Bahá’í Killers Escape Prosecution
February 9, 2014
Center for Supporters of Human Rights, Shirin Ebadi
According to penal provisions, when an individual is murdered and the murderer is unable to convince the victim’s family not to pursue prosecution, the murderer faces (capital) punishment. However, certain provisions of the Islamic Penal Code, ratified in 1392 (2013), make exceptions to the code, which is the subject of discussion in this article.
Article 302 of the above-mentioned Code states:
If the victim meets any of the following conditions, the perpetrator is not obligated to pay blood money for any punishment:
A. “[The victim] Commits a crime punishable by loss of life (death)
B. [The victim] Commits a punishable crime which deserves dismemberment, provided that the crime committed [by the perpetrator] does not exceed the crime committed [by the victim], otherwise punishment exceeding the minimum limits, based on the circumstances, would require blood money, punishment, or judicial sentencing.
C. One who deserves punishment for killing or dismembering, will not be punished merely in proportion to the punishment or to the owner of the right to punishment.
D. Intruders and anyone whose intrusion is imminent and is subjected to a crime through legitimate defense as described in article 156 of this code.
E. Adulterers or adulteresses while committing adultery with respect to the husband of the adulteress, under conditions other than hesitation and urgency as described in the code.”
Since this article focusses on section A of the above-mentioned code, it will not discuss sections B through E.
According to section A, when someone commits a crime punishable by death, the action remains unpunished, and anyone who kills that person would neither face capital punishment, nor imprisonment, nor is he or she required to pay blood money. One such condition is specified in article 262 of the Islamic Penal Code which states:
“Anyone who swears at the Great Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, or any of the great Divine Prophets, or uses offensive language, has committed the crime of insulting the Prophet which is punishable by death.”
Therefore, anyone who swears at any of the divine prophets (Moses, Jesus, Mohammad), whether in writing or orally, whether in casual conversations in friendly gatherings or in formal and explicit settings such as in seminars and centers for public speaking, his/her punishment is loss of life according to article 302. If an individual, individuals, or a group murder such a person, or injure or dismember him/her, they are not expected to suffer any punishment or retribution.
This creates a significant danger for society because extremist groups and fundamentalists, whether Muslims or Jews or Christians, can take advantage of this law and murder or dismember their opponents accusing them of insulting the prophet.
Facing such a law in the penal code, would anyone dare to oppose fundamentalists or extremists? Any inflammatory word that they do not like to hear can be perceived as swearing, and the one who utters it is accused of committing an insult against the prophet.
For example, there are various narratives about the birth of Jesus and his sexual tendencies…. Similarly, much has been said about Muhammad’s life style, such as his multiple wives and his marrying his step-son’s wife. In most of these narratives, the purpose of the narrator has not been to insult the prophet but to express his/her understanding (even if wrong). Yet, we see that Section A of Article 302 arms the fundamentalists with a sword to personally punish their opponents without fear of any legal consequence by construing any philosophical or historical discussion as “insulting the prophet.”
Article 303 of the Islamic Penal Code specifies:
When the perpetrator of a crime claims that the victim (who has lost his/her life or has been dismembered) falls under the provisions of Article 302, or that the crime was committed believing that the victim violated the law specified in that article, then the claim should be proved in court observing due process, and the court is obligated to investigate the claim. If it is not proved that the victim was a case under Article 302, or it is not proved that the perpetrator’s crime was not based on such a belief, then the perpetrator should face [capital] punishment. However, if it is proved that the perpetrator committed the crime with a mistake about his belief concerning the victim, and the victim does not fulfill the conditions set forth in Article 302, then, in addition to the payment of blood money, the perpetrator should be sentenced in accordance with Book 5 of Punishments.
Article 303 permits the murderer or the assailant, in order to escape punishment, to simply prove in the courtroom that the victim insulted one of the divine prophets. Proving such a case would be much easier when the victim is murdered, when he/she is no longer alive to prove in the courtroom that no divine prophet was insulted. In this case, it is only the assailant who makes a claim and it is obvious that the road is paved for him to escape punishment, as it is said in the expression: “one who sees the judge alone, returns fully satisfied.”
Moreover, the assailant (the murderer) must prove in court that his motive was purely to punish an individual who insulted the prophet and that there were no financial or family disputes between them. The court would accept such a claim because if there are no other motives, it is obvious that the assailant’s claim would be acceptable.
However, if the perpetrator of a crime could not prove that murdering the victim was due to an insult to the prophet, and on the contrary, it is proved that the victim was a pious man or an unbiased researcher, and that what he/she expressed was not insulting or offensive, in this case, even if a murder has been committed, only blood money should be paid (1). Moreover, the court can sentence the perpetrator to a maximum of 10 years in jail. Concerning this, Article 612 states the following:
“If anyone commits murder and no one files charges, or if the one filing charges has forgiven him, or if the perpetrator, for whatever reason, does not face (capital) punishment, he/she can be sentenced to 3 – 10 years of imprisonment if his crime was shown to lead to disorder in the protection, security, or order of the society, or if it is feared that the perpetrator or someone else would repeat the crime.”
As such, we see that the perpetrator of such a violent crime can also escape imprisonment because if it is not proved in court that lack of punishment would lead to the recurrence of the crime, there would be no imprisonment either, and the perpetrator would simply pay the blood money. Now let’s see how much the blood money, the damage to be paid by the murderer, is. What is the range of the payment amount?
Article 488 of Islamic Penal Code states:
“Blood money is an amount specified in the sacred Shari‘a [religious law] for unintentional crimes leading to loss of life, injury, or damage or for intentional crimes for which there is no statutory punishment.”
The rate of blood money changes each year with inflation. In 1392 , the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran has conveyed to the head of Judiciary that the amount of blood money is 1.140 billion Rials [approximately $38,000] for male Muslims, which would be different for non-Muslims which is legally less. However, owing to international pressure, amendments were made to the Islamic Penal Code, Article 554, which now states:
“According to the sovereign opinion of the Supreme Leader, blood money for the recognized religious minorities in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran is the same amount as for the Muslims.”
Therefore, the blood money given for the murder of Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians is equivalent to the blood money given to a Muslim. However, the important point is that because “The Bahá’í Faith” is not considered, in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to be a recognized religion, if a Bahá’í is murdered or injured, no blood money is paid.
Therefore, based on the laws promulgated in the Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the followers of the Bahá’í Faith in Iran, numbering about 350,000, are facing a serious danger because, through misuse of the unjust rules that have been ratified, the followers of this religion face a horrible danger at any moment. The murder of a Bahá’í two months ago in Bandar Abbas, and the attack against another Bahá’í family in the city of Birjand, which has caused injury to three members of the family currently under intensive care in a hospital, are the results of such unjust laws. This is because in none of the above cases has anything been stolen, nor has there been any dispute or personal vendetta. Therefore, if anyone is arrested in the future, they can easily misuse the current laws and escape any form of punishment.
As a defender of human rights, I call on the world community, especially the United Nations and human rights organizations, to pay attention to the potential danger facing a number of Iranians. I remind the authorities that penal provisions should be reviewed and reconsidered so as to be calibrated to universal standards of human rights.
1 – This article does not imply the author’s agreement with capital punishment. Rather it is an analysis for legally countering murderers who concoct legal or motive-based justification for murder, yet the law treats their punishment with prejudice which then motivates the crime, while the duty of the law is to prevent crime.
To wit: Article 613 which was referenced in this analysis was passed in 1375 . The Islamic Penal Code which was passed in 1392  has not annulled this Article and its provisions are still in full force. Article 728 of the Islamic Penal Code, ratified in 1392 states:
“All rules and regulations contrary to this law, including Islamic Penal Codes ratified on 8/5/1370 [July 30, 1991], Articles 625-629, and Articles 726-728 of Book 5 of Islamic Penal Codes ‘Preventive Punishments and Penalties’ ratified on 2/3/1375 [May 22, 1996], Security Provision Codes ratified on 12/2/1339 [May 2, 1960] and Codes Defining Effective Sentencing in Criminal Law ratified on 26/7/1366 [October 18, 1987], along with subsequent amendments and supplements, are hereby annulled.”
As such, of the Islamic Penal Codes ratified in 1375 , only Articles 625-629 and Articles 726-728 have been annulled and the rest, including Article 612, which was referenced in this analysis, regrettably still enjoy full legal force.
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