Islamic vigilantes acquitted of murder by Iran supreme court

Friday, April 20, 2007

Iran's Supreme Court has nullified the death sentences awarded to several members of the Basij and Ansar-e Hezbollah paramilitary groups for killing people they accused of moral corruption under Islamic laws.

Ali Maleki and several of his associates killed Reza Nejadmalayeri and Shohreh Nikpour in Kerman in 2002, accusing them of fornication.

Iran's Islamic laws permit summary execution of those who commit blasphemy, sacrilege, repeated fornication, adultery, slander Imam Khomeini, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or the Islamic prophets, and otherwise behave in a way that is out of sync with the Islamic criteria.

Members of the paramilitary group (Basij) - which is variously characterized as a pro-government vigilante group or militia - who had been convicted escaped the death penalty because they argued before the Islamic court that they acted in defense of Islamic laws. The members, who pledge allegiance to Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stoned one of their victims to death and tied up four others, including Nejadmalayeri and Nikpour, before throwing them into a swimming pool where they drowned.

The accused stated in their confession the teachings of one Islamic cleric who had said that they were allowed to kill immoral people if they had ignored two warnings to stop their bad behavior.

In Iran, courts have previously imposed severe penalties for what they considered immoral behaviour. In 2004, a 16 year old girl, Atefah Sahaaleh, was executed for committing "acts incompatible with chastity", after she testified that she had been repeatedly raped while in an abusive relationship with an ex-revolutionary guard, Ali Darabi. Dabari received a sentence of 95 lashes. In 1998 a German businessman, Helmut Hofer, was sentenced to death for having a relationship with a 26-year-old single Iranian woman.