Iranian Judiciary Must Halt Death Sentences and Investigate Torture Claims
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran demands that the Iranian Judiciary suspend the execution sentences of five Ahvazi Arab activists, conduct an independent investigation into the judicial process of the case, and investigate the suspects’ allegations of torture during their investigations. The five men are said to be activists in or founders of the Alhavar (Dialogue) Sciencande Culture Institute and have been charged with “enmity against God.”
“Mohammad Ali Amouri (a fisheries engineer and school teacher), Hadi Rashedi (Master of Applied Chemistry and high school chemistry teacher), Hashem Shabani (Arabic Literature high school teacher and graduate student of political science at the University of Ahvaz), Jabber Alboshokeh (associate of computer and military conscript), and Mokhtar Alboshokeh (employed in a quarry), who are the founding and active members of Alhavar, were accused of enmity with God and conducting armed operations and acting against national security by Branch 32 of the Supreme Court, presided by Judge Reza Farajallahi, and were sentenced to execution by firing squad. They have explicitly stated in numerous trial sessions that they were forced to make false confessions about participating in armed operations and overthrowing of the Islamic Republic of Iran after undergoing several months of torture,” London-based Justice for Iran, an organization focused on documenting human rights violations, wrote about this. Parts of these confessions were repeatedly broadcast by Press TV of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).
These five prisoners face the death sentence for the severe charge of “enmity against God,” and they did not benefit from the process of a fair trial, including access to a lawyer. In the process of the upholding their death sentences, statements by suspects about their arrest process and prison abuse and torture were not independently investigated by the judicial system. Zanyar and Loghman Moradi, two Kurdish prisoners who have also been sentenced to death, have stated many times in published letters that in the process of their interrogation and investigation they were subjected to torture, and death sentences were issued for them while no independent investigation was ever conducted about the process that led to the extraction of their confessions for the alleged crimes.
“‘Alhavar’ means dialogue, and the name is inspired by the policies of the Khatami government about the promotion of dialogue among civilizations. The organization is a registered group in the National Youth Organization that was conducting conferences, Arabic poetry reading nights, and education and art classes for young Arabs of the city of Ramshir (Khalaf Abad). Because of the large number of high school teachers from the Education and Development Ministry who were members of Alhavar, all of the poetry nights and celebrations were conducted at the center location, which belonged to the Education and Development Ministry. The activities of the organization were declared illegal after widespread protests against discrimination against Arab people in May 2005, and because of the security alert in Khuzestan. Close to twenty active members of the organization were arrested in February 2010 and were placed in a secrete Intelligence Ministry detention center in Ahvaz, and they were subjected to severe physical and psychological torture to confess to armed operations,” Justice for Iran wrote about the organizational activities in which the Arab activist were involved.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has not yet directly talked to eyewitnesses in the case. But, emphasizing the right to a fair and impartial trial, which according to the evidence and investigation by a collection of human rights organizations, the suspects in this case have been denied, the Campaign is demanding suspension of the court ruling and also implementation of an independent investigation about the statements relating to prison torture and abuse for the purpose of extracting forced confections. Also, once again, the Campaign asks Ezzatolah Zarghami, Head of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Broadcasting (IRIB), to stop broadcasting forced confessions extracted by intelligence organizations, as this is a violation of the rights of the citizens.
Justice for Iran was able to talk to one of the arrested members of the organization about what happened to him during his detention. “They beat me with a cable. Of course I was blindfolded, but I think it was a cable. I was hearing the screams of the others when I was going to the restroom, or when I was going through the hallway. I could recognize their voices, like hearing Hadi Rashedi’s screams. Imagine, how long Hadi Rashedi, with that frail body and rheumatic heart disease, could last under such torture?! They treated those people the way no animal gets treated. Mental torture also started from the moment of arrest. They were asking me to confess that Alhavar—the Intelligence agents themselves were calling us ‘Havarioon’ [disciples, derogatory term for Judas]—were in contact with political groups outside Iran. They asked me to confess that we were receiving foreign aid, money, and weapons from the outside, that we were aiming to topple the regime, and we were spies for foreign countries. This is while in our organization we were not in collaboration with any political parties and organizations, not even with internal Iranian political parties,” the member told Justice for Iran.
Previously, Press TV, the English network of IRIB, broadcast the forced confessions of two members of the group, and the program was released before the individuals’ sentences were finalized. After refusing to pay a fine, Press TV lost its broadcasting license in England because it had previously broadcast the forced confessions of journalist Maziar Bahari, who had been imprisoned following the post-2009 election events. The television program “Al-Ahwazi Terrorist Group’s Bloody Attacks in Iran” showed the confessions of two members of Alhavar, Hadi Rashidi and Hashem Shabani, in which Hadi Rashidi was introduced as the person in charge of the military branch of a group called “Al-Moghavameh Al-Shabiyeh.”
According to Justice for Iran, indictments have been issued for 13 arrested members of Alhavar, in which five of them were sentenced to death in June 2012 by Sayyed Bagher Mousavi, the judge presiding over Branch 2 of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, without any investigation into the claims of the defendants, alleging severe torture by the Intelligence Ministry agents in the secretive detention center of the security agency. Four others were sentenced to long-term imprisonment. The court ruling was issued even though none of the accused had the right to meet with a lawyer prior to the court session. In fact, the accused in this case not only were deprived of a fair trial, the security authorities responsible for their torture and forced confession extraction continue to enjoy full impunity, and all grievance venues were denied to the defendants.
Justice for Iran reports that a relative of one of the death-row inmates who requested anonymity for security reasons said, “We went to visit with the case judge. He said, ‘If it were up to me, I would exonerate all of them right now, but it is not I who is issuing the ruling, it is the Intelligence [Ministry] that determines the rulings.’” The ruling, referred to Branch 32 of the Supreme Court on November 7, 2012, was reviewed out of turn and was upheld in full after less than two months. Normally, reviews of cases by the Supreme Court take a long time, in some cases several years. Heavy sentences for four other members of Alhavar were also upheld in full by Judge Farajollahi, Head of Branch 32, and Judges Ghaem Maghami and Lotfi, branch counsels. Rahman Asakereh, a chemistry graduate who at the time of arrest was principal at a high school in Ramshir (Khalaf Abad), was sentenced to 20 years in exile in Khorasan Province Prison. Judge Reza Farajollahi, a high-ranking judge with Branch 32 of the Supreme Court, has upheld several other death sentences for political prisoners including Saeed Malekpour and Vahid Asghari, Internet activists currently on death row at Evin Prison in Tehran.