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Islamic Revolutionary Court

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Title: Islamic Revolutionary Court  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Amir-Abbas Hoveyda, Sadegh Khalkhali, Roxana Saberi, Freedom of religion in Iran, Judicial system of Iran
Collection: Iranian Law, Judiciary of Iran
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Islamic Revolutionary Court

Islamic Revolutionary Court[1] (also Revolutionary Tribunal, Dadgah-ha-e Enqelab[2]) is a special court in the Islamic Republic of Iran designed to try those suspected of smuggling, blaspheming, inciting violence or trying to overthrow the Iranian government. The court[3] started its work after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.


  • Jurisdiction 1
  • History 2
    • Revolution 2.1
    • Since 1980 2.2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, as amended in 1983, encompasses[4]

  1. All of the offenses against the internal and external security of the Country, combating and behaving in a corruptly manner on the earth.
  2. Uttering slander against the Founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Honorable Leader.
  3. Conspiracy against the Islamic Republic of Iran or carrying arms,[5] use of terrorism, destruction of building against the Islamic Republic.
  4. Engaging in espionage for aliens.
  5. All crimes involving smugglings and narcotic items.
  6. The cases pertinent to Article 49 of the Constitution of Iran.

Disputes over jurisdiction between the Revolutionary Courts and Iranian Penal Courts are resolved by the Iranian Supreme Court. To date, according to the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, "it appears that there is a tendency to extend the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts to all offenses which in the opinion of the authorities are not punished severely enough."[4]

The trials are not public, there is no jury, and a single judge decides the matter at hand. Information on the trial is disclosed at the discretion of the government.



The revolutionary courts were created shortly after the overthrow of the monarchy and the arrival of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran. The general goal of the court is thought to have been to seek vengeance against officials of the Shah's regime (particularly SAVAK) - as many revolutionaries had lost friends and family members at the hands of the government - and to eliminate military and civilian leaders who might foment a counter-revolution against Islamic rule.[2]

The first tribunal was convened secretly in Refah School in southern Tehran where Khomeini had set up his headquarters. The first four death sentences were issued by Hojjat al-Islam Sadegh Khalkhali, approved by Khomeini, and carried out in the early hours of February 16, 1979. By early November, 550 people - mostly military and SAVAK - had been sent to the firing squads by revolutionary tribunals.[2] Revolutionary Tribunals were set up in the major towns, with two courts in the capital of Tehran - one each in the prison of Qasr and Evin, and one traveling tribunal for Sadegh Khalkhali, who was known for handing out many death sentences. The courts presiding judges were clerics appointed by Khomeini himself. The decisions rendered by the Revolutionary courts were final and could not be appealed, and so bypassed what remained of the Justice Ministry and its appeal system.[6]

At least at first, the revolutionary courts differ from standard Western law courts by limiting trials to a few hours, sometimes minutes. Defendants could be found guilty on the basis of `popular repute.` The concept of defense attorney was dismissed as a `Western absurdity.` A charge that was widely applied against defendants but unfamiliar to some was Mofsed-e-filarz, or `spreading corruption on earth.` This covered a variety of offenses - "`insulting Islam and the clergy,` `opposing the Islamic Revolution,` `supporting the Pahlavis,` and `undermining Iran's independence` by helping the 1953 coup and giving capitulatory privileges to the imperial powers." [6]

The secrecy, vagueness of charges, lack of opportunity for defendants to defend themselves came under criticism from people such as Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari, Hassan Tabatabai-Qomi and Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan. But the court's swift and harsh sentences also had strong support from both Islamists and leftist groups such as the Tudeh party and People's Mujahedin of Iran. Khomeini responded to complaints saying that "criminals should not be tried, they should be killed." Judge Khalkhali stated "The revolutionary courts were born out of the anger of the Iranian people and these people will not accept any principles outside Islamic principles." Attempts by Bazargan to appeal to Khomeini to restrict the courts only led to the courts becoming "stronger and more firmly entrenched." [2]

Since 1980

According to political scientist and historian

  • Human Rights Watch Condemns Killing Of Iranian Civilians June 3, 1998
  • Zan CENSORED 6 April 1999

External links

  1. ^ Human Rights
  2. ^ a b c d Bakhash, Shaul, Reign of the Ayatollahs, Basic Books, 1984, p.59-61
  3. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Iran
  5. ^ This is because no one that is not affiliated with the government is allowed to bear arms. This Court takes care of private arms-bearers.
  6. ^ a b Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999, p.125
  7. ^ Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions, University of California Press, 1999, p.210
  8. ^ Iranian Cartoonist will be Tried in the Islamic Revolutionary Court


See also

Although the Revolutionary Court normally deals with major economic and security crimes, in 2006 it was scheduled to try Cartoonist Mana Neyestani and his editor-in-chief Mehrdad Qassemfar "for inciting ethnic unrest" after a Neyestani cartoon triggered protests and violence among the Turkish-speaking population in northwestern parts of Iran after appearing in a weekly supplement "Iran Jomeh."[8]


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