An Iranian judge balances the scales of justice
Iran’s most famed and feared judge has sentenced around 4,000 people to death, more than any other judge in the country’s history. This powerful documentary offers unique access into the professional and private lives of Iran’s most feared legal official. It constructs an intimate yet chilling portrait of a man who spends his days confronting decisions about life and death, both in the court room and in the course of his own life.
“I can’t sleep at night,” admits Azizmohammadi. However, it is not the fact that he has condemned 4000 people to death that keeps him awake; rather, he worries about the cost of construction of his new house. Azizmohammadi is the most famous criminal court judge in Iran, and has served for over 4 decades, presiding over countless horrifying crimes.
In Iran, the punishment for murder is often the death sentence. It is the decision of the victim’s closest relatives whether the murderer dies, but it falls to the judge to pronounce them innocent or guilty. Yet Azizmohammadi has no qualms about the thousands he has condemned. “I know those I convicted deserved it,” he says, “If you interview inmates about me, they’ll say they are scared, because I am very meticulous.” His family, whom he often presents with the appalling details of the crimes he adjudicates, give him their full support. “He never issued an unfair verdict,” claims his wife. His daughter feels similarly. “I’ve asked Father many times if he made a mistake. He always believed in what he had done.”
However, he is not without compassion. “We decided to give him a lesser term because he has recently married,” he says, referring to a man found guilty of being an accessory to a murder, “If we give him a long sentence, it’d be a heavy blow for his wife. Criminal punishment is not just hurting the culprit.”
Azizmohammadi’s personal life has been plagued by tragedy. Two brothers and his mother had died before he reached adulthood. His father was murdered brutally by a drug addict. He keeps the graphic images of his father’s cadaver on his laptop, ready for when his killer comes on trial. He has seen violent death so often it has become commonplace. “In my judicial work, most of the cases involved corpses and blood. Death truly lives with me. It is my doppelganger.”