time I go there hoping that we'll get a step closer to justice, but then they cancel it, and I have to carry this stress wiht me until next time.
“Keyvan Emamverdi must be very happy about these cancellations. The dragging it out benefits him.”
Could Emamverdi Be Released in August?
The lawyer Musa Barzin Khalifehlou pointed out to IranWire that Keyvan Emamverdi has been charged with "corruption on earth": an ill-defined crime in Iran which, according to Article 286 of the Islamic Penal Code, carries a death sentence. Separately, Article 242 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that temporary detention must not exceed the minimum sentence for crimes punishable by a prison sentence, and not be more than two years when the crime is "deprivation of life".
He added: "This article is ambiguous and it's not quite clear at what stage of court proceedings this one year or two years is counted. The usual judicial process is that in cases where 'deprivation of life', like murder, is the crime, the defendant stays in custody until a verdict is reached, even if it takes five or six years. Nevertheless, the court is free to release Keyvan Emamverdi by [differently] interpreting Article 242."
A Stab at the #MeToo Movement?
Khalifehlou told IranWire that in his view, “The judiciary wants to prolong the trial until people forget about it, or perhaps until some of the plaintiffs get tired and change their stories. It's an act of spite toward civil society groups that demanded action. From the very start, the government politicized the case and gave it 'security' aspects. The very fact that the Revolutionary Court is handling the case shows that the Islamic Republic views it as a security issue.
“There have been other serial rape cases that were tried within the framework of ‘corruption on earth’, and the verdict was often against the defendant. Proving rape is a very complicated matter. It's not clear why, this time, they sent it to the Revolutionary Court instead of the criminal one."
This number of cancellations and postponements, Khalifehlou said, is "not normal" and might also have something to do with the fact that the Islamic Republic takes a dour stance toward the #MeToo movement. Earlier, Emamverdi's lawyer had claimed he was a "victim" of the global campaign to amplify the voices of sexual abuse victims, which he described as a "Zionist" project.
“The defendant, Keyvan Emamverdi, is not important enough for the government and the judiciary to pay a price for him," Khalifehlou said. "He is an ordinary person and the government will not care even if he is sentenced to death. What is important, however, are the #MeToo movement and the women’s rights activists who support the plaintiffs. It appears that the judiciary does not want the public to believe that it is issuing a verdict against Emamverdi under pressure from them.
"What's important for the Revolutionary Court is the security interests of the regime, which benefits from taking the trial out of the news and by silencing women's rights activists by wearing them out.”