Iran Human Rights (IHR); May 7, 2020: Majid Esmaeilzadeh, a juvenile offender who was executed at Ardabil prison on April 18, 2020, “was tortured to confess at the time of arrest”, his father told IHR. Majid was 17 at the time of committing the alleged crime. His family was poor and could not afford to pay for lawyers and his public defender had never answered Esmaeilzadeh family’s calls.
Iran Human Rights (IHR) reported Majid’s execution on April 18, 2020, and quoted from some sources that he was possibly a child at the time of the alleged crime. Now, IHR’s researchers could confirm he was only 17 at the time of arrest by interviewing his father.
Majid Esmaeilzadeh’s father told IHR that his son (born is September 1, 1998) was arrested on April 26, 2015, on the charge of murdering a 45-year-old man who “had sex with him.”
According to the father, Majid’s trial was held in Branch 1 of a special court for children Ardabil. The court sentenced him to death. Majid was sent to forensics two times in order to establish whether he was mentally mature but it is not known what was the result.
According to Article 91 of Iran's revised Islamic Penal Code, it is up to the presiding judge's discretion to deem the juvenile mature enough to understand the nature of the offense: "In the cases of offenses punishable by hodoud or qisas, if mature people under eighteen years do not realize the nature of the crime committed or its prohibition, or if there is uncertainty about their full mental development, according to their age, they shall be sentenced to the punishments prescribed in this chapter." Otherwise, the Islamic Penal Code puts the age of criminal responsibility for males at 15 and 9 for females.
Moreover, police used torture to extract confessions from Majid against himself. “My son was tortured. There were bruises all over his body. He told me they beat him with batons. He was tortured by police,” Majid’s father told IHR.
He said Majid’s confessions against himself was mostly false and extracted under torture. He added: “My son was 16 at the time of the arrest. He did not kill anybody. But I did not have enough money to pay for a good lawyer to defend him. I am a worker. My son only had a public defender who never answered my phone calls.”
Majid’s father claimed his son did not murder anyone: “The 45-year-old victim… was paying (underage boys) some money for sex. My son was one of them. The two went out of the city, drank alcoholic beverages and slept. My son left him and then he was killed by a car hit. Forensics verbally told us he was hit by a car but no one gave us a written note. Finally, one day, they called me for the last meeting and hanged my son.”
Iran is among a few countries that execute juvenile offenders. In 2019, at least four juvenile offenders were executed in Iran. IHR once again emphasises that Article 91 in the revised Iranian Islamic Penal Code is not enough to stop juvenile executions. Iranian authorities must stop issuing death sentences for children with no exception.