Justice for Iran: Commute the execution orders issued for five members of Al-Hiwar

 January 16th, 2013 – Justice for Iran is requesting UN special rapporteurs to make every effort to facilitate the annulment of death sentences recently issued for five members of the scientific – cultural Institute of Al-Hiwar. JFI is also seeking human rights sanctions issued by the European Union countries to include all authorities in charge of torturing the five Arab activists with the aim of extracting forced confessions.    Last week, the Islamic Republic Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences of five Arab Ahwazi activists who were co-founders or active members of scientific – cultural institute of Al-Hiwar, who are allegedly accused of combating against God (Muharebeh).

Muhammadali Omouri (Fisheries engineer and school teacher), Hadi Rashedi (holds a MS degree in applied chemistry and chemistry high-school teacher), Hashem Shabani (Arab literature teacher and MA degree student in Political Sciences at Ahwaz University), Seyyed Jaber Alboshoka (holds an associate degree in computer sciences and is a private in the military), Seyyed Mokhtar Alboshoka (works at a stone mining company), from among the founders and active members of Al-Hiwar, are accused of combatting against God, proceeding with armed activities and threatening national security. They are sentenced to death by hanging, while they explicitly announced, in several hearings, that they remained under months of severe torture, were obliged to falsely confess to armed activities and attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Al-Hiwar means dialogue. The institute was inspired by the policies of President Khatami’s government to promote a “Dialogue among Civilizations” and was registered by the National Youth Organization. The institute organizes events for the Arab youth of Ramshir (Khalafabad), including a number of conferences, poetry recital gatherings, and educational and art classes, all in the Arabic language.  The activities of this institute were pronounced as illegal after an upsurge in the presence of security forces in the Khuzestan province following the widespread demonstrations in April 2005 in protest against discriminations imposed on Arab ethnic groups. In addition, the founders, members and others involved with the institute were also threatened.  Around twenty active members of the institute were arrested in February 2011 and kept in secret detention centre of the Ministry of Intelligence in Ahwaz. For a number of months, the authorities applied severe mental and physical tortures on the detainees with the sole purpose of forcing them to falsely confess to armed activities.

Amouri-UNHCR_EN1A member of Al-Hiwar institue, who was among those arrested, told Justice for Iran, “I was beaten with a cable; I think it was a cable, because my eyes were blindfolded. I would hear screams of others while passing through the hallway to go to the bathroom. The sound of the voices was familiar to me. I heard, for instance, Hade Rashedi. Just imagine! Hadi Rashedi, with his fragile and weak body, suffering from heart rheumatism, how long could he possibly endure such torture? The prison authorities mistreated prisoners in such a manner that one would not do to wild animals. The mental torture started as soon as we were detained. I was asked to confess that Al-Hiwar, had some connection with the political groups abroad, received foreign aid, whether monetary or weaponry, intended to overthrow the regime, and spied for foreign countries. But we maintain no relationship with any party or organization, not even those within Iran!”

Prior to the hearings and their sentences, Press TV, the English-speaking network of the Islamic Republic of Iran, broadcast the forced confessions of Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Shabani, two members of the Al-Hiwar Institute in a program entitled “Al-Ahwazi terrorist group in Iran”. Despite the fact that Iranian laws prohibit the display of images and names of defendants in the media prior to confirmation of sentence, as well as accusation against those charged, while in custody and without access to the media, which violates their right to respond to accusations, in this program, Hadi Rashedi was identified as the person in charge of the military branch of Al-Muqavamat ash-Sha’bieh (Popular Resistance).

It should be noted Mr. Ezzatullah Zarghami, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), which Press TV is a branch of, has been subjected to human rights sanctions by the EU, due to producing and later broadcasting forced confessions and hearings of political prisoners.

Finally, in June 2012, Seyed Mohammad Bagher Mousavi, the judge at branch two of Ahwaz revolutionary court issued a bill of indictment for 13 detainees of Al-Hiwar, five of whom were sentenced to death. He failed to carry out an investigation around the claims of the defendants that the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence in secret detention centres had tortured them.  The verdict was issued in spite of the fact that the defendants had no access to their counsel before the hearing.  As a matter of fact, not only the defendants of this file were deprived of a fair trial and the right to appeal, but also the security agents in charge of torturing them to extract forced confessions enjoyed absolute impunity.

One of the relatives of the defendants of this file, whom due to security reasons does not wish to be identified, told Justice for Iran ‘we went to see the judge in charge of this file; but he said he had no choice; if he could he would have instantly acquit them; but it is the Ministry of Intelligence that determines the verdicts.’

While the process involving the review of files through branches of the Supreme Court is lengthy and can take up to a number of years, in this case, the verdict of the lower court referred on 7 November 2012 was urgently reviewed by the Supreme Court’s branch 32, and verified in less than two months.

Judge Farajullahi, head of branch 32, and his two consultants, Judge Qaemmaqami and Judge Lutfi, also confirmed sentences for other members of the Al-Hiwar Institute. For instance, defendant, Rahman Asakereh, a graduate in chemistry and a principal at a high school in Ramshir (Khalafabad), was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in exiled to Khurasan Province.

Reza-GarajollahiJudge Farajullahi, head of branch 32 of Supreme Court, holds a doctorate degree in criminal law and criminology but has a notorious reputation for confirming death sentences of political prisoners. He has confirmed the death sentences of several Iranians including Saeed Malekpour and Vahid Asghari, the Internet activists who are currently detained at Evin.

Justice for Iran re-emphasizes the demands set forth in its previous statements, that all authorities responsible for violation of the basic rights of Arabs active in achieving their ethnic identity, specially:

– Judge Seyed Mohammad Bagher Mousavi: head of branch 2 of the Islamic revolutionary court of Ahwaz, should be held accountable for the crimes of torturing political prisoners, failing to observe the standards set for fair trials and issuing the recent death sentences for five members of scientific – cultural institute of Al-Hiwar as well as heavy sentences for seven more members,

– Muhammad Sarafraz: head of Press TV network, responsible for broadcasting forced confessions of political prisoners, including the Arab activists who are members of Al-Hiwar Institute;

Moreover, Justice for Iran requests that the European Union include the name of Judge Reza Farajullahi, the head of Supreme Court’s branch 32, in the list of human rights sanctions, for confirming the death sentences of five members of Al-Hiwar.

Finally, Justice for Iran requests from a number of UN Special Rapporteurs, particularly the special rapporteur for torture, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Special Rapporteur on the independence of the judges and lawyers, and also the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, to take every step necessary to facilitate the commute of the death sentences issued for the members of Al-Hiwar and to ensure of the judicial verification of allegations of torture and holding accountable the authorities in charge of torture with intent to extract forced confessions from the imprisoned members of Al-Hiwar.