Politically Motivated Death Sentences Aim at Intimidating Protestors

(31 January 2010) Sixteen defendants currently facing a “show trial” in Tehran have been selected to intimidate specific groups of dissidents and pave the way for applying the charge of Mohareb, or “enemy of God,” to large numbers of dissidents and protestors, charges that can lead to their execution, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. Five of the sixteen defendants prosecuted in the post-Ashura trials of 30 January face the death penalty, having been charged with that crime.

“After the extra-judicial massacre of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, large scale executions of dissidents again loom before Iranians and the world community, this time after transparently political show trials. These trials do not adhere to the most basic standards if justice and rely on the charge of Mohareb to justify sending peaceful dissidents to the gallows,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.

According to the ISNA news agency, the prosecutor read the charges against the 16 defendants individually (see below). While five of the defendants were charged as Mohareb, the charges against others included assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security and propaganda against the state, charges the Campaign believes are arbitrarily applied to convict critics of the government.

On 29 January, one day after two political prisoners (Arash Rahmani Pour and Mohammad Ali Zamani) were hanged, the hardline cleric and member of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ali Jonati welcomed these executions. Given his prominent position amongst the ruling elite’s “hardliner” faction, his statement is interpreted as a green light for further political executions. He explicitly stated that if widespread executions had taken place following the post- election unrest, the protests would not have been prolonged. Addressing the head of the Judiciary, Jonati said at Friday prayers in Tehran: “For God’s sake, just as you expedited these two executions, continue on like a man and bravo for these actions.”

The authorities did not release the names of the 16 defendants. However, Shekoofeh Montazeri told the Campaign that her brother, Omid Montazeri was amongst those prosecuted in court on 30 January. Shekoofeh’s mother, Mahin Fahimi, and her brother Omid Montazeri have been in detention for over a month. Mahin Fahimi is a member of the group Mothers for Peace.

Regarding the statements made in court today, Shekoofeh said that Omid Montazeri ‘s so-called confession, as reported by Iranian news agencies that identified him only by his initials and as “defendant number three,” was not consistent with her brother’s usual way of speaking and suggested he had been under physical and psychological pressures. Omid is a journalist and a poet who was detained along with his mother on 28 December 2009. His father was a political prisoner who was executed during the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

Shekoofeh Montazeri told the Campaign that her brother has been in incommunicado detention, except for two extremely brief phone calls lasting no more than a minute. She rejected the charges against Omid and said that since the execution of their father in 1988, the family has had no relations with any political groups.

According to reports published in Iranian media, no evidence has been presented against the first three defendants except their admissions that they participated in peaceful protests, and they clearly stated they had no role in violent actions or destruction of property. The only evidence presented against them was one’s membership in a student group and their internet communications.

Defendant number two was quoted as telling the court: “Mr. Prosecutor told me to speak here such that it would influence the thinking of those people who are outside.”

The Campaign believes that the latest “show trials” are intended to intimidate any citizens who are planning to demonstrate on the anniversary of the Iranian revolution on 11 February. The selection of the 16 defendants appears to address a representative range of political tendencies present in the society at large.

These prosecutions take place as four members of the student association Daftar-e Tahkim (Office to Foster Unity) and seven members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, as well as many ordinary detained protestors, are facing the charge of Mohareb for allegedly having relations with the opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq. None of these detainees have access to lawyers, and according to brief calls they have made to their families, they are under heavy pressure to make false confessions.

“Members of the international community were surprised at how the Islamic Republic moved ahead with the two executions of last week to intimidate the protest movement. Both those men were detained well before the elections and were promised if they made false confessions they would be released. Now the international community should know that the Iranian authorities are determined to keep executing innocent people to silence the protest movement,” Ghaemi said.

“If we are silent in the face of these show trials based on no evidence whatsoever, we could be facing large scale killings of the young detainees,” he added.

The Campaign once more calls on the Iranian government to respect the internationally recognized rights of the Iranian people to freedom of assembly, expression, and press. The Campaign calls for the immediate halt of the trials of protesters that are underway, and the release of all political prisoners.

The detailed charges against each of the 16 defendants, as read by the prosecutor in the court on 30 January, are as following:

Defendant number one charged with assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security, insulting top government officials, and propaganda against the state through extensive soft war activities against the state;

Defendant number two charged with assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security and propaganda against the state through membership in the counter revolutionary branch of the student organization Office to Foster Unity (Daftar-e Tahkim Vahdat);

Defendant number three has neo-communist sympathies and is charged with assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security and propaganda against the state by participating in protests on Ashura and interviewing with foreign media;

Defendant number four charged with propaganda against the state through membership in the Baha’i religion and assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against the state through participation in the riots following the orders of Baha’i leaders;

Defendant number five charged as Mohareb through communications with the terrorist hypocrites’ organization (Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization);

Defendant number six charged as Mohareb and Corruptor of the Earth (Mofsed fel-Arz), assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security and propaganda against the state;

Defendant number seven charged as Mohareb through communicating, sympathizing, and cooperating with the terrorist hypocrites group (Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization) and propaganda against the state;

Defendants number eight and nine charged as Mohareb and Corruptor of the Earth (Mofsed fel-Arz);

Defendant number ten charged with assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security, propaganda against the state, insulting top government officials, and disobeying government agents;

Defendant number eleven charged with assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security, committing arson against public property, and propaganda against the state;

Defendants number twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen charged with assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security and propaganda against the state by participating in Ashura protests;

Defendant number sixteen charged with assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security, propaganda against the state, insulting top government officials, participating in the destruction of public property, and disobeying government agents.