Families of Kurdish Death Row Political Prisoners Fear Their Imminent Execution

Posted on: September 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Family friends Zanyar and Loghman Moradi, two prisoners on death row in Rajai Shahr (Gohardasht) Prison of Karaj, were separately summoned from their respective wards on Wednesday, September 5th on the pretext of a meeting with the prison’s director. Instead, it is suspected that they have been transferred to a ward controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Hours after the transfer, the prison telephone system inexplicably went dead.

The circumstances of their transfer felt all the more dubious the next day when, according to one of the prisoners’ family members, their families received a strange phone call: “Thursday, September 7th, an individual identifying himself as a ‘prison official’ called [us] asking [that we] come to the prison for visit. We are en route to Rajai Shahr [30 miles west of Tehran] in hopes of obtaining an update on these two members of our family.”

While this “prison official” gave no indication that the prisoners were scheduled to be executed, [a history of community experience with such circumstances gives the family reason to suspect] that the invitation to visit may very well be their last. Nonetheless, the family stores hope in their continued efforts to commute the family friends’ sentences and stay their execution.

Zanyar and Loghman Moradi were sentenced to death on December 22, 2010, on charges of “Moharebeh” (“enmity against God”), both accused of membership in Komeleh, a Kurdish opposition group, and for involvement in the July 5, 2009 murder of a Friday prayer Imam. [While their charges of membership in a Kurdish opposition party were tried in a revolutionary court, the Supreme Court ruled to direct their case to criminal court because their convictions and sentences were ultimately based on murder charges.] Both defendants previously announced that their confessions to murder were extracted under duress, intimidation, and torture at the hands of their interrogators.

Their most recent trial took place more than four years ago in the criminal court of Tehran, which, citing insufficient evidence and incomplete investigation of the case, forwarded their dossier multiple times to the authorities of Marivan (in the Kurdistan province) requesting they address its flaws.

Without accounting for all of the said deficiencies, Marivan court sent back the case, which has yet to be retried. Given the lack of concrete evidence against them, both prisoners would presumably be acquitted in a retrial; yet despite repeated requests from the defendants’ families for follow-up, and notwithstanding the courts’ legal responsibility to prevent unreasonable delays in criminal procedure, judicial authorities remain mum on the prospect of when–or even if–the Moradis might anticipate a more complete review of their case. The prisoners thus wait in a state of suspense over their fate, a wait which has grown more fraught with mounting concerns for their health.

Human rights organizations have been vocal in their opposition to the lack of due process and appropriate legal procedure that judicial authorities have thus far displayed in the Moradi case.

In May 2017, the Moradis wrote an open letter (1) to draw public attention to their case, their ordeal, and what they allege are false accusations constructed against them by security organizations.

On July 18, 2018, Zanyar Moradi’s father was assassinated by three gunshots in Panjovin, an Iraqi Kurdistan town near the Iranian border. His history of political activity, coupled with previous attempts on his life, raised suspicions that Iranian security forces were involved in his death.

Ramin Hossein Panahi

Ramin Hossein Panahi is on death row for similar political charges, i.e. ties to an opposition group similar to that of the Moradis. Parallels between the two cases and a lack of phone contacts from Rajai Shahr where he is currently being held in solitary confinement have heightened fears that Hossein Panahi, too, faces imminent execution.

Earlier this week, the Islamic Republic Judiciary executed three political prisoners in Zahedan (in southeastern Iran, home to the Baloch minority) in vindictive response to armed clashes that broke out between Iranian security forces and an armed opposition group.

Judiciary Bodies Withhold News of at Least Eight Executions

Posted on: September 7th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – At least eight death row prisoners in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison were executed in the early morning hours of Wednesday, September 5, 2018.

HRANA was able to confirm the identities of the executed prisoners as Reza Ghasemi; a man identified only as “Zolalzadeh”; Amir Amindokht; Seyed Mahmoud Hosseini; Mehdi Tajik; Akbar Salimi; Kazem Ebrahimkhani; and Shahab Taghizadeh. Most had been sentenced to death on murder charges and were granted a final visit with their families before being put to death.

Two more prisoners who were slated to be executed on the 5th–Aidin Shariatmadari and Gheble Ali Pazouki–were returned to their wards in the eleventh hour when the families of the victims agreed to *absolve them of their alleged crimes.

On September 4th, HRANA reported on the transfer of all ten of these prisoners to solitary confinement, the typical terminus for those facing imminent execution.

True to form, the judiciary bodies responsible for disseminating news on prisoner executions and terms thereof have yet to release information about this morning’s events.

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 Amnesty International’s annual report, Iran ranks first in the world in executions per capita. Registered data from 2,945 reports by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of HRAI indicates that 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.

* In the Islamic Penal Code, families of murder victims have the option of Qesas (an-eye-for-an-eye), the receipt of blood money in return for sparing the life of the accused.

Ex-IRGC Member Sentenced to Death in Urmia

Posted on: September 6th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – HRANA reports that ex-member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Arsalan Khodkam received news last week that he is to be sentenced to death on charges of spying for a Kurdish opposition party. Khodkam, who served the IRGC of the West Azerbaijan Province, has appealed the sentence.

Khodkam was arrested in late March by IRGC’s intelligence unit and is currently in Section 3-4 of Urmia Prison. He claims to have been tortured during his interrogation.

A source close to Khodkam revealed that the married 50-year-old resides in the city of Mahabad. He is among a group of former Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) members who changed loyalties during the 1990’s by joining the IRGC. After 16 years with the IRGC, he has been issued the death penalty for his alleged connections with the KDP; specifically, he stands convicted of “Cooperation with anti-regime political parties by espionage.”

End Draws Near for Zahedan Death Row Prisoner

Posted on: September 5th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – After 11 years of confinement, a Zahedan prisoner on death row for murder charges has been transferred today, September 5, 2018, to solitary confinement per protocol for detainees whose execution is imminent.

HRANA has confirmed the prisoner’s identity: Mehdi Sarani, 37, of Zabol. He is now in Ward 4 of the Central Prison of Zahedan (capital of the southeastern province of Sistan & Baluchestan and home to Baluchi minority).

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.

Death Row Prisoners transferred to Solitary Confinement in Preparation for Execution

Posted on: September 4th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – At least ten prisoners on death row in Rajai Shar (aka Gohardasht) Prison, in the city of Karaj (west of Tehran), have been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their execution. Their families have been reportedly granted a final visit.

Most of the prisoners were sentenced to death on murder charges. Barring an official *pardon from the families of the victims, officials will proceed with their executions.

As of the date of this report, HRANA was able to confirm the identity of one of these prisoners, Shahab Taghizadeh. The remaining prisoners’ names are still being confirmed.

According to Amnesty International’s annual report, Iran has the highest rate of executions per capita in the world.

The HRANA Statistics Center reported that between March 21, 2017, and March 18, 2018, in Iran, at least 322 persons were executed and 236 were sentenced to death. Among those executed, there were four juvenile offenders—under 18 years of age at the time of the offense—and 23 executions carried out in public. Moreover, more than sixty percent of executions have not been publicized, and are considered “secret” executions.

* In the Islamic penal code, families of murder victims have the option of Qesas (an-eye-for-an-eye), the receipt of blood money in return for sparing the life of the accused.

Three Retribution Execution Sentences Carried Out in Zahedan

Posted on: September 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Three prisoners held at Zahedan Prison were executed in the early morning hours of September 3, 2018 — sooner than expected — allegedly in a vindictive response to recent skirmishes between security forces and Jundullah, an armed opposition group based in the Sistan & Baluchestan province.

Though all three prisoners were already on death row, the carrying out of their sentence so soon after the clash gives reason to read the timing as a retaliatory gesture.

Indeed, on September 1, 2017, one day following the skirmishes, all three were transferred to solitary confinement per protocol for prisoners whose execution is imminent. The executed prisoners were identified as Dormohammad Shahbakhsh, 21, a resident of Zahedan, held in Ward 5; Ismaeil Shahbakhsh (pictured above), known as Beheshti, age 23, held in Ward 4; and Hayatullah Nutizehi (Ayatollah Nikzehi), known as Akbar, age 24, a resident of Pakistan.

Sistan & Baluchestan has a history of politically-motivated executions. At least 16 prisoners were put to death in similar circumstances in October of 2013. At that time, Zahedan Prosecutor Mohammad Marziyeh stated that those executed were “terrorist groups who were enemies of the regime”, adding, “they were executed Saturday morning in response to terrorist activities in Saravan the night before.” He did not reveal the names of the prisoners.

Shahbakhsh, Beheshti, and Nutizehi were sentenced to death by Branch 2 of the Zahedan Revolutionary Court back in November of 2017. Their conviction and sentence were upheld in Iran’s Supreme Court one month later. They stood accused of participating in a firefight with police forces on July 7, 2015, which led to the death of a police officer. Although all three denied having a hand in the officer’s death, they were charged as accessories to murder. At the time of their arrest, Ismaeil Shahbakhsh and Hayatullah Nutizehi had also sustained gunshot wounds.

The three wrote an open letter last autumn detailing mistreatment and torture at the hands of their interrogators. They wrote of having surrendered during the 2015 clash when security forces promised them immunity, only to then arrest, torture, and arrange for the three to be put to death. The letter also details instances of their torture by interrogators, such as having pepper rubbed into their wounds or their genitalia pricked by needles.

News of their execution has yet to be announced by the Iranian authorities.

PRISONERS ON DEATH ROW IN IMMINENT DANGER OF EXECUTION

Posted on: September 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Earlier today, September 1, 2018, three political prisoners on death row in Zahedan (capital of the southeastern province of Sistan & Baluchestan and home to Baluchi minority) have been transferred to solitary confinement for imminent execution.

HRANA has confirmed the identities of these prisoners as Mohammad Shahbaksh, 21, of Zahedan, held in Ward 5, Esmaeil Shahbakhsh (aka Beheshti), age 23, held in Ward 4, and Hayatollah Nooti Zehi (Ayatollah Nnikzehi, aka Akbar), age 24, a citizen of Pakistan.

All three were sentenced to death by branch 2 of Zahedan Revolutionary Court last November. Their conviction and sentence were upheld in Supreme Court one month later. They were accused of participating in a firefight with police forces on July 7, 2015, which led to the death of a police colonel. Although all three denied having a hand in the colonel’s death, they were charged as accessories to murder.

Two of the prisoners, Shahbaksh and Zehi, also sustained gunshot wounds during the clash.

These prisoners wrote an open letter last autumn detailing mistreatment and torture at the hands of their interrogators. They wrote of having surrendered during the clash only when security forces promised them immunity, only to then arrest, torture, and arrange for the three to be put to death. The letter also details instances of their torture by interrogators, such as having pepper rubbed into their wounds or their genitalia pricked by needles.

Rajai Shahr Executions Continue

Posted on: August 31st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – At least two death row prisoners in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison were executed in the early morning hours of Wednesday, August 29, 2018.

HRANA was able to confirm the identities of the executed prisoners: Mojtaba Asadi, who was detained in Ward 3, and Vahidollah Loghmani, age 54, reportedly from Afghanistan. Asadi was sentenced to death on a charge of murder, and Loghmani for a charge of armed drug trafficking.

HRANA was also able to confirm the identity of two prisoners from a group of at least five who were transferred to solitary confinement on Tuesday, August 28, pending execution: Mojtaba Asadi of Ward 3 and Shamsali Abdollahi of Ward 10.

When the plantiff in Abdollahi’s case permitted his execution to be delayed until further notice, he was returned to his prior Ward.

The fate of the two other prisoners is not yet known. If they were put to death, their executions have not been announced by the state-run media as of the time of this report.

An annual report published by the Center of Statistics at Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) states that more than 60% of executions, called “secret executions,” are not disclosed by authorities. 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. Figuring among these are the execution of four juvenile offenders and 23 public hangings.

Zahedan Death Row Prisoner Now in Custody of the IRGC

Posted on: August 30th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Abubakr Rostami, a political prisoner on death row, was transferred from Ward 4 of Zahedan Central Prison to an IRGC detention center on August 28, 2018. To date, HRANA is unable to confirm the reason for his transfer.

A source close to Rostami told HRANA, “A few days ago, prison authorities told Rostami he was not to use the library or gym, then on Tuesday they transferred him outside.”

Rostami was among a group of political prisoners in Zahedan who addressed a letter to UN special rapporteur Javaid Rehman, imploring him to advocate for political prisoners’ rights.

Prior to this, in an open letter co-written by Bandeh Chakerzehi and Sajjad Baluch — the two arrested with him on September 16, 2015– Rostami proclaimed their innocence, stating the IRGC and Intelligence Agency exerted physical and mental torture on them on charges that were “bogus”.

In the letter, Rostami wrote of the trip to Pakistan he was planning in anticipation of making arrangements for continuing his studies [abroad]: “Due to border limitations, I was forced to travel through Pakistan to get to [another] foreign country, but I was arrested midway and handed over to the IRGC,” he wrote.

A second-year medical student at Zabol University of Medical Sciences, Rostami has spent the past three years in prison. In August 2017, along with Chakerzehi and Baluch who were on trial for the same case, he was sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court of Zahedan on charges of “Moharebeh” (enmity against God) and “Acting Against National Security through Cooperation with Opposition Groups”.

No further details on their case or charges were available.

*Zahedan is a county in the Sistan and Baluchestan Province.

Prisoners Taken to Solitary Confinement Facing Imminent Execution

Posted on: August 28th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- At least five death row inmates in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison have been transferred from their respective wards to solitary confinement, raising fear of their imminent execution.

Convicted of murder, the prisoners face the death penalty unless the families of their victims choose to pardon them, a stipulation of the Islamic penal code.

HRANA has been able to confirm the identities of two of the prisoners, Mojtaba Asadi from Ward 2, and Shamsali Abdollahi from Ward 10.

The HRANA Statistics Center has reported that between March 21, 2017, and March 18, 2018, at least 322 persons have been executed and 236 have received the death penalty in Iran. Among those executed, there were four juvenile offenders — under 18 years of age at the time of the offense — and 23 executions carried out in public. More than sixty percent (60%) of the executions have not been publicized, and are considered “secret” executions.