donderdag 13 januari 2011

Human rights situation in Iran worsens, alarming rate of executions

It's time that I pay some attention on this blog to the human rights situation in Iran. This week human brights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was convicted to 11 years and banned from practicing law or traveling for 20 years. But her case is not an isolated one. Several of her collegues have been convicted on similar charges as well. And in the meantime there is a dramatic upsurge of (mass) executions of convicted drug dealers or people who have been found guilty of other crimes, including a recent public hanging in Teheran.

Lawyer Sotoudeh (picture, a mother of two small kids) appeared before her judge on 8 January. He sentenced her to five years in prison on  charge of “acting against national security,” another five years for “not  wearing hejab (Islamic dress) during a videotaped message,” and one year  for “propaganda against the regime.”
Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the International Campaign.for Human Rights in Iran called it 'a transparently political sentence aimed at taking one of Iran’s leading human rights defenders out of practice via a gross miscarriage of justice. Nasrin Sotoudeh has broken no laws, but is being jailed because she has upheld Iranian and international law in a judicial system bent on violating human rights,' he said.
Sotoudeh has defended many of those who have been arbitrarily arrested and charged for exercising their rights after the tainted June 2009 presidential election; among her clients is Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who has campaigned strenuously for due process to be observed in her case.  Ebadi organized a sit-in at the UN Human Rights Council to raise awareness about the case and to plead for more international support.
Her sentence is part of a systematic assault on the human rights lawyers and activists in Iran. On 7 January 2011, Shiva Nazarahari, co-founder of Committee of Human Rights Reporters and a prominent activist was sentenced to four years in prison and 74 lashes. On 30 October 2010, Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced prominent lawyer Mohammad Seifzadeh to nine years in prison and a ten year ban from practicing law.
Sotoudeh was arrested on 4 September 2010.  Detained for long periods in solitary confinement, and denied contact with her family and lawyer, she came close to death after three dry hunger strikes to protest her prison conditions and violations of due process. She has reportedly been tortured in prison in order to force her to confess to crimes.Her physical condition had deteriorated to the point that her children cried in shock when they were finally allowed to see her.

Even more disturbing is the news about the scale on which executions are taking place. The picture (of IRNA, the offciial Irnian news agency) is of a man, only identified as Yaqub, who was hanged in public in Teheran in the early morning of 5 January. He was convicted of stabbing someone to death in October 2010. According to the news he was lashed 74 times the preceding day. 
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports also several mass executions of drug traders. On 20 december 10 people were hanged in Vakilabad prison of the eastern city Mashhad, according to the Campaign. That was preceded by similar mass executions on 5 October of 13 people and on 12 October of 10 people. Moreover, the Revolutionary Courts Prosecutor in Qom, Mostafa Barzegar Ganji, told Iran’s News Agency (IRNA) that eight drug traffickers had been hung inside the Central Prison of Qom. He added that 16 others convicted of trading drugs had been sentenced to death as well, and would be executed as soon as their requests for clemency would have been rejected.
The International Campaign adds to this news the remark that although some executions of drug crimes suspects are announced by the Iranian Judiciary,  the true number of executions taking place in Iran is believed to be higher than official statistics.

The following news, published by 'Iran Human Rights', an organisation of Iranian nationals outside Iran, seems to illustrate this. It says: According to the reports from Iran, eight men were hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison early this morning. Seven of the men were convicted of drug trafficking, while one man was hanged convicted of rape according to the reports.
According to the Iranian news agency Aftab, the men who were hanged today were identified as: 1. Farzad Alizadeh (age not known), convicted of rape in 2009, 2. Mohsen Bahrami, son of Abdullah, convicted of keeping 1980 grams of heroin, 3. Parviz Asadi, son of Farrokh, for keeping more than 6 kilos of heroin, 4. Manuchehr Najafi, son of Farman, for buying and selling 9 kilos of hashish, 5. Abdolvahed Baranzahi, son of Mohammad, for selling 5840 grams of heroin and 10 kilos and 500 grams of opium, 6. Katif Sahraei, son of Bahar, for keeping 4910 grams of heroin and 50 kilos of opium, 7. Khalil Tajik, son of Fzal Ahmad,for keeping 2055 grams of xxxx, and 8. Reza Ghorbani, son of Gholamreza, for selling 200 grams of opium, buying and selling 200 grams of heroin and keeping 1355 grams of heroin.
The charges above have not been confirmed by independent sources.
With these executions, the number of those executed in the first 12 days of the year 2011 reaches 36 people.

And then, there's also, of course, the case of the Dutch-Iranian citizen Zahra Bahrami who frecently was sentenced to death and who awaits a second trial. Her lawyer, Zhinoos Sharif Sobhani stated the charges for which Zahra Bahrami was sentenced during her trial on 7 December 2010 include “transportation and sales of Drug substances”. Earlier reporters had warned the public of such “untrue” charges against a detained protester arrested during last Ashura uprising, the Human Rights House for Iran, Rahan, says. During her trial Zahra Bahrami denied these charges and admitted to accepting them earlier due to “physical and psychological torture” she was put through at ward 209 of Evin prison.
Zhinoos Sharif Razi also told RAHANA reporters: “She [Zahra Bahrami] is to be retired for her political charges within the next 2 months. Based on reports according to Judge Salavati, one of her other charges is being an “enemy of God” which could be another possible grounds for execution.”

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