World Day Against the Death Penalty: Iran Annual Report Oct ’17 – Oct ’18

Posted on: October 10th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the Center of Statistics at Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) has published its annual report, in efforts to sensitize the public about the situation of the death penalty in Iran.

HRANA’s Statistics Center relies on the work of HRANA reporters, as well as a network of independent and verifiable sources. It also incorporates disclosures to the media by judicial authorities announcing or confirming prisoner executions, and as such is exposed to a margin of error representing efforts by the Iranian authorities to omit, conceal, or restrict the collection of such data.

Between October 10, 2017, and October 9, 2018, the death penalty and executions have been the focus of 287 HRANA reports. Over this time period, the Iranian authorities issued the death penalty sentence to 240 individuals and have already carried out 256 executions; [that’s one hanging every 34 hours for a population about twice the size of California’s]. Six percent of the executions in Iran were carried out in public.

Females account for only three of the 256 HRANA-confirmed execution victims this year.

Five were under the age of 18 when they allegedly committed the crime they were charged with.

While execution numbers went down by 50% in comparison to the same time last year, Iranian courts have issued 7.4% more death sentences.

Public hangings and executions of women have gone down 54% and 50%, respectively.

The report includes a breakdown of executions by capital offense:

Drug and narcotic offenses: 6%
Murder: 72%
Rape: 9%
Political or security-related offenses: 7%
Armed robbery/offenses classified as “corruption on earth”: 6%

The chart below displays execution numbers by the province in which they took place.

Below is a distribution of execution information sources. The chart indicates that 68% of HRANA-confirmed executions were not announced by official Iranian sources. Undisclosed executions are referred to as “secret” executions.

Open Letter from Prisoners to UN Envoy: Death Penalty is a “Weapon of Terror”

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, a letter was published to the attention of Javaid Rehman, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran. Its authors were reaching out from the walls of Rajai Shahr Prison of Karaj, on the western outskirts of Tehran, to raise the specter of rising execution numbers and public hangings that still mar the face of the country.

The full text of their letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

Javaid Rehman
Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Dear Mr. Rehman,

The death penalty is not simply a social predicament for us Iranians; it is a living nightmare. We live it and re-live it in the faces of children who witness public hangings, and in the faces of prisoners on death row. In the past few weeks alone, our fellow prisoners Mohammad Salas, Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi were executed. Our families used to see each other during weekly visits. This time around, the visit was transformed to a day of mourning – further proof that the death penalty, a medieval legacy of human societies, is a collective punishment. With all of the shock and mental anguish that their executions put our families through, one can only imagine how the families of the victims are feeling.

[The aftereffects of] the death penalty are not the lot of political prisoners alone; every death-row prisoner feels them. The whole of society bears their cruelty.  The efforts of Special Human Rights Rapporteurs, particularly the late Asma Jilani Jahangir [Rapporteur between 2016 and 2018], who helped abolish the death penalty for drug-related offenses, are admirable. However, the widespread nature of executions calls for more drastic and concrete measures. Especially in today’s Iran, capital punishment is not simply a legal apparatus, but also a political weapon of terror used to suppress citizens expressing discontent with Iran’s economic, political, and social conditions.

We political prisoners believe that Iranian people will not be freed from this inhumane punishment without a serious international intervention. In our view, the economic and diplomatic needs of the Iranian regime are the ideal starting place for negotiations with authorities to put an end to capital punishment. We beseech you, as the Special Rapporteur, to ask the international community to make their dealings and diplomatic ties with the Iranian regime contingent on abolishing the death penalty and respecting human rights principles in Ian.

We thank you, in advance, for your efforts.

Sincerely,

1- Mohammad Amirkhizi
2- Majid Asadi
3. Payam Shakiba
4- Hassan Sadeghi
5- Arash Sadeghi
6. Abul Qassim Pulat
7- Abraham Firoozi
8- Mohammad Ali Mansouri
9- Saeed Masoori

CC: World Coalition against the Death Penalty (www.worldcoalition.org)

At Least 3 Prisoners Hanged to Death in Rajai Shahr Prison of Karaj

Posted on: October 4th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Early in the morning of October 3, 2018, at least three prisoners were hanged to death while seven others were granted temporary reprieve.

HRANA has confirmed the identities of those executed as Yasser Eslami and Mahmoud Akbari of Ward 1 and Omid Khosronejad of Ward 10. Eslami and Khosronejad, co-defendants in a murder case, spent four years in prison prior to their executions yesterday.

Mehdi Danesh from Ward 1 and Siroos Khodabandehlou from Ward 6 were among the seven prisoners whose execution was stayed.

HRANA previously reported on a mass transfer of prisoners to solitary confinement, the protocol for prisoners whose execution is imminent. All ten of the above prisoners were transferred to solitary cells on Sunday, September 30th.

By carrying out these hangings in silence, authorities — particularly the judiciary — demonstrate a continued pattern of obfuscation on the topic of prisoner sentencing and executions, in spite of their responsibilities of informing the public.

According to Amnesty International’s annual report, Iran ranks first in the world in executions per capita. An annual report published by the Center of Statistics at Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) states that more than 60% of executions in Iran are not reported by the state or the Judiciary. These executions are referred to as “secret executions.”

According to registered data from 2,945 reports by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of HRAI, in the past year (from March 21, 2017, to March 18, 2018) at least 322 citizens were executed and 236 others were sentenced to death in Iran. Among these were the executions of four juvenile offenders and 23 public hangings.

Birjand Prison Executes Four Afghan Nationals

Posted on: October 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Six years ago, four Afghan nationals planned to use underground channels to migrate to Iran, where they had invested hopes of a better life. In the early morning hours of October 2, 2018, they were executed on charges of “armed drug trafficking,” a charge to which they reportedly confessed under the duress of torture.

Shah Mohammad Miran Zehi, Ahmad Shah Issa Zehi, Mohammad Miran Zehi, and Eid Mohammad Miran Zehi were married with children and had been in Birjand Central Prison for over six years.

In an open letter, the prisoners explained the circumstances in which they were detained and coerced to utter false confessions. Mohammad Miran Zehi wrote that they had filed into a Toyota set to take them to Birjand from Zabul when they got into a dispute with their driver near the village of Bandan [a tributary of Nahbandan on the Afghanistan-Southern Khorasan border]. Claiming he needed gas, he reportedly dropped the group off at a private residence and said he would be back.

“When [the driver] returned, he was flanked by authorities. They struck me in the head and took us to the Bandan police station. They subjected us to the cruelest forms of torture in there,” Mohammad Miran Zehi said.

Accusing them of transporting more than 300 pounds of opium and two Kalashnikov rifles, Bandar authorities used violence to press them to confess, going as far as pulling a toenail from Mohammad’s right foot.

The case file against the four was set into motion when they finally acceded to the torturers’ demands, “under the pressure, the fear for our lives, the inability to take it any longer, and hoping that maybe it would make them stop,” their letter explained.

The case file was then forwarded to judicial authorities and spent five years in suspense before Judges Nabavi and Seyfzadeh of Birjand Revolutionary Court Branch 2 issued the execution sentence on January 31, 2017. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Shah Mohammad Miran Zehi, Ahmad Shah Issa Zehi, Mohammad Miran Zehi, and Eid Mohammad Miran Zehi; the death sentence of Saraj Gavkhur, a fifth defendant on the same case file, was commuted to 25 years’ imprisonment.

According to a close source, the group was made scapegoats for an armed conflict that had taken the life of a security agent days before their entry into Iran.

Birjand Central Prison is in the city of Birjand, capital of Southern Khorasan Province.

According to Amnesty International’s annual report, Iran ranks first in the world in executions per capita. An annual report published by the Center of Statistics at Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) states that more than 60% of executions in Iran are not reported by the state or the Judiciary. These executions are referred to as “secret executions.”

According to registered data from 2,945 reports by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of HRAI, in the past year (from March 21, 2017, to March 18, 2018) at least 322 citizens were executed and 236 others were sentenced to death in Iran. Among these were the executions of four juvenile offenders and 23 public hangings.

Iranian Authorities Execute Three Prisoners, Slate Four More for Gallows

Posted on: October 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – State-run news agencies in Iran have yet to confirm the executions of three prisoners this morning, October 2nd, in Urmia: Salman Khan Alilou, Hassan Hajilou, and Zeinab Sekaanvand. Sekaanvand was executed for a crime she had allegedly committed as a minor.

Yesterday, Amnesty International released a statement expressing concern about Sekaanvand’s transfer to a solitary confinement cell, the protocol for prisoners whose death sentence is imminent. “The authorities must immediately quash Zeinab Sekaanvand’s conviction and grant her a fair retrial without recourse to the death penalty, and in accordance with principles of juvenile justice,” the statement read.

Sekaanvand, born June 22, 1994, was 17 when she was detained March 1, 2012, on accusations of killing her husband. Branch 2 of Urmia Criminal Court issued her a death sentence, which was confirmed in Branch 8 of the Supreme Court. Married in March of 2009 at the age of 15, Sekaanvand reportedly endured physical violence at the hands of her husband.

Having spent two years in Khoy Prison since her initial arrest, Sekaanvand was transferred to the Women’s Ward of Urmia prison after being issued the death sentence. Prison authorities would later approve her marriage to a fellow Urmia prisoner. She delivered a stillborn baby on Friday, October 1, [2016].

Yesterday, HRANA reported on the transfer of at least four prisoners — all of whom were reportedly charged with first-degree murder — to solitary cells in various detention centers across Urmia in preparation for their executions.

The same day, two more prisoners — Mousa Nomani from Ward 3-4 and Changiz Irani from the Psychotherapy Ward — were granted execution stays of one month and fifteen days, respectively, to attempt to obtain pardon from the families of their victims, which would exempt them from capital punishment.

According to Amnesty International’s annual report, Iran ranks first in the world in executions per capita. An annual report published by the Center of Statistics at Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) states that more than 60% of executions in Iran are not reported by the state or the Judiciary. These executions are referred to as “secret executions.”

According to registered data from 2,945 reports by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of HRAI, in the past year (from March 21, 2017, to March 18, 2018) at least 322 citizens were executed and 236 others were sentenced to death in Iran. Among these were the executions of four juvenile offenders and 23 public hangings.

Former IRGC Member Faces Death Penalty on Spying Charges

Posted on: September 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Confirming the sentence issued two months ago in Branch 1 of the Military Court of Urmia, the Supreme Court has issued an execution sentence to former IRGC member Arsalan Khodkam, who was charged with “collaborating with an anti-regime party through espionage,” allegedly on behalf of a Kurdish opposition party.

The Supreme Court delivered the execution order to Khodkam’s attorney on September 25, 2018, a close source told HRANA.

Khodkam was detained in April of this year by the Intelligence Office of IRGC and is currently imprisoned at Ward 3-4 of Urmia Prison. He alleged that his interrogators subjected him to torture.

Earlier, an informed source reported on Khodkam’s background to HRANA. The married, 50-year-old resident of Mahabad was formerly a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), which eventually “surrendered to the forces of the Islamic Republic.” Later, in the 2000s, he switched allegiance by joining the IRGC, which he served for 16 years before being accused of spying on behalf of the KDP.

Prisoner executed in Tonekabon on Murder Charges

Posted on: September 25th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – A prisoner convicted of murder was executed in Iran’s northern city of Tonekabon on September 25th. On the eve of his execution, the Iranian authorities transferred him to solitary confinement per protocol for prisoners whose execution is imminent.

Majid Pili, 41, was from the northern city of Ramsar and had spent three years in Tonekabon Prison.

According to a credible source, Pili was convicted of murdering Majid Zabihi. Zabihi’s wife, Zahra Ghorbanpoor, was also arrested for the crime. The judge convicted Pili of murder and Ghorbanpoor of accessory to murder for which she was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed Pili’s death sentence earlier this year.

According to registered data from 2,945 reports by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of HRAI, in the past year (from March 21, 2017, to March 18, 2018) at least 322 citizens were executed and 236 others were sentenced to death in Iran. Among these were the execution of four juvenile offenders and 23 public hangings.

After Attending Funeral of Executed Political Prisoner, Sunni Preacher Answers to Special Clerical Court

Posted on: September 22nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Pursuant to a phone summons he received one week earlier, Sunni preacher and activist Hashem Hossein Panahi was arraigned in the Special Clerical Court of Hamedan (Western Iran) on Tuesday, September 18th, presumably for participating in the funeral of executed political prisoner Ramin Hossein Panahi.

Hashem Hossein Panahi, who is also the Sunni Shariah judge and Mufti of Kurdistan province and a member of the office of Sheikh Hassan Amini, faces charges of “Propaganda Against the Regime” and “Disturbing the Public Opinion.”

A close source to Panahi told HRANA, “Hashem Hossein Panahi attended the funeral ceremony of the executed political prisoner Ramin Hossein Panahi in Gharochay village, Kurdistan province. After paying his respects and delivering a speech at the service, the Kurdistan Ministry of Intelligence office filed a complaint against him in the Special Clerical Court.”

Panahi has denied the charges leveled against him, countering that his speech at the ceremony addressed prisoner rights in a more general sense, and included reference to prisoners’ rights to choose their own attorneys.

An instructor at the Imam Bokhari Religious School in Sanandaj, Panahi was sentenced to a six-month imprisonment sentence and thirty lashes by Special Clerical Court in 2013. He was also a former employee of the Judiciary who was dismissed in 2010 after 12 years of tenure due to his religious activism and vocal support of Sunni Muslims rights in Iran.

*Special Clerical Court is under the direct control of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and functions independently of Iran’s greater judicial framework.

Political Prisoner Maryam Akbari Monfared Joins Chorus of Eulogies for Executed Kurds

Posted on: September 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Maryam Akbari Monfared, a political prisoner held in the women ward’s of Evin Prison, has penned an open letter in response to the highly controversial September 8th executions of Kurdish political prisoners Ramin Hossein Panahi, Loghman Moradi, and Zanyar Moradi.

Monfared, whose own siblings have been executed, expressed her sympathy for the mothers and sisters of the executed prisoners and chastised the broken promises of both current president Hassan Rouhani and the past 40 years of Iran’s Islamic governance.

The full text of her letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

Maryam Akbari Monfared

It has been a week since that day, September 8th, 2018.
September is the month of blood in Iran: September 8th, 1978*, and September of 1981**.

September 8th: Everyone is worried. My ward mates and I have heart palpitations. We are in a swarm of contradictory news flashes. Some say the families were told the executions have stayed; someone else says that their families visited them yesterday for the last time.

And then comes the 8 p.m. news, broadcasting a speech from a figurehead of a government touting “prudence and hope.”*** I think to myself, “Hope is such a beautiful word!”. Rouhani promises to break the chains of injustice with a golden key and to sow new hopes in the souls of the nation. He campaigned as his predecessors did before him, riding the wave of the country’s emotional elan. The ink on the ballots was still wet when he changed his stripes. How despicable of him to preside over the nation’s highest rate of executions and civilian crackdowns in 30 years.

All eyes in the ward are transfixed on the TV screen and the news ticker running at the bottom. Ears in the ward are attuned to the speaker’s’ every word.

Finally, the 10:30 p.m. broadcast: “Three terrorists…”

That’s right. For 40 years, they sent this land’s youth to the gallows, lined them up before firing squads, sent them off wholesale to torture chambers and prisons. Then, brazenly, they speak of their actions under the guise of eliminating “terrorism” and other excuses of this ilk. The chariots of oppression, torture, and captivity have been riding unbridled for 40 years.

I don’t intend to re-narrate the crimes of the regime, for the vileness and cruelty of the establishment are readily apparent. The news is abuzz with sympathy and condolences. Perhaps now it is too late to add my own….but for a while, I was unable to muster the presence of mind to pen even a few lines to the mothers and sisters of these beloved men.

To my mothers and sisters: I know your pain very well. I can almost sense the unbearable, scalding pain in your hearts. I know the whispers of the warm lullabies you used to sing, even those lost in the wrinkled lines of your bodies or drowned out by screams in a faraway land. I know the bitter taste of those tears shed by poppy flowers.

I know that you are adding a page to what will be the proud and bright history of Iran’s fight for freedom. I wish to honor your motherhood, this exalted, humane quality, and to thank you for your endless, unabating kindness. Your name is a comforting breeze in the sky. Your familiar faces and your kind gaze bear the promise of life, love, and resistance. When the flames of injustice burn your cheeks, I will put out the flames by touching your cheek to my own, which is frozen in the grimace of injustice.

I am brimming with unspoken words. My tears and the lumps in my throat are bursting with the pain of oppression. But now is not the time to cry. We have to spread our screams all over like ashes. I will lean against your warm chest from behind these stony and cold prison walls. My heart is ablaze with pain, and the tip of the flames reach my throat. This is not only the fire of pain–it is also the fire of life. I wish to carry your tears and your anguish on my shoulder, to feel the burden of this responsibility for the rest of my life. My mothers! My sisters! We must harness the power of our collective pain to soothe the wounds of the Iranian freedom movement.

The vampire will not leave its throne of darkness unless we shake that throne and force it to flee. Let me hold your warm hands with my cold hands, and together, we will join the ranks of the justice movement for our loved ones. To bring to justice the ones responsible for these horrific crimes, we must join forces.

Maryam Akbari Monfared
Evin Prison
September 2018

************************

Maryam Akbari Monfared was arrested amid the 2009 Green Movement protests, and in June 2010 was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Judge Salavati in Branch 15 of Revolutionary Court for “enmity against God and the Islamic government through membership in the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).” Monfared has denied these accusations.

Two of her brothers were executed in 1981 and 1984 by revolutionary courts for membership in the MEK. In the summer of 1988, two more of her siblings — a brother and a sister — were executed as part of a widespread massacre of political prisoners. In a letter to former UN Special Rapporteur Ahmad Shaheed, Monfared quoted her sentencing Judge: “You [Monfared] are bearing the burden of your siblings’ [political activities].”

Monfared served the first two years of her sentence in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison on the western outskirts of Tehran. She was then transferred in May 2011 along with eight other female prisoners to Gharchak Prison in Varamin, southeast Tehran. Shaheed protested the transfer and shed light on the deplorable conditions at Gharchak. As a result, Monfared was then transferred to the Evin Prison women’s ward, where she is serving the remainder of her sentence.

* In the last months of the Shah’s reign preceding the revolution, September 8th, 1978 came to be known as “Black Friday” when soldiers opened fire on protesters assembled in Jaleh Square, killing many.
** Iran’s then-new Islamic government intensified its crackdown on the opposition in the summer of 1981, arresting and executing a countless number of people.
*** “Prudence and Hope” was Rouhani’s slogan during both of his presidential campaigns.

Rajai Shahr Political Prisoners Share Final Memories of Moradis and Hossein Panahi

Posted on: September 16th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Almost one week after the hangings of Loghman Moradi, Zanyar Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi (1), their fellow prisoners have written a letter to condemn their execution and relate the events leading up to it.

Dated Wednesday, September 12th, 2018, the letter was written from the Rajai Shahr Prison grounds in Karaj, on the western outskirts of Tehran, where the men were last known to be held.

The full text of their letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

“The tragedy happened Saturday, September 8th. As of Wednesday the 6th, [the mens’] prison visits were stopped, and on different pretexts, their comings and going within the prison, even to the clinic, were restricted. First they called Zanyar, then Loghman, up to the [prison] director’s office. Up to that point, nothing seemed out of ordinary. We paid little attention to the silence of our adjacent ward, which was usually abuzz. Silence meant that inmates there had been denied their courtyard time. Up until 4 p.m. that day, the absence of Zanyar and Loghman did not strike us as abnormal. At 4:30 p.m., though, we started to worry. When looked at all together, the anomalies of that day felt like the pulse of something sinister.

Then we were told that a truck had collided with a telephone cable, resulting in a service outage; a story we had heard before at around the same time a criminal act was about to take place. Hearing it again concerned us even more. Our only hope was that flaws had been found in their case, and that it had just been transferred to the Sanandaj Prosecutor’s Office to assign jurisdiction. In other words, we were clinging to the hope that their criminal case was not yet closed. Little did we know that rulers with snakes on their shoulders (2) were hungry for young brains, and that the court and judiciary of Zahakis are blind to the rule of law and due process.

When the sun sets on a dictatorship, the execution and massacring of prisoners is due course. Such are the workings of fate.

Miserable are those who, in face of these murders, will retreat in fear. Should that happen, the criminals will only gain resolve in their misdeeds. Cowardice conveys to them that the people can, and will, abide crime. Blessed are those who accept Zanyar, Loghman, and Ramin as their own children, children who were hanged in the prime of their youth to uproot the scaffolds and the gallows, to restore a clear skyline for the future.

Us prisoners and co-inmates of the fallen, we brace ourselves for this next, and hopefully last, wave of executions. What greater honor than to be among the last executed, to know that no young people after us will be forced to walk those gallow steps again.

If there were one single reason (although there are many) that this regime is incorrigible and will not be reformed under any circumstances, it is its killing of our nation’s noblest youth, like Zanyar, Loghman, and Ramin.

And so to those delusional people who put us on guard of how things would “get worse” [should the regime be toppled], we have to ask: what situation could conceivably be worse than this?

As fellow inmates of these three courageous martyrs of the gallows, we condemn their executions as criminal acts, and extend our condolences to their families. We have faith that their spilled blood will rattle the gates and guide a fettered nation to the dawn of freedom and justice.

Arash Sadeghi, Ebrahim Firoozi, Payam Shakiba, Pirouz Mansouri, Saeed Shirzad, Saeed Masouri, Javad Fooladvand, Hassan Sadeghi, Majid Asadi, Mohammad Banazadeh Amirkhzai

Rajai Shahr (Gohardasht) Prison
September 12th, 2018