Biography of Habibollah Latifi, Kurdish Political Prisoner on Death Row in Iran


Habibollah Latifi
The following is a biography of Habibollah Latifi and a brief description of his case, prepared by Kuridstan Committee of Human Right Activists in Iran based on the stories by Mr. Latifi’s family and friends. Habibollah Latifi is a political prisoner on death row being held in Sanandaj prison.

Habibollah Latifi is the seventh child of Soghra and Abbas Latifi. He was born on March 21st, 1981 (first day of spring, and the start of the Iranian new year) in Sanandaj. The first seven years of his life, during the Iran-Iraq war, was spent in the village of Taysar near Sanandaj.

He loves sports and excels in soccer. He played in various soccer teams including Sanandaj Shahrdari (run by the mayor’s office). However, he had to leave the sport just before entering university, because a precondition to continue playing was being a member of the Basij militia. Latifi was an “A” student in the field of industrial engineering. He loves nature and topography in Kurdistan. As a result, Latifi took up mountain climbing. He has climbed many of Kurdistan’s summits.

Although he was born to a wealthy family, he always appeared in public dressed modestly. He was a bright student who received his high school diploma in 2001. In 2002, he was admitted to the University of Ilam for the Industrial Engineering program.

Habibollah Latifi has a keen interest in studying, and discussion and debate around Iran’s social and political issues. In particular, he is most concerned over issues pertaining to Kurdistan. He, along with his friends, was engaged in civil, cultural, environmental, and political activities ranging from involvement with NGOs to more political engagements. He also had the honour of being a member of the environmental associations: Zhianeh Vah and Shahoo.

Habibollah Latifi was arrested on an autumn evening in 2007 on Adab Street in Sanandaj. Eleven Intelligence agents arrested him while he was exiting a computing service shop. He was not able to set eyes on the outside world for four months after his arrest. He spent that time in solitary confinement and he was subject to vicious tortures by Intelligence investigators. On the ninth day of his arrest, he was transferred to a hospital in Sanandaj as a result of a kidney hemorrhage. At the hospital, he was spotted coincidentally by a relative who describes his condition as grave: “A boy with puffed eyes, grey skin, torn lips. He was unable to stand on his feet. He was being dragged by three people while eight military and plainclothes agents were escorting them.” It was later discovered that he had almost died as a result of being kicked and beaten by approximately six people who used batons. His only movement for the four weeks that followed the incident was crawling.

His head was broken in three spots and the repeated kicks had torn his lips. It is noteworthy that Habibollah Latifi protested his condition to Kamyani, the judge assigned to the case. The judge would visit him in his solitary cell to investigate. Kamyani denied any torture and accused Habibollah Latifi of lying.

Meanwhile, the provincial head of Intelligence (at the time it was Amjadi), in a conversation he conducted with Habibollah Latifi from behind a cell door’s slot, promised him that he would help him and Yasser Goli (Habib’s friend) escape, but only if Habib makes confessions against his friends and prepare a monthly report against two individuals (whose names he did not mention). Once he was faced with Habib’s negative reaction, Amjadi threatened him with a death sentence.

After the interrogation ordeal, Habibollah Latifi was transferred to another section of the prison where he was finally able to see the sunshine and his family after four long months. In summer 2008, during a trial that lasted a few minutes and without the presence of his family, Habibollah Latifi was found guilty of acting against national security and the regime. Judge Babayi, who was presiding over the case, cited a verse from the Qur’an and certain chapters from Ayatollah Khomeini’s book to conclude that Habibollah Latifi was a Moharebeh (an enemy and fighter against God). Subsequently, he was sentenced to death. Habibollah Latifi denies all the accusations.

The Court of Appeals also upheld the unlawful verdict in winter 2009.

Judge Babayi told him, “Your sentence is death anyway. You should take responsibility for the crimes of other innocent defendants whose cases are before me, and thereby close their cases.”

It should be mentioned that prior to Ehsan Fattahian’s execution and during when Habibolla’s mother joined in on prisoner hunger strike to protest the death sentences (she also threatened to set herself on fire), Babayi had threatened Elaheh (Habibollah’s sister who gave interviews to foreign media) with imprisonment and harsh legal actions. Previously, when Omid (Habib’s brother) had visited the court to follow up with his brother’s case, he was detained for half a day and beaten in public by the head of the court’s security.

While in prison, Habib’s bronchitis ,which he has been suffering from since childhood, deteriorated further. In addition, his stomach infection and dental problems (caused unsanitary prison conditions and the poor quality food served in solitary confinement) has aggravated his mental suffering. Despite repeated requests by his family and lawyer, officials deny medical care and have only once sent him to a hospital for a sonography test. The results of the test are reportedly lost.

Massoud Mehreban (former head of Sanandaj’s central prison) and Mohammad Khosravi (head of Sanandaj prison) constantly harass and pressure Habibollah Latifi by controlling his interactions with other individuals, and depriving him from family visits and phone contacts.

Only a week after the case was sent to the Supreme Court in early spring 2009, the appeal was denied. The case then went before the Pardoning Committee of the Supreme Court. After 10 months of secrecy, his lawyer, Dr. Nikbakht, was informed that the Committee had refused to hear the case.

With the disclosure of this decision, and in the wake of Eskandari (the head of execution sentences in Sanandaj) who said that there is no impediment to his death sentence being carried out, the possibility of Habibollah’s execution is stronger than ever.

There is no possibility to commute Habibollah’s death. He can be hanged one morning before sunrise any day.

We have to mention that Latifi’s family had trusted a few officials in the intelligence office and judiciary to save his life. These individuals claimed they can influence the outcome of the trial and extorted the family, but they did not deliver on their promises. The family has tried to make an appointment to see the heads of judiciary (current and former), but they were rejected.

Habibollah Latifi tried tirelessly to stop Ehsan Fattahian’s execution by taking part in a hunger strike. His attempts resulted in mounting pressure from prison officials. They searched and confiscated his personal items and cancelled his rights to visitation and phone calls to his family.

In December, he was once again taken to solitary confinement for four days to be tortured.

Moreover, at the time of Ayatollah Khamenei’s visit to Kurdistan, Intelligent agents went to his father’s home in the middle of the night to intimidate the family. As a result, Habibollah’s mother suffered from a heart attack.

Habibollah’s death sentence can be carried out any day, and his family is asking for help from human rights organization to stop his execution.

Translation by: Siavosh J.