Sentence Commuted for Activists Marking International Day against Torture

Posted on: September 9th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Five of six activists detained and sentenced in 2016 for their observance of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture have had their sentences commuted in the Appeals Court of Western Azerbaijan (located in northwestern Iran and home to Turkic, Azerbaijani, and Kurdish minorities).

What was an eight-month prison sentence looming over Meysam Azadi, Morteza Zarrin, Vahid Nasibi, Gholamali Hossein-Gholizadeh, and Vahid Faezpour has now been reduced to a fine of 2.4 million Tomans (approximately $165 USD). The sixth activist, Somayeh Alidoust, did not appeal.

In February 2016, HRANA reported on the sentencing of the above individuals in Branch 102 of the Criminal Court of Urmia, the capital of West Azerbaijan province. All six activists were among a group of 36 Azerbaijani and Turkic activists who were apprehended June 27, 2013 on Shahid Kalantari bridge in Urmia, on their way to the foothills of Sahand mountain [a mountain of symbolic importance in Azerbaijan] where they planned to commemorate the UN holiday.

Security and Police forces assaulted and inflicted wounds on several of the activists during their detention. Thirty were released within hours, while Azadi, Zarrin, Nasibi, Hossein-Gholizadeh, Faezpour and Alidoust were held for six days in the Urmia Intelligence Office before being released on a bail of 15 million Toman (approximately 5,000 USD).

The UN Convention against Torture was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10th, 1984 and came into effect in June 26, 1987. The convention is a treaty whose signatories acknowledge torture as a criminal offense and commit to both investigate torture allegations and send them to trial. In 1998, in observance of the convention, June 26th was declared the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

As of now, there are 163 parties to the Convention. Iran is neither a signatory nor a party to the Convention.

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.

Three Azerbaijani Activists Taken into Custody

Posted on: September 6th, 2018

Update: On September 6th, Ulduz Ghasemi was released on a bail of 500 million rials (approximately $4,000 USD).

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) Ulduz Ghasemi, Rahman Ghasemi, and Sahand Ma’ali, Azerbaijani Turkic minority rights activists from the cities of Urmia and Sarab, were apprehended today by local security forces.

Ulduz Ghasemi and Rahman Ghasemi had previously been summoned by security agents of Urmia’s Noh Pele Quarter and interrogated there by security forces. While both Ulduz and Rahman were summoned and interrogated, only Ulduz was taken into custody.

A credible source told HRANA that plainclothes forces went to Ulduz’s mother’s house, seizing a number of books, a laptop, and a mobile phone. According to the source, Ulduz and Rahman were interrogated for visiting relatives of one of those killed in protests that took place in Azerbaijan in 2006.

Ulduz was also among a number of activists arrested on May 26th of this year in the West Azerbaijan province, in connection to their participation in a commemoration gathering at Naqade County’s Golzaar cemetery. The gathering was in honor of those who had died in the 2006 protests.

Both Ulduz and Rahman were later arrested again after taking part in the Babak Fort celebrations on July 7th of this year. They were released five days later.

Meanwhile, Sahand Ma’ali faces a 10-month suspended prison sentence from the Revolutionary Court of Sarab County. Presided by Mehdi Shams, the court convicted Ma’ali of “Propaganda against the regime.” Ma’ali was among a group of regional activists who were arrested at Fort Babak gatherings on July 6.

Fort Babak, a monument built during the pre-Islamic Sassanian period, is named after Babak Khorramdin, known for leading an uprising against the Abbasid caliphate in 893. In recent years, it has become a place of symbolic gathering for Azerbaijani activists, especially during the annual commemorations in the first week of July.

Two Saravan Residents Transferred to Zahedan Prison after a Month of Interrogation

Posted on: September 5th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – After being read their charges, two residents of Saravan (Sistan and Baluchestan Province) who were previously arrested by security forces and transferred to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Detention Center, were transferred to Ward 1 of Zahedan Central Prison.

HRANA has confirmed the identities of the detainees as Najib Dehvari, 21, and Abdolshakur Sotoudeh, 22.

An informant confirmed the news to HRANA, adding, “Both were arrested and interrogated on charges of ‘Acting Against National Security’ in connection with a sound bomb that went off in front of Saravan’s Intelligence Ministry last month, which incurred no casualties.”

Although several others are likely to be arrested and transferred to prison in connection with this case, no further information is currently available.

On August 31, 2018, HRANA published a report on the transfer of Abubakr Rostami, another political prisoner on death row, from an IRGC detention center–where he was sequestered for two days–to the General Ward of Zahedan Prison. No information is available on the reasons for his transfer. *

Appealing to “National Solidarity,” Hossein-Panahi’s Lawyers Plead for his Execution to be Stayed

Posted on: September 4th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The legal team of Ramin Hossein-Panahi, a political prisoner on death row, wrote a letter to the head of the Iranian judiciary asking that their client’s execution be stayed, arguing that a retrial would instill a greater sense of national security in Iran.

The execution of Hossein-Panahi will lead to “hatred and division,” the lawyers said, while a gesture of mercy could unite the nation.

The lawyers sent a copy of this letter to HRANA. Below is the English translation of the letter:

Ayatollah Amoli Larijani
Exalted head of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran,

Pursuant to articles 3, 8, 10, 22, 34, 35, 37, 38 and 156, we would like to address your Excellency.

The Judiciary is intended to be a haven for the oppressed; this notion of protection is the foundation of all judicial sentences and decisions. Naturally, the ultimate goal of the judicial process should be the same.

Islam’s judicial approach obeys the same concept. The principle of justice requires patience– especially in matters where the Islamic government is the wronged party. In the enlightened law of Islam, especially during the time of Ali [the First Shiite Imam], patience was paramount in dealing with those accused of Baqi [literally ‘violation,’ used to denote participation in armed uprising], and not a single soul faced with such charges was ever put to death.

Now that we find ourselves in an era of stability for the Islamic Revolution, we anticipate those charged with Baqi today will be met with the same patience that was practiced during Ali’s governance. Our client, a 23-year-old man named Ramin Hossein-Panahi, unwillingly became involved in some questionable matters. He was passing through the country only to meet with his parents — his intentions were limited to the carrying out of family affairs — yet Branch One of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj convicted him of Baqi and sentenced him to death. The case evidence reveals this sentence, by law, to be unfounded. In this wide sea of our Islamic compassion, and by the insightful laws of the Islamic Republic, his sentence must be nullified.

It is also the case that the country and the region face threats to their stability; and that inspiring solidarity among all Iranian peoples is an urgent necessity; and that the statements of Ayatollah Khamenei, who urged us to strive for a national unity, all guide your excellency to put a stop to the execution of Ramin Hossein-Panahi and to order a retrial of his case. There is no doubt that the judicious wisdom of your excellency’s choice to stop this execution will go down in history, bring honor to your name, and contribute significantly to fostering security through national harmony, cooperation, and solidarity. Alternatively, the execution of this young man will breed hatred, division, and mistrust, repeating a tired protocol of capital punishment which has failed to see us through our problems and hurdles.

Islamic Iran needs compassion and unity. If your Excellency orders to stop this execution and give our client a retrial, those goals will have been served.

Once more, with respect,
Maziar Tatayi, Hossein Ahmadiniaz, Osman Mozayan.

****

HRANA has published extensively on Hossein-Panahi’s case.

In a video posted online about 10 days ago, Hossein-Panahi refuted the accusations brought against him by the Iranian security apparatus.

Appeals Court Convenes for Seven Azerbaijani Activists

Posted on: September 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Saturday, September 1, 2018, Branch 3 of the Appeals Court of the East Azerbaijan province convened to review the cases of seven Azerbaijani activists. Judge Alizadeh will preside over the appeals process.

Four of the activists – Akbar Aboulzadeh, Hamid Allahverdipour, Morteza Shokri, and Esrafil Fathollahzadeh – were present during the proceedings. The three others who were convicted – Saleh Molla Abbasi, Soleiman Kazemi, and Ebrahim Noori (detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison) – did not attend the court session.

The activists were arrested for their participation in public protests against the state-sponsored television series Fitileh in November 2015. Parts of the TV program were believed to contain material portraying Iran’s Azerbaijani ethnic minority in a derogatory light. In October 2017 they were sentenced to prison time in a four-page verdict issued by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Ahar (a city in northwestern Iran), on charges of “Assembly and collusion against national security through propagating against the regime”.

Saleh Molla Abbasi, Akbar Aboulzadeh, and Ebrahim Noori were each sentenced to ten months imprisonment, while Esrafil Fathollahzadeh, Hamid Allahverdipour, Morteza Shokri, and Soleiman Kazemi, were each sentenced to seven months imprisonment.

The Fitileh protests reportedly involved around 25 participants. While the rest of the participants were eventually acquitted, these seven were convicted and now await the result of their appeals.

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.

Intelligence Agents Detain Man in Ahvaz

Posted on: September 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – An Ahvaz (southwestern Iran) resident, identified as Shaker Hazbavi, was arrested by Iranian intelligence agents on Tuesday, August 21, 2018.

Hazbavi was previously arrested by security forces on Saturday, August 11, 2018, and subsequently released. Ten days later, on August 21, he was arrested again.

At the time of this report, no further information was available on his location or the reasons behind his arrest.

Activist in Tabriz Sentenced to Six Months in Prison

Posted on: September 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Civil rights activist Amir Chamani has been sentenced to a six-month prison term on charges of “Propaganda against the regime” and “Cooperation with opposition groups.” Abbas Jamali, Chamani’s lawyer, confirmed news of the sentence to HRANA.

“I heard the sentence today [Saturday, September 1, 2018],” Jamali said, adding that among evidence cited against his client were notes and articles by Chamani which criticized the country’s economic and cultural conditions. “My client was also accused of insulting the supreme leader, but he was fortunately acquitted of this charge,” Jamali said.

Presiding over Chamani’s case was Judge Hamalbar of Branch One of the Revolutionary Court of Tabriz, the capital of East Azerbaijan province in northwestern Iran, home to Iran’s Azerbaijani ethnic minority.

Abbas Jamali (left) and Amir Chamani (right)

Chamani had published a note last week announcing his upcoming trial.

Chamani has previously been pursued on similar charges. On July 5th, 2012, from Judge Hamlbar of Branch One of the Tabriz Revolutionary Court, Chamani received a sentenced of six months’ imprisonment for insulting both Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the late Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic. He received a three-month-and-one-day sentence for “propaganda against the regime” in the same trial.

In another instance, after turning himself in for charges of insulting the President, Chamani was sentenced on January 13, 2013, to 40 lashes by the Tabriz Criminal Court. He was dealt the lashes on June 5, 2013, just over a week before the 2013 Iranian Presidential elections, and was not released from custody until October 2nd of the same year.

Political prisoner sentenced to lashings for late return from furlough

Posted on: September 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Mohammad Amin Abdollahi will receive 74 lashes for surpassing the end date of his medical furlough from Birjand Prison.

A political prisoner serving an exile sentence in Birjand, Abdollahi was doled the lashing sentence pursuant to a new case brought by Judge Mohabbati of Birjand General Court, branch 104, when he failed to return from his furlough as scheduled.

At the time he was forced to return to Birjand Prison, Abdollahi was in the city of Bukan. He had been hospitalized for chronic kidney failure, suspect appendicitis, back pain, and vision problems, many of which were brought on by hunger strikes he staged in 2015.

The verdict of his furlough-violation case also stipulates that the Ward 101 detainee will be denied the right to further furlough for a period of six months. A source close to Abdollahi told HRANA that he has a pending request for conditional release that, as of last week and for unclear reasons, Iranian authorities have yet to address.

According to Article 547 of the Islamic Penal Code, any prisoner who escapes from a prison or detention center shall be sentenced to 74 lashes or three to six months’ imprisonment. Prisoners who are on furlough in accordance with prison regulations, and fail to return to the prison at the ordered time without a reasonable excuse, shall be regarded as fugitives and are subject to the same punishment.

Abdollahi, a citizen from East Kurdistan, was first arrested in 2005 and spent 15 months in legal suspense before being sentenced in Mahabad Revolutionary Court to 18 years’ imprisonment in exile in Tabas on a charge of “Moharebeh” (enmity against God), for “Collaboration with armed Kurdish opposition parties”, and for another charge of “Propaganda against the regime”.

First serving prison time in Urmia and Mahabad, he was then exiled to Tabas before being transferred to Birjand. After spending more than two months in Birjand’s quarantine ward, he was transferred to the general ward.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) explicitly prohibits cruel and unusual punishments such as lashings.

*Birjand and Tabas are both located in South Khorasan province