By Mohannad Mostafaei (Behnood Shojaee’s Attorney)
I waited all day for the time to come to go to Evin. I met Koohyar and we went to Evin at about 2.30 AM. By the time we arrived, a crowd of almost 200 people (photos) had already gathered in front of the gate. Many activists and mourning mothers were among the crowd. We all waited for the family of the victim to arrive. An hour passed and then we saw the parents of the victim (Ehsan) arrive accompanied by their daughter and their son. The crowd went to them and everybody begged them to give their consent to stop the execution. After a while, the parents said that they would forgive Behnoud. The atmosphere was heavy. Then the gates opened and Mr. Oliyifar, the victim’s parents and I went inside and waited in the waiting room. We thought that the parents would give their consent and Behnoud would be spared. We could hear the crowd outside praying. A few minutes later we were taken to another room, where we saw Behnoud and a few prison. When the victim’s parents entered the room, Behnoud genuflected at their feet and begged them not to kill him. The mother said, “I cannot think right now. I have to put the rope around his neck.” Then we heard the call for prayer (Azan). Behnoud went to another room for his Last Prayer. He went to ask forgiveness from God. After the prayer, we all went to the site of the execution had to take place. I was terrified and my body was shaking. I did not know what would happen to this motherless boy. When he was begging the parents, Behnoud told the mother of the victim, “I don’t have a mother. For God’s sake be my mother and don’t execute me.” We all went inside a room, and there was an iron stool and a plastic blue noose hanging over it. Behnoud who had always dreamed to see the blue sky at the last moment of his life could only see a blue rope. The parents went in and Behnoud was taken inside a short while later. This was the room reserved for hangings. I had never seen or heard of a case where only one person was executed. I was wondering why Behnoud was being hanged alone. Perhaps it was his bad luck that he had to raise to heaven alone. People who were present in the room again begged the parents for forgiveness. The mother said, “Put the rope around his neck.” Behnoud went on the stool and the rope was placed around his neck. A few moments later, the victim’s parents walked over and removed the stool from under his feet. Behnoud went to heaven.
I did not have the heart to watch; the moment the stool was removed, the world around me became dark.
Today Behnoud is no longer in prison. He is not among his friends, who feel and see emptiness where he once stood.
I did all that was humanly possible to save him and I failed. strongly believe Behnoud did not deserve to die.
He should not have been executed.
But he was executed
Last Interview with Behnoud Shojaee
This interview was done when Behnoud was still alive. I never thought that the word “was” could inflict so much pain in my heart. Behnoud told me over the phone, “Hope keeps people alive.” I hope that, by the time you read this interview, Behnoud is still alive. I wish the red sky of the dawn would not be the last color his eyes would see. I wish he could see the blue skies of the morning.
Q- If you wanted to draw something, what color would you use?
Q- Why blue?
A- Because of the sky. Its been so long that I wish to see the sky outside the prison.
Q- How many times have you been taken to be executed?
A- I have been to the gallows three times and then returned after the head of the judiciary delayed his execution. Four or five other times, the execution was delayed a few days before the set date.
Q- Where will you spend your last night?
A- In a cell, alone and far from everyone. There I can see death a thousand times until morning. All the prisoners who are taken to those suites hope that God will put compassion in the hearts of the victims’ families to consent.
Q- When you were being taken in the past from your cell to the execution quarters, what or who was in your mind?
A- The first time, I could not believe that I was going to die. When I was put in the bus for the ride to Evin, I realized what was happening. I realized that what I had done was very serious and I was going to die for it. All throughout the ride I was thinking that maybe God could put some compassion in the hearts of Ehsan’s parents and they would forgive me. I was thinking if they could only put their son in my place what would they ask for? I was hoping that Ehsan’s mother could have for me the same feelings she had for her son.
Q- Have you personally tried to get their consent?
A- Yes. I wrote to them several times and asked them to spare me in Imam Hossein’s name and for the sake of my youth. I know I have done a grave mistake, but I was only a child. I never thought that I would end up here. I want to beg them again here to, for the sake of Ehsan’s soul, give me a second chance in life.
Q- The nights you were alone in the cell awaiting your execution, who did you want to have next to you?
A- My mother. I have not seen my mother for years. She became diabetic when I was 12. Two years later she died after she had lost her sight. Seeing her has been my dream, not only on execution nights, but every night of my life. I wish that Ehsan’s parents would forgive me and I could go to my mother’s grave once.
Q- What will be the first place you will go to if you are released?
A- I have made a Nazr to first go to Jamkaran, and then I will go to my mother’s grave.
Q- Are you still hopeful that they will give their consent?
A- Hope keeps people alive. It is not possible to live without hope. The biggest sin is to lose hope. I have already witnessed death three times. All those times I was taken to the gallows and came back I only asked God for help.
Q- When is the execution going to take place this time?
A- Sunday, October 10th, after the Morning Prayer.
Q- Do want the execution be delayed again?
A- No, No. I really don’t want it to be delayed again, but I want Ehsan’s mother to feel as if I were her son. I know that they have lost their loved one. I know what enormous pain they have, but I want them to know that I did not have premeditated motive to do that. God knows I only went there to reconcile the people who were fighting. Ehsan, who died, was not a party to the fight. Both Ehsan and I were not a party to the fight. We had only gone to reconcile other people. Ehsan insulted my mother and things went wrong.
Q- Have you ever met his family?
A- Yes, once during the hearings and also the first time I went to the gallows. There is a small room which is reserved for Morning Prayer, and then they take the accused for execution. After the Prayer I begged them to forgive me. His mother was quiet and was only crying. His brother said, “You have killed my young brother.” I am not a criminal. It was an accident. I never planned to do it.
Q- Did you have friends who were executed?
A-Yes, the first time we were taken to the gallows, there were five of us. Four were hanged I front of my eyes. The second time, we were eleven, and eight of us were executed. The last time there were seven of us and two people were hanged.
Q- If you see Ehsan’s parents, what will you ask them?
A- I will plead with them, I will beg them to, for the sake of Ehsan’s soul, let me live. I will beg them to, for the sake of Imam Hossein and Aliakbar, pardon me. I have been in prison since I was 17. I lost my mother when I was a kid. I have spent the last four and half years of my life among criminals and convicts. I swear to God this is more than enough punishment for me. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy. I want them to see Ehsan in my place and then decide. I will tell them that I will be their servant for the rest of my life. I know that what I am asking them to do is very hard. I know that forgiveness is a hard thing to do, but anyone who has used their Qisas rights has regretted it later. If they could only live in the prison for one week; not only would they give their own consent but they would also try to get the consent of other families whose children have been murdered.
There was a man who was hanged the second time I was taken to the gallows because the plaintiff did not give his consent. I heard later that his (the plaintiff’s) wife started to have emotional problems. His mother became paralyzed and they were desperately looking for the forgiveness from the family of the man who was hanged. One other time the family of the victim changed their mind after the stool was taken off and the judge told them it was too late and they had to haven given their consent 5 minutes earlier.
Q- Do you think your father would have given his consent if he was in their place?
A- I think it would have been difficult but he would have given his consent at the end. Anyone who could put himself in the place of the accused would definitely give his consent. I am only 20 years old. It is easy to say, but believe me it is horrifying to see 20 people die in front of you. No one can feel what I felt when I witnessed it; those moments when I watched my fellow inmates beg for their lives but get turned down by the victim’s family were the hardest moments in my life.
Q- Behnoud, I really hope that next week this time you will be with your family, celebrating your freedom.
A- My hands are raised in prayer. God will decide my fate and I will be happy with his decision.