Update on Kurdish Citizens in IRGC Intelligence Detention

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On October 28th and 29th, respectively, political prisoners Mohammad Ostadghader and Houshmand Alipour were permitted visits from their families for the first time since their arrest on August 3rd of this year.
On August 7th, Iranian national television broadcast footage of the young men confessing to an armed attack on a security post in Saqqez. Both stand charged of membership in a Kurdish opposition group, while their supporters assert that these “confessions” were violently coerced.
During the family’s visit earlier this week, security agents reportedly prevented Ostadghader and Alipour’s families from obtaining their signatures on attorney retainer forms.
No update is currently available on Alipour’s pending hearing in investigations court, which was scheduled for October 4th and later postponed.
Alipour’s brother Hejar published a letter earlier this month describing Houshmand’s judicial ordeal, writing, “The Islamic Republic pummeled and stifled the dreams of a young man, and we cannot stand by as they try to take his life.”
On September 10th, Amnesty International issued a statement that read: “On 3 August, Houshmand Alipour and Mohammad Ostadghader, from Iran’s Kurdish minority, were arrested by security forces near Saqqez, Kurdistan province, on suspicion of taking part in an armed attack against a security base in that city. Mohammad Ostadghader was shot and injured during the arrest but has been denied medical care. The pair were held in an unknown location without access to their families or lawyers.”
Houshmand Alipour is from Sardasht, West Azerbaijan Province. Mohammad Ostadghader is from Saqqez, Kurdistan province, near the border with Iraq and home to Iran’s Kurdish minority.

Open Letter: Kurdish Citizen Fears for Imprisoned Brother’s Life

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – On August 7th, Iranian state-sponsored television broadcast footage of what appeared to be a confession: two prisoners can be heard owning up to their part in an armed attack on the military base of Saqqez. One of these two men, Houshmand Alipour, is the subject of an open letter written by his brother Hejar, who sees this footage as a sham excuse to end his brother’s life.
Hejar has written in his brother’s defense before, asking human rights organizations in a recent open letter to address Iranian authorities’ restrictions on Alipour and his co-defendant’s visitations, extra-prison communications, and access to legal defense. Alipour, a Sardasht native, was detained August 3rd of this year alongside the prisoner seen beside him in the video, Mohammad Ostadghader. On charges of membership in Kurdish opposition parties, he has been confined to the Sanandaj Intelligence Office in circumstances increasingly dire.
A close source stated earlier this month that Alipour was being bounced between interrogation, intelligence detention, and Saqqez prosecution court, without the presence of a defense attorney and to the great confusion of his family. HRANA previously reported on authorities’ hindrance of Alipour’s defense proceedings as his October 4th investigation date drew near, only to be postponed.
In a prior statement, Amnesty International expressed concerns about Alipour and Ostadghader’s detention, particularly over their purported confession tapes. “The pair were held in an unknown location without access to their families or lawyers […],” the statement read. “The nature of the accusations against them and their forced televised ‘confessions’ may be a precursor to charges that incur the death penalty.”
Amnesty also detailed the plight of Ostadghader, who — as of the date of their statement — was denied medical since sustaining a gunshot wound at the time of his arrest.
The full text of Hejar’s second plea for his brother is below, translated into English by HRANA:
“Houshmand Alipour and Mohammad Ostadghader have thus far spent around three months in custody of the Islamic Republic. They are subjected to a variety of physical and psychological tortures. Their lives are at stake. Houshmand is a man 25 years young whose life is being squandered by the oppression of the Islamic Republic and its abuses of our family.
I want to narrate a part of Houshmand’s life here, for everyone to read. Houshmand was born in November of 1993 in Sardasht. He has a twin sister. He was born to a big family. Although there were ten of us children, our parents worked hard to make sure we wanted for nothing. Our father worked day and night, in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter, all to provide for us.
The family Houshmand was born into is no stranger to oppression and injustice. Our father, Mostafa Allipour, is one of the better-known activists of the Sardasht region. Advocating to free the people and to better their lives bought him persecution from the Islamic Republic, which trailed him through the years with prison time and fines. My father always said, “Because we wanted fortune for all, much misfortune befell us [….]. The regime gave our family no respite.” Our mother, Ameneh Mowludian, bears the sufferings of the continued threats and pressures imposed on our family by the Islamic Republic. Our paternal uncle, Hossein Alipour, was executed in 1983 by the Islamic Republic. Our father’s paternal uncle Molla Ali Bijavi was executed in 1985 by Islamic Republic operatives, and the mercenaries of the Baʿthist regime in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Bearing witness to the insults and disdain that the government has always borne towards his family, Houshmand was haunted by anger and hatred. No matter how how hard he tried, he could never find peace.
In 2009, when he was only sixteen, he was arrested during a celebratory feast in Sardasht. Of his arrest, he said:
“Officers of the Islamic Republic attacked us with tear gas, batons, and pepper spray. I fell to the ground where they beat me and placed me under arrest. In their car, they tied my hands behind my back, blindfolded me, and transported me to the Intelligence Office. There they beat me savagely, insulted me, and spit obscenities at me. During the beatings and while I was blindfolded, they took my fingerprint as a ‘signature’ on documents, the contents of which I was wholly unaware. They forcibly extracted confessions in there.”
Houshmand is sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and 75 lashes. As a minor he spent time in the Juvenile detention center of Urmia before being transferred to the Juvenile Ward (1A). This is where he passed the days of his sentence and endured floggings.
After his release from prison, Houshmand Alipour was repeatedly summoned by the Ministry of Intelligence in connection to his family members’ politics. He eventually decided to flee to Iraq. He spent about four years in Iraqi Kurdistan, and even participated in the Kurdish war against ISIS, and incurred a few injuries in the process. A while later, following in the footsteps of his family members, he travelled to Turkey to seek asylum. His case file was registered at the UN Refugee office in Turkey. Upon his return to Iraq, where he went about working […] in the city of Baneh, Iranian Kurdistan, he was arrested alongside Mohammad Ostadghader.
The Islamic Republic pummeled and stifled the dreams of a young man, and we cannot stand by as they try to take his life. For this reason, I entreat all freedom-lovers and human rights organizations to do all in their power to rise up and save Houshmand’s life, to bring him back into the loving arms of his parents, sisters, and brothers.
Hejar Alipour,
20 October 2018”

Former Death Row Juvenile Offender Saman Naseem Released on Bail

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Saman Naseem, a Kurdish juvenile offender who was arrested seven years ago and was once on death row, was freed on a five billion IRR (approximately $35,000 USD) bail on October 16, 2018.
Naseem’s death sentence was commuted to five years in prison by the Appeals Court of West Azerbaijan Province, located on Iran’s northwestern border with Turkey and Iraq.
Originally scheduled in February, Naseem’s release was delayed by a new lawsuit brought against him in August 2018 by the family of a late agent of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The agent’s surviving family members — along with the family members of three others who were injured in armed clashes in 2011 — demanded “Qesas,” or “eye-for-an-eye” retribution permissible under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code.
Naseem was 17 years old when he participated in the clashes on the side of the Kurdish opposition. His role incurred charges of “Moharebeh [Enmity against God]” and “corruption on earth” in Mahabad Revolutionary Court, which sentenced him to death in 2013. Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence in December of that year.
Naseem’s lawyers appealed the verdict, obtaining a retrial in a parallel appeals court. This court acquitted Naseem, commuting the capital punishment sentence to five years in prison, upholding the charge of “membership in an armed opposition group, namely the Kurdistan Free Life Party [commonly known by its Kurdish-language acronym PJAK].” The Supreme Court upheld his commutation.
Naseem — who had no access to legal representation during the preliminary investigation of his case — alleges that authorities tortured him while he was in custody, pulling nails from his fingers and toes and suspending him upside down from the ceiling.

Iran’s Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Hedayat Abdollahpour

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Supreme Court Branch 47 has upheld the death sentence for Urmia prisoner Hedayat Abdollahpour, one of several defendants charged in connection to the Oshnavieh clashes, his lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz told HRANA. It also upheld the prison sentences of six of Abdollahpour’s co-defendants, who are currently free on bail.
Ahmadiniaz and Abdollapour’s family learned yesterday October 8th of the high court’s assent to his January 2017 capital punishment sentence in Urmia Revolutionary Court Branch 1, on a charge of “Baqi,” i.e. rebellion [often used against those accused of participating in armed uprisings]. Abdollapour maintains that he never took up arms and did not have a weapon at the time of his arrest.
Abdollahpour was arrested along with six others on June 15, 2016, in Qarah Soqol village near the city of Oshnavieh. His case was initially toggled from one court to another: charges were first ruled in initial court, reversed in supreme court, and then sent back to the parallel court branch that ultimately decided his fate.
Ahmadniaz told HRANA that his client was guilty simply of having been in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Hedayat Abdollahpour is being processed on something he knows nothing about, and towards which he would have no inclination,” Ahmadniaz said. “These honorable plaintiffs — the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — want to put him to death for Baqi.”
Ahmadiniaz went on to iterate the upheld prison sentences of Abdollahpour’s co-defendants: Rasoul Azizi Alias Hassed, 25 years; Mohammad Zaher Faramarzi, 20 years; Jalal Masroori and Yaghob Ba Ekram, 15 years each; Kamal Masroori and Sedigh Baekram, 10 years each.
The Oshnavieh clashes were fights that broke out between the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps of Hamzeh in the summer of 2016. Many from both sides were wounded or lost their lives in the conflicts.
Many of those residing in the border region of Oshnavieh were arrested and convicted on suspicions of collaborating wwith the Kurdish opposition.
Abdollahpour’s brother Farhad was arrested by IRGC Intelligence forces June 30th of this year and taken to IRGC detention center in Urmia. He was transferred to Oshnavieh Prison September 13th and later released on a bail of 2 billion rials [approximately $20,000 USD].

Political Prisoner Denied Access to an Attorney

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On August 3rd of this year, Ministry of Intelligence forces arrested Houshmand Alipour and Mohammad Ostadghader, whose taped confessions were broadcast on national television. Since then, Alipour has been cut off from both the services of a lawyer and visits from his family. He stands accused of membership in Kurdish opposition groups.
A family-appointed attorney learned on a phone call with the Sanandaj Intelligence Office that Alipour’s October 4th investigation court date was postponed, an informed source told HRANA. The prosecutor investigator has already interrogated Alipour, who will spend two more weeks at the Intelligence Office. Alipour’s family and lawyer deny rumors that he has been executed, the source said.
Alipour’s brother Hejar added that while Alipour has had contact with his family over the phone, they remain anxious to see him in person, and are worried about his continued interrogation and detention in the absence of any legal defense.
HRANA previously published a letter from Hejar Alipour, in which he pleads his brother’s case.
Alipour is from Sardasht, western Iran.

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Court Compounds Prison Sentence of Afrin Battle Detainees

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The 11-year prison sentences of Afrin Battle detainees Rahim Mahmoudi Azar and Mostafa Ghader Zeinab were compounded Sunday, September 30th by an additional one-year prison term each, ruled in Branch 103 of the General Court of Urmia, on a charge of “crossing the border illegally.”
Both men were fighting among the ranks of a Kurdish military group in Afrin, Syrian Kurdistan earlier this year when they were wounded and extradited to Iran. A close source told HRANA that starting March 8, 2018, they were interrogated for five weeks straight, first for a week at Evin Detention Center and then for a month in Urmia’s Intelligence Office.
In July, Branch 3 of Urmia Revolutionary Court in northwestern Iran sentenced each of them to 11 years in prison for their opposition-group connections, which in court translated to charges of “membership in anti-regime groups,” “collusion and conspiracy,” and “propaganda against the regime.” The sentence was later upheld in appeals court.
A source close to both men previously told HRANA that Zeinab and Azar sustained their injuries during a Turkish offensive on Afrin. It was at the hospital in Aleppo, he said, that their legal troubles began to unfold: “Upon realizing their nationalities, Syrian authorities handed them over to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”
Both men have been denied the right to appoint lawyers of their choice and attended their court session with a public defender.
Azar is currently detained in Urmia. Zeinab is free on bail.

Brother of Kurdish Activist Arrested in Western Iran

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On the morning of Thursday, September 27, 2018, Intelligence Ministry Agents arrested a taxi driver in his home, on “suspicion that his brother is actively cooperating with a Kurdish opposition group,” a close source told HRANA.

The arrestee — Ebrahim Divazi, a resident of the Kurdish city of Mahabad — has been taken to an undisclosed location.

One week prior to Divazi’s arrest, Mahabad Intelligence agents raided the home of Ebrahim Divazi’s brother Esmaeil Farahmand, roughhousing his family and assaulting his mother while searching the premises. Farahmand is currently on the lam.

The brothers’ father Osman Divazi was killed in the 1980 “massacre of Inderghash village” (1) [which is popularly believed to have been carried out by pro-regime militia].

(1) In the wake of a Kurdish uprising in Western Iran after the 1979 revolution, Mulla Hassani, a Khomeini representative based in Western Azerbaijan province, led a militia group in a raid on the village of Inderghash. While the raid was carried out on the pretext of disarming local resistors, locals had surrendered their weapons to the IRGC days before. When the militia later came under attack from a Kurdish opposition group, they responded by massacring dozens of villagers.

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

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.

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

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.