The Blog

Iranians vs. ‘Hanging Judges’

4:29 PM, Aug 5, 2014 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Abulghasem Salavati, who heads Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, is known as one of Iran’s “hanging judges.” As the London Guardian reported recently, Salavati and his colleague, Mohammad Moghiseh, are most prominent judges in a drive to suppress independent journalists and political dissenters. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a professional organization based in Brussels, denounced Iran on July 29 for keeping 27 journalists locked up.

The careers of Salavati and Moghiseh are a microcosm of the denial of justice in Iran. Salavati has been accused for years of holding short, secret proceedings in which legal standards are ignored, as he threatens defendants and acts as a prosecutor rather than a judge. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, an Iranian opposition advocate now living in Norway, described Salavati ordering half a dozen death sentences against protestors in the reformist “Green movement” of 2009. More than 100 participants in the “Green movement” were charged in a mass show trial held in Tehran that year, over which Salavati presided.

Last year, Salavati punished seven spiritual Sufis who worked on Majzooban Nur (The Alluring Light), the website of the Gonabadi-Nimatullahi metaphysical order, which claims to be the largest such body in Iran. When the seven declined to appear in court, Salavati declared, according to the Sufis, “I will sentence them in absentia,” which is illegal in Iran.

Among the persecuted Gonabadis, Hamid Reza Moradi, the website director, received ten and a half years in prison, and Reza Entesari, a photographer for Majzooban Nur, was ordered to serve eight and a half years. Salavati ruled that five other Sufis be jailed for seven and a half years each. The seven are confined in ward 350 of Tehran’s abominable Evin prison. The “hanging judge” decreed that the Gonabadi Sufis be prohibited from involvement in media or political actions.

 In 2012, Majzooban Nur reported, the Sufis had filed a grievance against Judge Salavati before Iran’s Court of Judicial Discipline. The Islamic contemplatives alleged that Salavati had refused those facing him the right of legal defense, imposing penalties exceeding those mandated by law, handing down sentences contrary to the indictments, and interfering with medical treatment.

After months of inaction, court officials absolved Salavati of misconduct. The Gonabadi Sufis appealed the decision favoring Salavati to Branch 10 of the Special Court for Government Employees, without effect.

On January 5, 2014, the Sufis filed a second letter of complaint against Salavati with the Court of Judicial Discipline. Therein, they alleged that in the aftermath of their first such petition, Salavati increased his aggressive and unjust conduct, with new violations of procedure and law. The second petition has yet to be answered.

In June this year, Gonabadi Sufis in the city of Golpayegan, in the central Iranian province of Isfahan, complained that a Sufi, Abbas Salehian, had been sent to prison for six months by the local Special Clerical Court, for adherence to the Gonabadis. Salehian is not a cleric and should not be subject to the jurisdiction of the Special Clerical Court. A Sufi companion of Salehian in Golpayegan, Emran Doost-Mohammadi, has also been investigated.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers