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Amputations Continue In Iranian Prisons

Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei meeting and head of Judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, 29 Jun 2016. The Judiciary is under the direct authority of the supreme leader.

The prosecutor-general for Mashhad in Khorasan Razavi Province in northeast Iran says a man convicted of robbery has had his hand amputated.

“The convict, collaborating with his younger brother, robbed a jewelry shop nearly six years ago, when he was 25 years old,” announced ultraconservative Prosecutor-General Gholam Ali Sadeqi.

On October 14, the Khorasan newspaper quoted Sadeqi as saying, “The thief’s hand was amputated on Thursday while justice department officials and physicians were present at Mashhad’s central prison.”

Sadeqi described the punishment as executing “God’s chastening.”

The convict’s younger brother, who was 22 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to ten years in prison and 74 lashes.

“To provide security, the judiciary has a firm position vis-a-vis thieves who steal people's belongings,” Sadeqi affirmed.

In an interview with Radio Farda’s Baktash Khamsehpour, renowned veteran Iranian lawyer Ahmad Bashiri confirmed that, based on the Islamic code, punishment by amputation is still practiced in Iran.

Bashiri, a prominent judge before Iran’s 1979 revolution, said, “As long as the Islamic penal code rules over Iran’s justice system, punishment by amputation of organs will also continue.”

Earlier, the state-run Radio and TV had reported that the hands of three thieves had been amputated in the city of Qom, south of the capital, Tehran.

According to the deputy prosecutor-general of Qom, Youniss Davoudi, the amputations took place last month at Qom’s central prison.

In another interview with Radio Farda, U.S.-based Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Mehrangiz Kar criticized the punishment. “Had pre-Islamic revolution Iranian laws been reinstated, many of the country’s internal and international problems would have been addressed,” he said.

Gholam Ali Sadeqi, Mashhad attorney, responsible for the amputation order
Gholam Ali Sadeqi, Mashhad attorney, responsible for the amputation order

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned amputation as punishment in Iran, calling it barbaric and against international conventions.

The Convention Against Torture, the most important international human rights treaty dealing exclusively with torture, obligates signatory countries to prohibit and prevent torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment under all circumstances.

Though Islamic Republic has been long a party to the International Covenant on Civil And Political Rights, but has not signed The International Convention Against Torture. Meanwhile, Iranian law based on the Islamic Penal Code, does not recognize amputation of criminals as torture. In some cases, Iranian diplomats have been forced to defend the Islamic penal code.

In 2008, Iran’s ambassador to Spain defended amputation as punishment, saying it was akin to stopping the spread of gangrene in Iranian society.

“Our laws allow for the amputation of the hand that steals. This is not accepted by the West, but the field of human rights should take into account customs, traditions, religion, and economic development,” Davoud Salehi maintained at the time.

Meanwhile, some judges in Iran prefer to ignore the Islamic penal code by avoiding sentencing robbers and burglars to amputating their hands.

Nevertheless, ultraconservative judges insist on issuing verdicts based on what they say is God’s will.

Prosecutor-generals like Sadeqi go further than that and compare themselves with the Almighty.

“A while ago, a friend of mine asked me why I get involved in everything. Therefore, I should emphasize here that the domain of the prosecutor-general’s authorities is only one phalanx smaller than that of Almighty God,” Sadeqi declared earlier this month.

Islamic punishment of cutting finger of a thief in Iran, 24Jan2013
Islamic punishment of cutting finger of a thief in Iran, 24Jan2013

Mohsen Kadivar, an Iranian Islamic scholar and author based in the United States, recently weighed in on Sadeqi’s comments on his website, pointing out, “Such remarks are an indication to the insatiable greed of the officials of the Islamic Republic for more power and authority.”

“The prosecutor-general and his seniors do not seek the definition of their authority in the constitution. They arbitrarily interpret cases and conclude that the domain of their authority is only one phalanx smaller than God’s,” Kadivar reiterated.

More than four years ago, Iran became the first country to use a finger-cutting machine to punish those convicted of stealing.

A video, showing the newly invented machine, was widely circulated on social media.

The images showed the amputation of a prisoner’s finger. The man was convicted of robbery in the southwest city of Shiraz, according to Iran Students News Agency.

In the images, the blindfolded man is led to the machine by three masked and hooded executioners. As two officials hold his arms, the third inserts his hand into the machine.

The head of the judiciary in Iran is directly appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and is accountable only to him.

Iran’s prosecutors have a wide range of powers and, besides the right to prosecute citizens they can also block government measures, decisions, and plans.