(ISC) August 30, 2010 – They bring those who are to be executed in groups of 70 to the visiting hall of Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad and an hour before sunset; they are hanged in a mass execution with nooses sent from Tehran. Those who are to be executed do not know until moments before their execution why they have been summoned to the Prison Office and only when all the prison phones go dead an hour before sunset do other prisoners realize that it is time for the executions.
This is the horrific state of Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad in the past few months. A human rights activist in Mashhad described what he had heard from soldiers in prison saying that in the past weeks at least 60 to 70 people were taken to the gallows every week without their own knowledge or that of their families; prisoners that did not have lawyers and did not receive fair trials.
It seems that the heads of Mashhad’s Revolutionary Court had the order, according to a directive issued by Mohsen Ejeyi, to send all drug related death row prisoners to the gallows in a speedy and ceaseless manner.
The deaths sentences are mostly issued by the four judges of Mashhad’s Revolutionary Court – Kavousi, Kaboli, Soltani and Yasayi and have been promptly carried out. The haste in carrying out the executions is to the extent that prisoners realize their fate moments before their execution. According to a prison guard, only a few moments after a prisoner met with his wife, the prison guard took him to the hall where sentences are carried out while the prisoner and his wife did not know anything about his execution.
The numbers of hangings in Vakil Abad Prison have reached 500 according to reports from cellmates and the few families who are willing to talk. The lack of communications, fear among the families and even prisoner employees has made the task of getting reports on the fate of prisoners very hard. But according to reports in the past 5 months, a number of prisoners have been executed every week in an alternate fashion and the families only realized that the number of executions are very high after collecting the corpses of their loved ones (from prison). Prison officials intimidate these families who are mostly from poor classes and prevent them from spreading the news. They also had to pay 7 thousand tomans for the noose (their loved ones were hanged with). Most of the prisoners did not have lawyers and because lawyers charge ‘between 10 to 15’ million tomans to appeal the death sentence, most families cannot afford lawyers.
The hangings of Vakil Abad was not limited to only Iranians and in a number of instances Afghan nationals and in one instance a Nigerian was also executed. They have all been charged with narcotics trafficking but according to the human rights activist in Mashhad, the death sentence was given to light crimes which prisoners usually receive prison terms for. There are reports that the Mashhad public prosecutor’s office has said that Mohsen Ejeyi, the Prosecutor General of Iran, intends to commemorate Khalkhali by executing narcotics traffickers.
In the beginning of the 80’s, Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali sent many drug addicts and small time narcotics traffickers to the gallows in a speedy plan to eliminate narcotics in Iran. It is said that Khalkhali believed that if a death sentence was wrongly given to a prisoner, that prisoner would go to heaven after his execution.