A letter from alleged juvenile offender after 21 years in prison
Varya Saed Mouchashmi has been detained in Karaj’s notorious Rajaei Shahr Prison since he was 17. Convicted of aiding and abetting murder in 1998, he was sentenced to the death penalty and 80 lashes. This marks his 21st year behind bars.
In a letter, Mouchashmi remembers the incident that led to his conviction, stating that the murder was the unintended escalation of a clash initiated by an individual by the name of Shahram Jalali. Per an agreement with the victim’s family to pay damages (known as “blood money”) in exchange for a death row pardon, Jalili had already paid half of the requested sum when he was executed in 2002. Esmail Hosseini, the other co-defendant, was released after serving three years and six months of his ten-year prison sentence.
The full text of Mr Mouchashmi’s letter is below:
In The Name of Non-Existent Justice
Behind prison bars from the age of 17 to now, the age of 40…Where is the justice?
I, Varya Saed Mouchashmi, am a prisoner in Karaj’s Rajaei Shahr Prison. When I was 14, to help my ageing father and my family, I left behind my city, my studies, and my home and came to Tehran. In 1998, I had been working as a laborer in Imam Khomeini International Airport for three years and I was about to turn 17 when I was convicted of aiding and abetting murder and sentenced to death and 80 lashes.
Yet in the skirmish that led to the murder of Mohammad Emami (the victim), the fighting and the killing were the work of Shahram Jalali — son of Jamal, born in Rabat Karim — and also another individual named Esmaeil Hosseini, who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison but was freed after three years and six months. The principal defendant, Shahram Jalali, was executed in 2002 with the consent of the victim’s guardians, after having paid half of the blood money commensurate with the murder of a Muslim. I was innocent from the beginning, young and naive, illiterate, subject to the testimonies of my co-defendants which were totally baseless. The judge knows it, and yet I have been left in prison for 21 years.
Meanwhile not only have I lost my youth and my family, but I’ve also attempted suicide multiple times, documentation of which can be found in Imam Khomeini hospital.
All the while, the victim’s family has neglected the case and my situation in prison. Based on my requests and pursuant to Article 429, they’ve been repeatedly summoned but have refused to answer. Finally, in 2017, the assistant prosecutor, Mr Allahyari, summoned my family and me to post a bail of 2.2 billion rials [about $21,000 USD].
My family (of which only my brother remains) have done all they can to gather the money and post the bail. But a different assistant prosecutor has been named in the meantime, and the woman who now heads the department takes issue with Mr Allahyari’s terms and insulted my brother, calling him “backwards and worthless to society.” She said the process for the posting of bail and its payment now have to start anew.
A year has passed since then, and it’s now been 21 years since I’ve been in prison. Based on a law passed in 2013, minors can’t be sentenced to death, but I keep being punished and my case keeps getting ignored. As I approach 40, I am left with only one choice: declare a hunger strike to restore my rights and defend them until death. I want word to spread of the injustice that has been done to me; and for everyone to see their negligence of my case and the inconsiderate attitude of the new assistant prosecutor of the Branch 1, and how she has obstructed the process.
Is Article 429 not the law of the land? Have I not tried to have it followed four different times? How can a change of judge and assistant prosecutor (who get transferred among branches) mean a change in law? Where is the justice?
Who is going to be responsible for the waste of 21 years of my life? Is all this talk of justice a mere propaganda campaign, designed to deceive the media and public opinion?
Does the “principle of justice” serve merely to disparage and verbally abuse prisoners’ families, and for judges levelling insults at them, enforcing arbitrary sentences at their whim?
Varya Saed Mouchashmi
Karaj’s Rajaei Shahr Prison
August 17, 2018