Nov 13, 2006

Ahwazi: Fear of Imminent Execution

According to Iranian media, the Iranian Supreme Court has confirmed death sentences for 10 Ahwazis convicted of bomb attacks in Ahwaz. They may face public hanging at any moment.

Article by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society:

The Iranian Supreme Court has confirmed death sentences for 10 Ahwazis convicted of bomb attacks in Ahwaz and will be publicly hung very soon, according to the Iranian media.

Abbas Jafari, the Director General of Khuzestan's Justice Department, said 19 people had been convicted of mohareb (enmity with God) and 10 will be hung in Ahwaz City. The others have been exiled or sentenced to long prison terms.

He told Khuzestan TV: "These people, according to Islamic punishment laws, have been identified as elements who have waged war on God and therefore execution rulings have been issued in their cases. The rulings have been reviewed at the highest judicial levels and then endorsed. The cases were quite large and many senior judges were involved in reviewing them. We will pave the way for the rulings to be carried out."

The judgements on the men have been condemned by their lawyers and Iranian human rights activists as well as activists abroad. The lawyers of the accused have written to the President and senior judicial officials regarding the serious irregularities in the court cases, including preventing them from meeting with their clients and forced confessions. The regime responded by arresting the lawyers, all but one of whom are Ahwazi Arabs. According to a recent report by the official Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA), Khalil Saeedi, Mansur Atashneh, Dr Abdulhasan Haidari, Jawad Tariri, Faisal Saeedi and Taheri Nasab - the lawyers representing the accused - were questioned in Branch 7 of the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court and later released on bail. They were accused of threatening national security by making his letter of complaint public - the letter was subsequently published on websites belonging to Ahwazi Arab groups.

Human Rights Watch has released a statement calling for an immediate halt to the executions and the revoking of the death penalty. It said: "The death sentences were imposed following secret trials that Human Rights Watch said could not be considered to meet international standards."

Sarah Leah Whitson, Director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, said: "Iran's opaque judicial system denies people due process and then hands down a death sentence after a one-day trial. The Judiciary should stop these executions."

Those facing the death penalty include Zamel Bawi, Jaafar Sawari, Risan Sawari and Abdulreza Nawaseri, who were sentenced on 8 June after a one-day trial in which there were no witnesses. According to HRW, "the Judiciary has not provided dates and details of trials for the other nine men sentenced to death."

Two of those sentenced to death, Nazem Bureihi and Abdolreza Nawaseri, were already serving prison sentences for insurgency at the time of the bomb attacks for which the regime claims they were responsible.

"One of the wonders of the Iranian Judiciary is that it can accuse a person of carrying out bombings while he's in prison," said Whitson. "That lays bare the arbitrariness of his conviction."

In an article in The Times, British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell also raised concerns about the trial, pointing out that three of the accused (Hamza Sawa- eri, Jafar Sawari and Reisan Sawari) say that they were nowhere near the Zergan oilfield the day it was bombed.

Tatchell wrote: "The death sentences seem designed to silence protests by Iran's persecuted ethnic Arabs." He has also accused Iran of ethnic cleansing Ahwazi Arabs from their homeland.