(20 April 2010) Death sentences issued to three family members and two of their close associates after a politicized, unfair trial, at which only weak evidence was presented, reveal a continuing program of punishing post-election protestors and intimidating the population, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.

These five cases, together with that of Abdolreza Ghanbari, also sentenced to death, are based on allegations that the defendants sent videos and pictures to the opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO).

“These sentences would be grossly disproportionate even if evidence linked the defendants to the charges, and they demonstrate complete disregard for justice and due process in perversely sending innocent citizens to the gallows,” said the Campaign’s spokesperson, Aaron Rhodes.

“These death sentences are aimed at intimidating the protest movement and are a mockery of justice,” he added.

Several lawyers familiar with the cases of protestors sentenced to death told the Campaign that the prosecutions followed a pattern in which the accused are average citizens, without recourse to proper legal counsel, and without prior political activism. In most such cases, the families of the accused have been threatened not to seek independent legal assistance or speak to the media.

In this latest case, Motahareh Bahrami and Mohsen Daneshpour Moghaddam (husband and wife) and their son, Ahmad Daneshpour, together with two of their close friends, Rayhaneh Haj Ebrahim and Hadi Ghaemi (not related to the Campaign’s executive director of the same name) have been sentenced to death.

The family’s other son, Meysam Daneshpour, told the news-website Roozonline that his family members were arrested at their home following Ashura protests. In an interview with the Campaign, Meysam Daneshpour confirmed the execution sentences and said that his family did not have any recourse to an independent lawyer during the lower court’s prosecution. He also said family members had no access to detainees during the prosecution. “We did not have access to them [detainees] for two months, but now we can meet them on a regular weekly basis,” Meysam Daneshpour told the Campaign.

All five had court-appointed lawyers during the prosecution, who failed to inform the family of the execution sentence. Maysam Daneshpour told the Campaign that he had not received an official notification of the court hearing or death sentence.

During the appeals process, Mohammad Sharif, a prominent human rights lawyer, was able to represent the defendants and launch an appeal for Motahareh Bahrami, Rayhaneh Haj Ebrahim, and Hadi Ghaemi, and is under review at Branch 36. However, the appeals case for Mohsen and Ahmad Daneshpour had been sent to Branch 36 and already confirmed before Sharif could lodge a defense.

According to Meysam Daneshpour, intelligence agents arrested his parents, brother and their friend, Hajebrahimi, at the family’s home following Ashura protests on 27 December 2009, and not during a protest. Their lawyer Mohammad Sharif told the Campaign the defendants are charged with “deliberate cooperation with MKO,” “gathering and colluding against national security,” and “propaganda against the regime and in the interest of enemies.” The evidence supporting these charges included a trip by the parents to Iraq to visit another son, who is a member of MKO, sending videos and pictures to MKO, and participating in demonstrations.

Sharif said these activities, even if proven, would not justify a death sentence, and he had represented clients in similar situations who were sentenced to prison terms and not execution.

In a similar post-Ashura case, 47-year-old teacher Abdolreza Ghanbari was charged with Moharebeh (enmity against God) and sentenced to death because of alleged emails and phone calls he had with MKO’s television broadcast abroad.

Several sources in Tehran told the Campaign that they suspect phone calls and emails sent to these defendants were made by intelligence agents themselves and the defendants are victims of entrapment. Regardless of the origins of emails and phone calls presented as evidence against the defendants, the Campaign strongly condemns the use of such pedestrian communications as the basis of issuing death sentences.

A lawyer who presents political prisoners told the Campaign that when authorities accuse political prisoners of being members of opposition groups such as MKO, it becomes impossible for Iranian media, human rights lawyers and defendants’ families to publicize these cases. “The Iranian media cannot touch on these cases, and lawyers like me will face severe difficulties to pursue our work if we advocate on behalf of such defendants regarding the nature of such affiliation,” the lawyer said. “This gives the authorities a free hand to use such punishments to terrify government critics and dissidents.”

Rhodes said that the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran “strongly condemns the issuance of disproportionate sentences based on unfounded charges, resulting in executions aimed at quelling dissent. The Campaign expresses its deep concern about the operations of the Iranian Judiciary, which has repeatedly demonstrated its lack of accountability and transparency, and the overwhelming influence of the Intelligence Ministry and the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence units, which is unprecedented during the past two decades.”