Free Rouhollah Tavana, Iranian Sentenced to Death for "Insulting the Prophet" In a Private Video
- UN, Navi Pillay, OHCHR, Ahmed Shaheed, EU, State Department, European Parliament, Ban ki-Moon
FEBRUARY 20, 2014: Mashhad Intelligence agents arrested Rouhollah Tavana, 34, at his home in Mashhad in October 2011. According to a court documents, Intelligence agents confiscated a private video recording of Tavana on his personal computer, in which while under the influence of alcohol he allegedly uttered a phrase the judge interpreted as insulting the Prophet of Islam, a crime under Iranian law. However, the same law explicitly notes that insulting the Prophet is not a crime punishable by death if the person is drunk.
We have asked all authorities for a pardon and for forgiveness for him. My son has repented. My son wrote a letter in prison and expressed remorse, but nothing happened. We can’t rely on anything. They are going to hang him just like that,” Tavana’s mother Fakhri Jamali said.
Branch 5 of the Razavi Khorasan Province Criminal Court sentenced Rouhallah Tavana to death, and an appeals court later upheld his death sentence. On February 14, 2014, Branch 14 of the Iranian Supreme Court also upheld his death sentence, which can now be carried out at any time.
According to Article 262 of the new Islamic Penal Code, “Whoever insults [the Prophet Mohammad] . . . shall be sentenced to death.” However, Article 263 of the Code states, “If the individual accused of [insult] claims that his statements were made reluctantly, negligently, unintentionally, or while drunk, or angry, or were verbal blunders, or were said without attention to the meaning of the words, or were quoting another individual, he will not be considered a insulter of the Prophet.” A note on this article further adds, “If the insult is uttered while drunk or angry or quoting someone else, and is considered an insult, it will be punishable by up to 74 lashes.”
Jamali said judicial authorities refused to accept a letter the family wrote requesting a retrial, saying that they only receive letters from families of those on death row for drug-related crimes, not for other crimes. She added that the basis for the death sentence is a private video Tavana recorded of himself at his home, joking privately with his brother while under the influence of alcohol. In addition to “insulting the Prophet,” Rouhollah Tavana was charged with “producing alcoholic beverages.”
In an interview with the Campaign, Fakhri Jamali appealed for help to save her son’s life. “They said they will serve the lawyer and my son with his death sentence ruling at Vakilabad Prison in Shiraz in the next two weeks. My son has no idea that the Supreme Court has confirmed his death sentence. He keeps calling from prison and asking about it, and all we do is to give him hope. We are now forced to give interviews to the media. Up until now, we were afraid my son’s situation would worsen if we gave interviews, but we have no choice anymore. We ask everyone to help stop my son’s death sentence,” she said.
Describing what led to her son’s arrest and his death sentence, Tavana’s mother told the Campaign, “Three years ago, one of my son’s friends called the Mashhad Intelligence Office and told them that my son had information at his home that was ‘anti-revolutionary’ and ‘against the Supreme Leader.’ Forces from the Mashhad Intelligence Office raided my son’s home suddenly, searching through all his books, personal items, and his computer hard disk. On his computer there was a video that my son and one of his brothers had made of themselves on the night of his birthday.
According to Jamali, “In this video, my son, who was having a drink, said a sentence that cannot even be a direct insult to Prophet Mohammad. He was holding the knife he was going to cut the cake with and he said, ‘Put this knife up your prophet’s butt.’ But this film was private and other than himself and his brother, there was no one else in it. My son was kept in solitary confinement inside the Intelligence Office for three-and-a-half months, and then they transferred him to Vakilabad Prison in Shiraz.”
Judicial authorities leveled the charge of producing alcoholic beverages against Tavana based on another personal video confiscated from his home. Rouhollah Tavana did not share these videos with anyone else at any time. “He had a file on his computer which the Intelligence forces found. Rouhollah had videotaped himself when he was all alone, concocting an alcoholic beverage in a pressure cooker in the kitchen. [In the video] he was jokingly describing the directions for making the alcoholic drink. But all of these were private files. The Intelligence forces themselves took the files and put them on CDs and entered them into his case,” Jamali said her son’s other charges.
Tavana’s mother also said that the family has a letter from the Medical Examiner’s Office confirming that Rouhollah Tavana suffers from Cluster B Personality Disorders and needs treatment.
After his arrest, Tavana spent 3.5 months in a solitary cell inside the Mashhad Intelligence Office. He has expressed remorse for cursing. His family visits him once a week.
We, the undersigned, urge the international community to hear a mother's desperate plea and bring ALL POSSIBLE pressure to bear upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to IMMEDIATELY rescind the patently unjust death sentenced imposed upon Rouhollah Tavana.
Under any system of justice which adheres to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Iran is a signatory), this case should never have gone to trial, let alone resulted in a death sentence.
The Free Rouhollah Tavana, Iranian Sentenced to Death for "Insulting the Prophet" In a Private Video petition to UN, Navi Pillay, OHCHR, Ahmed Shaheed, EU, State Department, European Parliament, Ban ki-Moon was written by John S. Burke and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.