Turkish National Hatem Ozdemir Receives Death Sentence in Retrial

The Revolutionary Court in Urmia has once again sentenced Turkish national Hatem Ozdemir to death for “enmity against God (Moharebeh)” after his initial death sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court.

The verdict was delivered by Branch 3 of the Urmia Revolutionary Court and communicated to Ozdemir on May 19, 2024, who is currently detained in Urmia Prison.

Ozdemir was arrested by security forces in early summer 2019 in Maku City. After two months of interrogation in a detention center, he was transferred to Urmia Prison. He was briefly moved to another detention center on September 19, 2019, before being returned to Urmia Prison.

Originally in March 2022, the Revolutionary Court in Khoy, under Judge Najafzadeh, convicted Ozdemir of “armed rebellion (Baghi).” However, this sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court, leading to a retrial in a different branch.

Abdolghani Darvishi’s Sentence Reduced on Appeal

The Appellate Court of West Azerbaijan Province has reduced Abdolghani Darvishi’s prison sentence from five years to two years and six months. Originally convicted on political charges for “collaboration with anti-regime groups,” his sentence is now suspended for two years.

Darvishi was first detained by security forces on May 22, 2020, in Urmia and subsequently held in Tehran’s Evin prison, controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence. After a month, he was moved back to a detention center in Urmia and later placed in solitary confinement on October 22, 2020, at Urmia Prison.

He was released on bail from Urmia Prison on March 2, 2021. Darvishi, a resident of Urmia and a father of two, continues to reside there with his family.

16-Year-Old Mobin Sheykheh-Pour Arrested by Ministry of Intelligence in Urmia

On May 1, 2024, Mobin Sheykheh-Pour, a 16-year-old, was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence in Urmia, as Kurdpa reports.

Sheykheh-Pour was reportedly arrested after his presence at the Ministry of Intelligence office in Urmia. This follows a prior summons last month to the Ministry’s office in Mahabad, where he underwent interrogation and physical assault. The details of his condition and the charges against him are still undisclosed.

According to 2023 data compiled by the Department of Statistics, at least 130 individuals under the age of 18 were detained by security institutions.

Execution Carried Out in Urmia Prison for Drug Conviction

On April 16, 2024, authorities at Urmia Prison executed an inmate convicted of drug-related offenses.

The individual put to death has been identified by HRANA as Afshin Bagh-Shirin, hailing from Kermanshah. He had been sentenced to death six years prior.

No official sources or domestic media outlets within the country have provided coverage of this execution at the time of writing. In 2023, 66% of HRANA’s reports on executions lacked official announcements by judicial authorities and went unreported by media inside Iran, highlighting a troubling lack of transparency in due process.

The reports from the Department of Statistics and Publication of Human Rights Activists for the year 2023 reveal a concerning prevalence of executions for drug offenses in Iran, constituting 56.4% of the total executions. For a comprehensive examination of the details and statistics surrounding the executions in Iran, refer to HRANA’s report.

Alireza Ghanbari and Javad Mohammadi-Fard Begin Prison Sentences on Political Charges

Alireza Ghanbari and Javad Mohammadi-Fard, both residents of Urmia, have been incarcerated in Urmia Prison to commence their sentences.

Confirming their imprisonment, a source close to their families informed HRANA that they were arrested on April 2 by security forces at their residences and subsequently transferred to Urmia Prison.

Their initial arrests occurred in June-July 2022 by security forces. Initially detained in the Ministry of Intelligence’s facility in Urmia, they were later moved to Urmia Prison after approximately six months.

In June-July 2023, the Urmia Revolutionary Court convicted them of political charges. Mohammadi-Fard was sentenced to four years for “heading a group for causing unrest and acting against national security,” along with 16 months for “insulting the Supreme Leaders of Iran and the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Ghanbari received a four-year sentence for “joining anti-regime groups,” along with 16 months for “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran” and eight months for “propaganda against the regime,” including detention time. These verdicts were upheld on appeal.

Pursuant to Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, which stipulates that in cases of multiple charges, the harshest punishment shall be enforced, both individuals will serve four years in prison.

Mohammadi-Fard, aged 44, is single, while Ghanbar, aged 50, is the father of two.

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Death-Row Political Prisoner Nayeb Askari Moved to Solitary Confinement, Heightening Fear of Imminent Execution

Nayeb Askari, a political prisoner on death row in Urmia Prison, was transferred to solitary confinement at Urmia prison on March 27, 2024, sparking fears among his family that his execution may be imminent.

A source with close ties to Askari’s family has confirmed his relocation. While the exact reason for the transfer remains unclear, it is customary for prison authorities to move death-row inmates to solitary confinement before executing them.

Initially sentenced to death for “enmity against God (Moharebeh)” on April 15, 2023, his plea for a retrial was accepted, leading to a charge change to Baghi. In October 2023, the court reaffirmed the death sentence, with the hearings reportedly conducted without his lawyer’s presence. The charge is supported by his alleged membership in a Kurdish political opposition party.

Arrested by IRGC intelligence agents on March 27, 2021, in Urmia, Askari was later moved to a detention facility and, on June 17, 2021, to Urmia Prison.

HRANA’s source reveals another ongoing case accusing Askari of the murder of IRGC member Mostafa Soltani. In 2013-2014, Soltani was injured during a clash with a political opposition party member, passing away six years later from COVID-19. Soltani’s family claims alleged Askari’s involvement in the altercation caused the sustained injury leading to his eventual death.

A new case, opened on July 12, 2021, based on a complaint from the Urmia Prison head, resulted in a three-month imprisonment extension and 50 lashes for “disrupting prison order.”

According to HRA’s annual report, in 2023, Urmia Prison officials executed 29 inmates, positioning this facility as the sixth highest in terms of executions among the ranked prisons.

Tragic End to the Life of Shahin Galehdari, Political Prisoner at Urmia

In a devastating turn of events, 46-year-old political prisoner Shahin Galehdari has reportedly taken his own life in Urmia Prison.

A reliable source close to Galehdari confirmed this tragic news to HRANA, stating that he had been incarcerated since February-March 2023, serving a two-year sentence. Prison officials conveyed the distressing information of his suicide to his family yesterday.

According to the latest updates received by HRANA, Galehdari’s body has been transferred to forensic medicine. His family has been directed to claim his body.

Shahin Galehdari’s initial arrest occurred nine years ago at the hands of security forces. Following a period of detention, he was released on bail until the end of legal proceedings. In 2020-2021, the Revolutionary Court at Urmia sentenced him to two years for charges related to “acting against national security.” Subsequently, in February-March 2023, he began serving his sentence in Urmia Prison.

In 2023, the Department of Statistics of Human Rights Activists in Iran recorded seven deaths resulting from illness, twelve suicides, one case of self-immolation, and four instances of prisoners being murdered within prisons nationwide.

Sunni Cleric Mohammad Khezr-Nejad Receives Death Sentence

In a recent development, Sunni cleric Mohammad Khezr-Nejad has been sentenced to death by Branch 3 of the Urmia Revolutionary Court. The charges against him include “spreading corruption on earth” and “acting against national security,” as reported by Kurdpa.

Judge Reza Najafzadeh issued the ruling, finding Khezr-Nejad guilty of various offenses, such as “spreading corruption on earth,” “acting against national security through threatening the integrity or independence of the country,” and “propaganda against the regime.” Consequently, he has been handed a death sentence along with 16 years of imprisonment. Throughout the trial, Khezr-Nejad has consistently dismissed these charges as baseless.

The verdict was reached based on coerced confessions obtained from the defendant during interrogation, where he purportedly admitted to “leading protests in Bukan and association with anti-regime groups.” Khezr-Nejad has contested the authenticity of these confessions.

In response to the sentencing, Khezr-Nejad has reportedly filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal of West Azerbaijan province.

The cleric and his son were arrested on November 19, 2022, by security forces in Bukan and subsequently detained in Urmia Prison. The arrest occurred after Khezr-Nejad delivered a speech during the funeral of Asa’ad Rahimi, who lost his life during protests at the hands of regime forces. The arrest involved physical assault against Khezr-Nejad.

It’s worth noting that Khezr-Nejad has faced previous arrests and convictions due to his activism.

Azerbaijani-Turk Activist Salar Taher Afshar Detained in Urmia

On February 6, 2024, security forces arrested Salar Taher Afshar in Urmia and subsequently transferred him to an undisclosed facility. The news of Afshar’s apprehension was disclosed by his sister.

At present, the specific reasons behind his arrest, his current whereabouts, and the charges levied against him remain undisclosed.

This recent arrest comes after Taher Afshar was previously detained on December 19, 2023. A court hearing addressing the charge of “assisting in spreading propaganda against the regime” was conducted by the Tabriz Revolutionary Court on January 27, 2024.

In 2023, the Department of Statistics and Publications of the Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) documented 324 cases of citizens being arrested by security forces for their advocacy of ethnic rights.

Azerbaijani-Turk Activist Salar Taher Afshar Arrested in Urmia

Urmia, December 19, 2023 – Iran Cyber Police detained Azerbaijani-Turk activist Salar Taher Afshar in Urmia, subsequently placing him in custody at a police station in Tabriz.

A reliable source close to Afshar’s family revealed to HRANA that the activist was arrested at his father’s residence by Iran Cyber Police. According to the source, the agents exerted pressure on the family, warning them not to disclose details of their son’s arrest.

The grounds for Afshar’s arrest and the specific charges against him remain undisclosed at this time.

It is pertinent to note that Afshar has a history of previous arrests and judicial confrontations stemming from his activism.