Seychelles’ Supreme Court sentences 2 Iranians to life for drug smuggling
Seychelles court's building 'Palais de Justice' at Ile du Port, where also sits the Supreme Court. (Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Supreme Court of Seychelles sentenced two Iranian nationals to life in prison on Friday for the importation of heroin and opium.
The two convicts – Emam Bakhsh Tarani and Hattam Mothashimina — were both found guilty of four offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Tarani, captain of a vessel seized by Seychelles’ authorities, and Mothashimina – the son of the owner of the vessel - were found guilty on the following counts:
For the importation of a quantity of a class A drug – heroin - a life sentence was imposed. A life sentence was also imposed on both men for trafficking of a Class A drug – heroin.
A 20-year sentence was also imposed for both Iranians for the importation of a controlled drug and trafficking in a controlled drug - opium – a Class A drug.
A third suspect – an engineer on board the vessel – Payam Al Mansur- was found not guilty of the charges and was acquitted two days ago.
Supreme Court Judge Mohan Burhan said that the quantity of the drugs - approximately 97kg - clearly indicated the presence of a commercial element.
“It is clear to this court that the quantity of controlled drug taken into custody, clearly indicates that both convicts were involved in a very large scale in the trafficking of the controlled drug and therefore suitable deterrent punishment should be given.”
Defence lawyer Clifford Andre said that he is disappointed with the sentencing and that he will be making an appeal.
“Like any defence attorney, I am disappointed that my clients were found guilty and disappointed that they have been given life sentences. So an appeal is in order.”
Andre said that the defence “wants the prosecution to prove without reasonable doubt that the vessel was intercepted within the Seychelles waters. In our appeal, we will show the court that this was not proven.”
The Principal State Counsel, David Esparon, said that he is satisfied with the sentencing. “Even if the defence argued that the drugs were destined for Tanzania and not Seychelles, the judge took into consideration the detrimental effect that this class A drugs have on the society. And obviously, the quantity makes this offense a very serious one.”
The three men along with eight other crew members were arrested on board a dhow, a type of sailing vessel common to the Gulf Arab states, in April 2016, in a joint operation by the Seychelles Coast Guard and the National Drugs Enforcement Agency (NDEA).
The other crew members were found not guilty and released by the court late in 2016. The eight Iranian were repatriated to their country in June last year.
At the time of their arrest, the anti-narcotics agency of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, had said it is not known where the vessel was coming from. It is believed that the drugs originated from the Makran Coast, between Iran and Pakistan, a route used to transport narcotics destined for the East African coast.