Ali Mahin Torabi Image Credit: Guardian

Tehran: Ali Mahin Torabi was 16 when he was arrested for alleged murder in Iran. Here is his account of his seven years in jail before he managed to escape.

It was February 2003; I was aged 16, at school in the city of Karaj, in the western outskirts of Tehran, when one of my classmates, Milad, came into the class looking very upset. He said he'd had a quarrel with someone and wanted to sort things out during the break.

When the bell rang, I followed him outside so I could stop him fighting. He got physical with a student, Mazdak; I tried to separate them but then Mazdak thought I was taking Milad's side.

At the end of the day, Mazdak stopped me outside school. Milad had given me his folder, which had a knife in it, and I'd put the knife in my pocket. Then Milad and Mazdak got physical, I slapped Mazdak, and all the kids got into a fight.

A few, who also had knives, started to attack me and beat me. I took out the knife to scare them, but there was a huge crowd and so many people were fighting... and then I saw Mazdak with blood on his shirt. He was bleeding for 20 minutes before he was taken to hospital where he died. I was taken to our headmaster's office; they called the police, who arrested me. But the knife in my hand had no blood.


At the police station, I told them everything that had happened. The police asked my father to give them a bribe to get the case dismissed, but he refused. I was in custody for 28 days and during that time, I endured all kinds of torture and beatings. They beat me so hard that finally I confessed to something I had not done. I was handcuffed and shackled all the time, the only detainee at my age to be in foot shackles. I suffered a lot, and told them I would confess to anything.

After my own forced confession, I was sent to the juvenile detention and correctional centre in Tehran, and kept there in solitary for one month. Then I was sent to the general ward for two years. Finally, my sentence was handed down. I was given ten years in jail and punished by qisas, equal retaliation, which required me to be put to death. The sentence was unprecedented. Even grown-ups don't get ten years with a death sentence.

After seven years, seven months and 11 days, I was set free.

When I came out, there was a big crowd, from human rights activists to well-wishers and family members.

Then we found out the court had summoned me again, and had overturned the ruling. I had two options: go back to prison and be hanged, or escape. Now I'm an asylum seeker in another prison in another country. I still don't feel safe.