Where Is the Murderer of Ataollah Rezvani, a Baha’i Resident of Bandar Abbas?

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Translation by Iran Press Watch

Justice for Iran, August 22, 2016: Three years since the murder of Ataollah Rezvani, a Baha’i resident of Bandar Abbas, with a bullet in his skull, law enforcement and judicial authorities still refuse to investigate the murder, and his family are still under severe pressure.

Since the pursuit of justice and human rights is the right and duty of all citizens, Justice for Iran is asking everyone to make a brief phone call to the authorities or to individuals connected to the case, and ask about the facts and fate of this case.

Three years ago, on a sizzling night, the 24th of August, this Baha’i citizen left his house with the intention of stopping in at the home of a friend who was staying abroad; but he never returned. Karim Mirzaei, the caretaker of Rezvani’s friend’s home, is the only individual who saw him alive, in a phone conversation with someone unknown. At first, Mr. Mirzaei was a suspect in the killing. However, he has disappeared, and to this day there is no news of him, since telling the Rezvani family’s lawyer about the Intelligence Office’s threat against talking to him. The 17-year-old Afghan may also be a victim in this case. In the last three years, officials have expended all their efforts to not to find the killer or killers of this Baha’i citizen, whose body was found with a bullet in his skull inside his car on the road out of town. Although no weapon was found at the murder scene, Javid Amani, the Bandar Abbas court’s special homicide investigator, has long insisted on making the family believe that Rezvani committed suicide.

Although nothing but Rezvani’s phone, which contained information regarding his last call, was missing, the police told the family that a personal motive or robbery was behind the homicide. Rezai, the police officer in charge of the case, initially pursued the case and started an extensive investigation, but he suddenly stopped his investigation. Despite repeated promises by the Bandar Abbas Public Prosecutor and the Bureau of Investigation, they never attached a printout of calls and mobile messages from Rezvani’s stolen phone to the case. Similarly, no research was done in with respect to urban traffic camera images on routes where the victim drove that afternoon. Instead, investigators pressed the family to agree to accept blood money 1, to sign a waiver from the government, agreeing that they would not pursue the case, but the case has been closed regardless. When the family refused to consent, they were warned that they must bring the killer or killers to the Bandar Abbas court within two weeks!

The lack of investigation into the Rezvani murder case and absolute immunity given to those responsible for it greatly increases the likelihood that it is a government job. Ataollah Rezvani, 53, a Baha’i citizen, was expelled as a mechanical engineering student from university during the Islamic Revolution in 1980 because he was a Baha’i. He later became the owner of a water pump equipment shop. He was a well-known member of the Bandar Abbas Baha’i community, who from the mid-80s until 2008 before the closure of Iranian Baha’i organizations belonged to the “Servants of Bandar Abbas Committee”.  At this post, on a voluntary basis, he attended to everyday Baha’i community affairs, especially regarding marriage, divorce, death and financial disputes.

Before his murder, in a letter in response to the hate speeches of Bandar Abbas’s Imam, Ali Na’imabadi and two others, against Baha’is, Ataollah Rezvani asked him to respect the rights of Baha’i citizens, and to refrain from inciting people against them in his Friday sermons. He also warned law enforcement authorities in a complaint in connection with the sermons of the Imam against the Baha’is, that such statements would lead to tension and bloodshed.

Long before his murder Ataollah Rezvani had been threatened by security agencies, either directly or indirectly. He and his family had been put under pressure to leave Bandar Abbas for a while. During the interrogation session of one Baha’i, he was told “to tell Rezvani his turn will come.”

Ataollah Rezvani’s case is not the first instance when judicial authorities asked a family to stop pursuing justice, to consent and allow impunity for those responsible for murder, instead accepting blood money from the state fund. Previously, in some cases, such as in protests after the 2009 election, in which protesters were killed, officials forced families to receive blood money, and to waive their complaints about those responsible for the events.

The security forces’ treatment of the Rezvani family is more testimony to the government’s involvement in this crime. For the last three years security forces have tried to prevent a funeral or anniversary memorials for him. In October 2015, during the temporary detention of Navid Aghdasi, Ataollah Rezvani’s cousin, by the Ministry of Information, one of the charges filed was that he had been interviewed by different media about the case. He is currently awaiting a court hearing this month. In March 2016, the optometry shop of Ataollah’s son Cyrus Rezvani, who had the responsibility of follow-up in the murder case on behalf of the family, was sealed by command of Captain Hassan Zand, chief of the Office of Public Property in Bandar Abbas.

Justice for Iran’s research shows that the lack of pursuit and creation of disruption in the process of justice by Javeed Amani, the Bandar Abbas second branch  Prosecutor’s investigator, and Saeed Asadi, the Bandar Abbas prosecutor, had a direct role in the violation of the rights of the Rezvani family.  Gholam Ali Na’immabadi, the official Bandar Abbas Imam, spread hatred against Baha’is. President Hassan Rouhani, Head of the Judiciary Sadeq Amoli Larijani, Head of the Office of Human Rights Mohammad Javad Larijani and Member of Parliament Ali Motahari displayed a complete lack of attention to the pleading letters of the Rezvani family, nor did they carry out any research about the performance of the judicial authorities of Bandar Abbas with respect to basic tasks regarding the human rights of the family.

In the letter of protest of Sahba Rezvani, Ataollah’s sister, addressed to senior officials of the Islamic Republic, which was the first to be released by Justice for Iran, there was a long list of violations of the most basic rights of the Rezvani family members just because they are Baha’is. In this letter concerning documents and evidence, it becomes apparent that the murder of Ataollah Rezvani was far from being the only violation of their rights; it was only the most violent in the chain of persecutions against different members of the family. There have been two cases of being fired from work, one case of refusal to register a family member in pre-university, prevention of post-secondary education for four people, the arrest and incarceration of four, and the closing and the sealing of two businesses. Also, there have been three occasions of raids on homes and confiscation of all religious and personal equipment, documents and belongings mentioned in this unanswered letter.

According to Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i community to the UN, since2005 at least nine Baha’is in Iran have been murdered or died under suspicious circumstances. Fifty-two other Baha’is have been physically attacked by government agents, plainclothes agents or unidentified assailants, but not a single perpetrator has been prosecuted. Also, In Bandar Abbas in 1986, Iraj Mehdinezhad, a Baha’i citizen, was stabbed by a knife and killed by unknown individuals at his residence. The Bandar Abbas Information Office urged the Mehdinezhad family to refrain from pursuing the murder case. Iraj Meydani and Mia’d Afshar are other Baha’is who were attacked in Bandar Abbas in recent years. Iraj Meydani was stabbed at his physician’s practice by attackers, and only quick medical attention saved him. The assailants were never identified or prosecuted.

On the third anniversary of the murder of Ataollah Rezvani, Justice for Iran, while introducing the human rights violators in this case, is also publishing their dossier. It is calling for an independent judicial investigation into this case, to determine the truth and to hold the perpetrators of the murder of Ataollah Rezvani, as well as the officials who have covered up this crime, to a normal standard of justice.

Since the security pressure has made it very difficult for the Rezvani family to pursue the case, Justice for Iran is asking all human rights defenders and responsible citizens now, by devoting five minutes of their time to a phone call, to perform their duty to realize justice and human rights. You can call the following authorities, keeping in mind that three years have passed since the murder of Mr. Rezvani. Tell them you are interested to know what stage the follow-up of the case has achieved. Ask why, instead of pursuing the truth, identifying and prosecuting those responsible for Mr. Rezvani’s murder, the security and livelihood of his family and relatives have been put under pressure. If you are concerned that your phone number might be recorded and tracked, you can call from an unknown number or through voice over internet protocol phones.

Samad Dehghani, Chief Justice of Bandar Abbas:  00987632225607, 00987633317851, 00987633317852, 00987633317850

Ali Asghar Khorram, Police Chief of Bandar Abbas: 00987666662667, 00987633668150

Gholam Ali Na’imabadi, Community Imam of Bandar Abbas: 00987613333682, 00987632242700, 009832244030, 009867613333681