Must a Man Hang Because He Is Accused of Being Gay?

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 6, 2010 | Go to article overview

Must a Man Hang Because He Is Accused of Being Gay?


Byline: Peter Tatchell

EIGHTEEN-year-old Ebrahim Hamidi has been sentenced to death by a court in the Iranian city of Tabriz, on charges that he sexually assaulted another man. His accuser has since withdrawn the assault claim in a sworn affidavit, admitting that he lied under parental pressure. But Ebrahim is still scheduled to hang.

Two years ago, Ebrahim caught the alleged sex attack victim damaging his father's crops. There had been a history of feuding between their families. A fist fight ensued, involving Ebrahim and some friends. During the fracas, the accuser's trousers slipped down 20cm, which he claimed was evidence of a sexual assault.

Ebrahim and three friends were arrested on sodomy charges and tortured in a detention centre for three days. Ebrahim was hanged upside down by his legs and badly beaten. To stop this abuse, he signed a confession.

There is no evidence that Ebrahim is gay or that a sexual assault took place; just the word of one person against another and a confession under torture, which was later retracted.

At his first trial in 2008, Ebrahim was sentenced to hang on the basis of the "knowledge of the judge" -- a bizarre legal protocol whereby, in the absence of sufficient evidence to convict in sodomy and adultery cases, a judge is free to assess that a person is guilty.

Ebrahim's death sentence is in defiance of the Supreme Court of Iran, which has twice rejected the local court's guilty verdict and ordered a reexamination of the case, citing errors in the legal investigation and an "issue of doubt". These two Supreme Court rulings against conviction and execution have been ignored by the judiciary in Tabriz.

At the third and most recent trial in June, Ebrahim's three co-defendants were acquitted. …

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