Iran: An Overview of Human Rights Abuses September – October 2018

Posted on: October 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – The following is an overview of human rights violations in Iran between September 23rd and October 22, 2018, per information compiled and verified by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI).

Domestic restrictions in Iran on independent human rights reporting make it difficult to capture the full extent of these issues on the ground. The following overview draws on the work of HRANA reporters, as well as a network of independent and verifiable sources, including other human rights associations operating outside Iran’s borders.

Summary

Human rights violations continued all across the country over the past month, and included, but were not limited to: executions, child abuse, mass arrests, violation of prisoners’ rights, violation of freedom of expression, labor abuses, and unchecked environmental pollution.

Death Penalty

Capital punishment remains the most egregious violation of human rights in Iran. On October 10th — the World Day against the Death Penalty — the Center of Statistics at HRAI published its annual report to sensitize the public about the situation of the death penalty in Iran. The report provides statistics about executions carried out in this country between October 10, 2017, and October 9, 2018.

More than 25 citizens, including a juvenile offender, were executed in the last month (between September 23rd and October 22, 2018). More than 20 individuals, including a juvenile offender, were sentenced to death. Four people were executed in public.

HRANA was able to identify or gather details about death row prisoners, including a former member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Arsalan Khodkam, the ex-spouse of Leila Tajik, Hedayat Abdollahpour and three individuals convicted of financial crimes. New details on the executions of Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi were also reported during this period.

Freedom of Thought and Expression

Freedoms of thought and expression were also widely restricted over the past 30 days.

Arrests: Arrestees in this category included a Shiraz city council member, Ahmad Alinejad and his wife, at least 20 residents of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province, writer and Mashad resident Abbas Vahedian, Zahra Majd in Isfahan, and six individuals involved in the Freedom Movement of Iran, arrested in Nain (near Isfahan).

Convictions: Leila Mir-Ghaffari was sentenced to 2 years in prison, Ejlal Ghavami to 8 months, Hassan Abbasi to 35 months (five 7-months prison terms), an Arak resident to 1 year and 30 lashings, Hamidreza Amini to 11 years. Women who protested this past August were sentenced from 6 months to 1 year in prison, Mohammad Mahdavifar was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months, a dual-nationality defendant faces 8 years and 6 months in prison, Soheil Arabi faces 3 years in prison, 3 years in exile, and a fine; the prison sentence of Abdolreza Ghanbari was increased to 15 years, Alireza Moeinian was sentenced to 8 months in prison; a new 6-month sentence extended the prison term of Saeed Shirzad through 2020; six Arak residents arrested amid the January protests were collectively sentenced to a total of 6 years in prison and 444 lashings, and a group of political activists in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province were sentenced to exile and prison terms ranging from 8 to 18 years.

Eleven civil activists, including Mohammad Najafi, Ali Bagheri, and Abbas Safari were sentenced to 3 years in prison and 74 lashings. Behzad Ali Bakhshi, Mohammad Yaghoubi, Yousef Shirilard, Neda Yousefi, Davoud Rahimi, Massoud Ajlou and Mohammad Torabi were sentenced to 1 year in prison and 74 lashings, suspended over five years. Kian Sadeghi faces 3 years in prison and 74 lashings, suspended over five years. Morteza Nazari was sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison, 2 years of exile, and a fine; Zahra Zare Seraji, on the same convictions, to 8 years in prison and a fine. Their co-defendants Ali Kabirmehr and Ali Bazazadeh were both sentenced to 13 years in prison and exile.

Summons: Hamid Farrokhnezhad, Parastoo Salehi, a number of reformist political activists, Tehran city council member Kazem Imanzadeh, Hossein Ahmadi Niaz, and Mohammad Najafi were all summoned by courts and the Ministry of Intelligence.

Censorship: The weekly magazines “Nabze Bazaar” and “Paytakht Kohan,” as well as the website “EntekhabKhabar,” were convicted in press court. Courts also issued indictments for the Chief Executive Officers of “Shargh” and “Shahrvand” newspapers for their reporting on sexual tourism. The National Front of Iran was prevented from holding its Central Council meeting in Tehran, a journalist was beaten by Qazvin municipal agents, and a Kurdish student was barred from education, presumably for his political affiliations.

Prisoners’ Rights
Prisoners are rarely protected from cruel and unusual punishments, and their rights to proper nutrition, hygiene, and medical treatment are systematically violated. A few of these victims are detailed below by category of violation.

Raids and beatings: Prison agents punched Arash Sadeghi on his cancer surgery site; Urmia prison authorities attacked political prisoners and injured them severely, inciting them to hunger strike by the dozens; another Urmia prisoner was assaulted; a prisoner was beaten and injured by Rajai Shahr Prison personnel; Bandar Abbas Prison authorities broke an inmate’s fingers; an Urmia prisoner suffered a TBI after a beating by authorities; and prisoners were forcefully undressed and beaten in Zahedan Prison.

Withholding of medical treatment: A prisoner died after being denied medical care in Zahedan Prison. Farhad Meysami, Arash Sadeghi, and a prisoner in Sanandaj were also denied medical treatment.

Going without: Dozens of Gachsaran prisoners launched protests and hunger strikes in opposition to prison conditions. Six Gonabadi Dervish prisoners continued in an ongoing hunger strike. Reza Sigarchi, also in an act of protest, refused food and medicine in Great Tehran Penitentiary, while 8 Gonabadi Dervishes at the same penitentiary and 8 Baha’i prisoners of Karaj disappeared off of the administrative radar for 30 days. Houshmand Alipour was denied access to an attorney. Three prisoners in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison were blocked from receiving visits, and the fate of sequestered labor activist and Sanandaj resident Zanyar Dabbaghian was still unknown.

Three prisoners attempted suicide in Zahedan, Urmia, and Saravan prisons. Local sources consistently impute prisoner suicides and suicide attempts to the violence and oppression of prison life.

Religious and Ethnic Minorities

Religious and ethnic minorities remained under threat and consistent judicial pressures this past month.

Baha’is: Eight Baha’i citizens were arrested in Baharestan (near Isfahan), four were arrested in Karaj, one of whom had his business forcibly shut down, and three were arrested in Shiraz.
[Some of these arrests reflect coordinated or group arrests, and linked articles will reflect that information overlap].
A Baha’i resident of Yazd who had been blocked from pursuing education was fired from work for their faith, and the parents of a Baha’i prisoner were temporarily detained following a search of the prisoner’s home.

Sunnis: Five Sunni scholars were sequestered for hours in the Zahedan-Khash road patrol office. Three Baluchi citizens, who are scholars of the Ghalamouei seminary, were arrested in Sirik County (southern Iran). Sunni scholars expressed outcry over the public statements of a soccer player they alleged to be disparaging of Sunni sanctities.

Six members of the Yamani Religious Group in Izeh County were also arrested, presumably for their beliefs.

Ethnic minorities: Arab citizens were arrested, and are still being arrested en masse in wake of the Ahvaz Parade Attack. HRANA is still in the process of confirming the identifies of the arrestees, which according to local reports number into the hundreds. Other arrests suspected to be ethnically discriminatory include Nasim Sadeghi, Mohammad Abdolmohammad-Zadeh, Mojtaba Parvin, Ebrahim Divazi, as well as residents of Ilam, Ahvaz, Marivan, Urmia, Sanandaj, Kermanshah, Saqqez, Pevah, Oshnavieh, and Sardasht.

News emerged on the convictions of Abbas Lasani, Kiumars Eslami, Eghbal Ahmadpour, Keyvan Olyali, Hossein Ali Mohammadi Alvar, as well as defendants in Sanandaj, Urmia, Kamyaran, and two detainees of the Afrin battles in Syria. Turkic activist Javad Ahmadi Yekanli was summoned by county security police in the city of Khoy.

Children’s Rights

Children are among the most vulnerable to human rights abuses in Iran. Over the past month, four wrongful child deaths were reported in the cities of Tehran, Falavarjan (Isfahan Province), Qaem Shahr (Mazandaran province) and (Isfahan Province).

The national director of Iran’s social emergency hotline said that 30% of reports called into the center are flagging some form of “domestic violence,” 30% of which turn out to be child abuse cases. Of this 30%, 50% were related to educational negligence, 30% to physical abuse, 15% to psychological abuse, and 4% to sexual abuse of children.

Maryam Sedighi, deputy director of the social welfare department of Alborz Province, said that 12% of “123” social emergency calls made in Alborz — i.e. an average of 40 calls per month — are child abuse reports.

Reports indicate the rape of a young girl by her father in Tehran; a boxing coach accused of raping his teenage student; a father pouring boiling water over his 7-year-old daughter in Genaveh, Bushehr Province; and a teacher using corporal punishment on a pupil in Kazeroon, Fars Province.

Three juvenile suicides were also reported: one student in Rigan County, Kerman Province, and two teenage girls, aged 14 and 16, in the cities of Abadan and Sanandaj.

The Iranian education system allocates fewer and fewer resources to its pupils, and educational facilities across the country — particularly in rural or underprivileged areas — can be found in varying states of wear and disrepair. One pupil in Razan, Hamadan province was injured in the chest, neck, and shoulders when he was caught in falling debris of a school wall that suddenly collapsed. The Razan director of education said that he is currently stable, but will require surgery.

Elementary-school student Donya Veisi of Garmash village, Kurdistan Province, fell victim to her own school’s disrepair when one of the walls surrounding her school yard collapsed, killing her. Later — amid allegations that Donya had in fact been raped and killed — the Kurdistan Prosecutor verbally engaged to investigate the matter.

Women

The question of women’s rights at sporting events gained heightened public attention this past month when, under pressure from FIFA to permit their entry into stadiums, a select number of Iranian women (most of them family members of players and federation employees) were finally allowed to witness a kickoff in person (Iran vs. Bolivia). Authorities’ exclusive selection criteria were highly criticized.

Meanwhile, Shiraz-based activist Maryam Azad was arrested by security forces at a Tehran Airport as she was leaving the country for Turkey.

The managing director of the office of forensic medicine in Kohkiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province indicated that, of the 429 domestic violence crimes recorded in his office over the past 6 months, 404 were incidents of violence by husbands against their wives.

Additional cases of violence against women included a man’s murder of his ex-wife when he failed to meet “mehrieh” obligations [a type of alimony settlement], and the circumstances surrounding one woman’s decision to set herself on fire in Mashad.

Two women, long hounded by the judiciary for participating in a rally on International Women’s Day, were recently acquitted of their charges.

Laborers and Guilds

This past month was rythmed by strikes, sit-ins, and rallies organized by guilds and employees across sectors who demanded more secure working conditions.

Commercial Transport: This past month, truck drivers in Iran went on a nationwide strike for the third time [in 12 months]. Over the course of their 20-day strike, at least 261 striking drivers in 19 different provinces were arrested and threatened with heavy sentences, including the death penalty. Strikers’ demands did make significant headway: after years of guild activism, the High Council of Transportation Coordination approved a new freight transport measurement rate known as the tonne-kilometre (tkm) method, which was among the most pressing demands of truck drivers. Despite this partial victory, the fates of the 261 detained protesters are still unknown.

Education: Six Educator-Activists who participated in demonstrations May 10th were sentenced to 9 months in prison and 74 lashings. Also reported was the conviction of schoolteacher and University of Tehran student Ruhollah Mardani, who was arrested earlier this year in connection to nationwide protests. Five teachers were summoned by the Bureau of Public Places in Saqqez.

Following a call to strike by the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI), Iranian teachers staged sit-ins [on October 14th and 15th] to demand more liveable salaries and justice for their persecuted colleagues. Strike activity was recorded across the provinces of Kerman, Lorestan, Khuzestan, Kermanshah, Isfahan, Kurdistan, Alborz, Hamadan, Fars, Zanjan, Qom, Mazandaran, Tehran, North Khorasan, Ilam, East and West Azerbaijan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, Bushehr, Gilan and Hormozgan.

Merchants: Merchants went on strike against the many interconnected symptoms of Iran’s current recession, including unstable exchange rates, inflation, rising prices, and unemployment. Merchant strikes went on for two consecutive days in the cities of Karaj, Shahreza, Shahriar, Shiraz, Kermanshah, Tabriz and Sarab.

Two street vendors were reportedly beaten by municipal agents in Qazvin and Gorgan.

Health and Environment:

Five environmental activists arrested 8 months ago have been indicted with charges of “corruption on earth,” which can carry the death penalty.

Intelligence agents halted a group of environmental journalists, including Javad Heydarian, before they could board a flight to Germany for work. Their passports were confiscated.

Public concern over pollution and waste issues is ballooning, and [many citizens are critical of the government’s inaction in face of myriad threats to the public health].

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iranian Ministry of the Interior, Iranians surpass the worldwide average of daily waste production (300 grams) by a whopping 400 grams every day.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency of Miandoab (West Azerbaijan Province) announced that contamination of the Zarrinehroud River from the city’s sugar factory, coupled with poor ecological management of the river and its dam system, has caused thousands of fish to die in the river.

High levels of air pollution were reported this month in the cities of Kerman, Mahshahr, Ramshir, Rigan, and the provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan and Kerman.

Cultural Rights and Censorship

A number of photographers from Shiraz faced persecution for their instagram activity this month [which was cited as “improper”].

Two cultural directors from Sistan and Baluchestan province were summoned to the Intelligence office for attempting to host a peaceful community celebration.

Pending content modifications and the resolution of charges against the Home Video Entertainment Network, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned distribution of the network’s TV series “13 Shomali” (Northern 13), which previously aired on Saturdays.

Military and Law-Enforcement Power Abuses

Several citizens were killed as a result of power abuses and negligence by security forces this past month.

Police car chases, inappropriate shootings by border authorities, and authorities’ failure to warn civilians of road barriers led to 2 civilian injuries and 5 civilian deaths in Iranshahr (Sistan and Baluchestan Province), Jask (Hormozgan Province) and Azadshahr (Golestan Province) and Razavi Khorasan.

Security forces reportedly assaulted fuel vendors in Saravan (Sistan and Baluchestan Province).

More than a dozen “Kulbars” [laborers who make their living carrying goods across border areas] were wounded and killed across the country, namely in Sardasht (West Azerbaijan Province), Piranshahr (West Azarbaijan Province), Urmia (West Azerbaijan Province) Nowsud (Kermanshah Province), Marivan and Baneh (Kurdistan Province) and Ilam (Ilam province).

A prisoner in Urmia was sentenced to hand amputation, and a robbery convict was dealt 74 lashes in public in the Zeberkhan Rural District (Nishapur County, Razavi Khorasan Province).

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The above-cited reports are only a few examples of dismally more widespread trends. Their mention in this overview by no means implies their significance over those incidents which went unreported, due to tight restrictions on investigative journalists on the ground.

Among available reports of human rights abuses, however, some are more oft-cited due to their sensitive nature or predominating presence in public opinion. It bears mention that all human rights abuses are worthy of the news coverage and social media activism that has come to the aid of so relatively few. Bearing in mind their roles as public opinion influencers, social media activists and human rights reporters must be wary not to underlie existing human rights abuses with unintentional discrimination in their reporting.

Open Letter: Atena Daemi Lauds the Emotional Labor of Iranian Mothers

Posted on: October 24th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Atena Daemi, a civil rights activist imprisoned since October 21, 2014, has written an open letter to her mother marking her fourth year of incarceration.

In the note, Daemi describes the difficulties endured by her family — particularly her mother — who she characterizes as one of her most important sources of strength in recent years.

With fellow political prisoners Maryam Akbari Monfared and Golrokh Iraee, Daemi was punished October 3rd with a three-week ban on family visits, per verbal orders from the Women’s Warden at Evin. All three were told the ban served to punish them for refusing an unlawful interrogation this past September.

HRANA has translated the full text of Daemi’s letter below:

Four years ago to this day, I was on my way to work on a cold autumn morning. You had gone to buy fresh bread for us. I was running late, so I didn’t get to see you before dad and I left the house. Before we could reach the end of the alley, they blocked our way, arrested me, put me in another car, and returned to the house with dad, all 11 of them. I don’t know how you reacted when you saw them. After an hour, they brought me back home. I was shocked to see you. I was shocked by your screams at the agents.

“Go on and take my daughter too. You took all of these young people – and how far did that get you? You know what? Go ahead and kill my daughter too. You killed Sattar Beheshti [a blogger who died in prison in 2012] and all those other young people. And what came of it?”

They threatened to detain you too, and you shot back, “Take me! You’ve outdone yourselves putting mothers behind bars and bereaving them.”

I thought you would be scared, but you weren’t; I thought you would blame and reproach me, but you didn’t. In our own language, you told me to go– that this would be the first night I would spend away from home, but that you were still behind me, still with me, and that one day no child would be separated from their mother. That lifted a weight off my shoulders; it felt as though you had given me wings. I went, but you never left me for a moment; we were bonded more than ever, together, united.

I remember your face that day in the Revolutionary Court when I was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Giddily and sarcastically, you quipped, “14 years is nothing– we expected the death penalty!” I know you felt a quiver of fear, but you didn’t show it. Sixteen months later, I returned home and you were in good spirits, though you knew I wouldn’t be staying long. They came back for me nine months later. You weren’t in Tehran then. I called you to let you know they were taking me. You told me to put you on speakerphone so that they could hear you. You were screaming “What do you want from our children? What have they done? What did they ever ask of you? The day will come when us mothers will hold you accountable…”

After I went, they opened cases against your other two daughters, convicting them. You laughed and said that we should ask them to set up a family suite in the prison that would house us all!

I went on hunger strike. I will not forget the concern in your eyes, but your words, filled with hope and promise, only made me more steadfast. Your daughters were acquitted, and I stayed. They filed new cases and lawsuits against me, one after the other. Then, they dragged me to Gharchak Prison, beating me and insulting me. That following Thursday I called home. You were happy to hear my voice and asked how the prison administrators had come to be so charitable on a Thursday [the beginning of the weekend in Iran].

I laughed and said, “I’m calling you from Gharchak Prison.” You replied that it was only right that I see the women held in Gharchak as well. “Let’s see how far they want to go!” you said.

When I contacted you a few days later, you did not answer. I was told that you went to the Prosecutor’s office to see about my case. The more time passed without any news from you, the more worried I became. You finally replied after 7 p.m. and told me that they had detained you along with Hanieh [my sister]. You told me how they beat you both and shocked you with stun guns. My body trembled at that thought.

You told me they shocked your leg when you refused to get into their car. You said it didn’t hurt, that it felt like stinging nettles. I was trembling with anger, but you were laughing and said that you didn’t back down and gave them a piece of your mind.

My phone rights and visits were cut.

Then came your little girl’s wedding day– my sister Hanieh was getting married…

They did not let me go on furlough to come to the wedding. You came to visit me in Gharchak. Hanieh was restless but you calmed her down, telling her not to cry but to laugh and be joyous so that the authorities wouldn’t get the idea that their tactics can break [me]. I remember that you reminded her that Fariba Kamalabadi [Baha’i prisoner of conscience] hadn’t been granted furlough to attend her own daughter’s wedding. You asked me to distribute sweets to my cell and ward mates to celebrate my sister’s wedding inside the prison. What a memorable night that was!

I was returned to Evin Prison. Then we heard news of the execution of Zanyar, Loghman, and Ramin. You went on a hunger strike, wore black, and came to visit me in tears. They had harassed me that day, but the three of us just held hands and sang a song for our fallen brothers. Again, they cut me off from family visits.

Mother, would you look at how pathetic and short-sighted they are? When Zanyar Moradi hadn’t seen his mother in nine years when he was killed, and they think they’re going to break me by withholding my visiting rights for a while? The pain of mothers never ends. If they think they can reform us, silence us, or make us remorseful with such childish measures, they are sorely mistaken. We won’t be disciplined; rather, we will carry on with more resolve than before.

It has been three weeks since we last saw each other. You’ve gone to visit with Ramin’s mother, Zanyar and Loghman’s families, and the family of Sharif, who died in the fire[Kurdish activist who died fighting wildfires in western Iran]. You visited Narges [Mohammadi] and the family of Homa [Soltanpour]. While we haven’t seen each other, you have embraced the pains and sorrows of fellow mothers.

Send my regards to all the mourning and bereaved mothers of Iran and tell them I shall call for justice for them as long as I live!

Atena Daemi
October 21, 2019
Evin Prison

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After her arrest on October 21, 2014, Atena Daemi spent 86 days in solitary confinement before being transferred to the Women’s Ward of Evin prison. In May 2015, Judge Moghiseh of Revolutionary Court Branch 28 sentenced her to 14 years’ imprisonment on charges of assembly and collusion against national security, propaganda against the regime, and insulting the supreme leader. She was released February 2017 on 5.5 billion IRR [approximately $140,000 USD] bail. Her sentence was then reduced to seven years on appeal. She was detained November 26, 2016 to serve her sentence, which since been reduced to five years.

Inside Account of Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi and Ramin Hossein Panahi’s Final Days

Posted on: October 16th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- New details on the executions of Kurdish political prisoners Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi has been brought forward by a staff member at the Iranian Prisons Organizations who asked to remain anonymous.

Moradi, Moradi, and Hossein Panahi were hanged September 8th and buried in undisclosed locations without prior notice to their families or attorneys, throwing the international human rights community into an uproar over the Iranian judicial system’s chronic fits of caprice.

According to HRANA’s source, the three young men were battered before their transfer to the gallows; and per the observations of the source’s colleagues, Hossein Panahi, in particular, looked terribly ill.

“Zanyar Moradi and Loghman Moradi caught sight of Ramin Hossein Panahi while they were being transferred in handcuffs and shackles for execution,” the source explained. “When they saw [Hossein Panahi] was only half-conscious and spoke up in his defense, prison staff including Gholamreza Ziaie, Maghsoud Zolfali, and Nader Bagheri lay into them.”

The source explained that Loghman and Zanyar’s loved ones were distressed on September 7th when the men were sent to quarantine, which, while ominous, ran counter to the pre-execution protocol of sending the condemned to solitary confinement.

“The lawyers and families of these two prisoners were not sure whether they were scheduled to be executed,” the source said, adding that they were killed six hours after their family’s final visit at 10 a.m. on the 8th. “Even Rajai Shahr Health Services Administrator Hassan Ghobadi, who was present during their last visit, would not confirm that their execution was imminent.”

According to HRANA’s source, the men’s hangings were atypical even for the Iranian prison system. Their gallows were mounted outside the designated execution quarters, known as “the silo;” it happened not at dawn, per Iranian custom, but at midnight; and the prison’s computer system shows no record of what were to be their very last movements on earth, i.e. their transfers. “We had heard that an execution had been carried out,” the personnel explained, “[but] since security officials took over the execution, even we don’t know exactly where that execution happened.”

Indeed, the details play out like a grim procedural: the Judiciary announced that the executions were carried out in “Tehran,” while a source close to the Moradi families confirmed to HRANA that Zanyar and Loghman’s bodies bore notes reading “executed in Rajai Shahr.” A visible presence on the night of the hangings was a Marivan Friday Prayer Imam notorious for his ties to the Iranian security apparatus, whose son had allegedly been murdered.

“I heard through my colleagues that the prisoners wanted to string the noose around their neck with their own hands,” the personnel said. “There was a scuffle when officials refused this request; Zanyar Moradi even claimed that Hassan Ghobadi had promised him that right.”

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

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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

Longtime Political Prisoner Eulogizes Fallen Moradis: “Their slippers are still outside their cells”

Posted on: September 16th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- For 10 years, Saeed Massouri, Iran’s oldest political prisoner, was detained in Rajai Shahr with Loghman and Zanyar Moradi, who were executed along with Ramin Hossein Panahi on September 8th, 2018 (1). In response to their hangings, Massouri has written a letter entitled “The Circle of Love and Rebellion.”

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

The Circle of Love and Rebellion

In prison, your cellmate and ward mates become your family. They are the one we depend on the most; they are the ones with whom we share the moments, the hours, and the many details of our lives. When I speak of three children, three friends, three brothers like Zanyar, Loghman, and Ramin — especially Loghman and Zanyar, with whom I shared a ward for 10 years — I can barely stand the sound of my own breathing. I shared in their joy and sorrow, their court sessions and solitary confinement, their stress and anxiety, their deprivation and crisis, in each and every condition imposed on us by prison life. In their absence, the prison air is stifling and heavy.

I no longer hear the sound of Zanyar’s laugh; I no longer hear the passing jokes of Loghman as he comes down the hallway. Night falls, and I can no longer visit their cells and graze from their plates. My God… their slippers are still outside their cells, but they will never be back… to think of it all, I feel as though I were the one who’s been buried.

How I wish I could rip from my chest this heavy heart, so weighed down by forty years of injustice and oppression. I wish that by crying I could drain my own veins, tear by tear, and find solace. I wish I could show the whole world what they’re doing, taking our best, most precious youth and slaughtering them, watching their bodies swing from the noose with blank, demonic stares. Then they call the killings an exercise of their authority, ranting against an offensive, threatening that if they are hit once, they will strike back tenfold. Such is their formula for dealing with the populace: when the people, exasperated at the plunder of society, stage peaceful strikes or protests, rulers deem it a “hit” and hit back by killing ten prisoners. They hang them to avenge by terror, laying accusations of “criminal” and “mercenary” upon the dead. Our people know who our children are, despite it all, by the music of their hearts.

In truth, if these three young men, and men and women like them, were not here to pierce through the darkness by offering the light of their lives, the curse of oppression and injustice would be eternal. If it weren’t for their sacrifice, then we would have no recourse but to seek freedom, justice, and human rights beneath the cloaks of mullahs, the likes of Khatami (former President) and Rouhani (current President), and our defeat would be written.

This wretched, oblivious, and eternally delusional class don’t realize that the black-and-blue circles on the necks of the fallen are circles of love, an offering from the dead to the living. They are not unlike the crown of thorns that Jesus wore.

That same vivid contusion will be the axis of concentric rings of revolt and rebellion, waged by freedom fighters against all forms of injustice and oppression.

Saeed Massouri
September 12th, 2018 / Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison, Karaj

***********

Saeed Massouri was born in 1965. After studying in Norway, he was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence agents in the city of Dezful (province of Khuzestan, southwestern Iran) upon returning to Iran in 2001. He spent 14 months in an Intelligence Office solitary cell in Ahwaz (capital of Khuzestan province) before being transferred to section 209 of Evin Prison. He was sentenced to death in 2002, but in an appeals court his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He is currently serving the 18th year of his sentence in the political prisoners’ ward of Rajai Shahr.

Iran: Update on Strike Arestees in Kurdistan

Posted on: September 16th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Iranian authorities continue to detain members of the country’s Kurdish minority, in mounting tensions sparked by the September 8th execution of Kurdish political prisoners Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi.

Since September 11th, seventeen civil and political activists have been arrested by security forces in the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj, Marivan, Oshnavieh, Sardasht, and Ravansar. At least twelve were released on bail in the past 24 hours, while the whereabouts or statuses of the others remain unknown.

Earlier this week, Kurdish activists and political parties rallied on social media for a general strike in response to the untimely deaths of Moradi, Moradi, and Panahi, who were hanged to death in dubious circumstances on September 8th, according to HRANA reports.

Security attentions have since zeroed in on Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan since merchants of these provinces went on strike to protest the young men’s hangings, protests which are being met by civic arrests and spray-painted threats onto the merchant’s shuttered shops.

The omnipresence of security forces in various Kurdish cities, particularly in the wake of the executions and IRGC’s recent missile attack on Kurdish political parties, has contributed to a growing sense of insecurity for Iranian Kurds.

There is still no update on the whereabouts of Jafar Rasoulpour, who was arrested on September 11th in Sardasht, West Azerbaijan Province, nor on Bagher Safari, age 60, who was taken away on Wednesday September 11th by security forces in Ravansar, Kermanshah.

Khaled Hosseini, Mozafar Salehania, and Mokhtar Zarei, who were arrested by security forces in Sanandaj and transferred to the Central Prison of this city on Tuesday and Wednesday, have reportedly been released on bail. Suran Daneshvar and Aram Fathi, two other activists arrested on Tuesday in Marivan, have been transferred to the detention center of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Eight other Marivan arrestees have since been released on bail: Moslem Bahrami, Mohammad Azkat, Dalir Roshan, Ahmad Tabireh, Nishervan Rezaei, Nooshirvan Khoshnazar, Aram Amani and Ahsan Partovi.

Oshnavieh resident Rashid Naserzadeh was also detained on Tuesday, and released on bail a few hours later.

On September 13th, HRANA reported on the arrest of 13 civil activists in the Iranian Kurdish cities of Marivan, Oshnavieh, Sardasht, and Ravansar in connection to the merchant strikes. That day, Soraya Khadri, a civil activist from Sanandaj and a member of Kurdistan’s Rojyar Charity Foundation, was arrested by security forces and transferred to an unknown location. Though the reason for her arrest has yet to be confirmed, it is suspected to be tied to the strike crackdown.

Zanyar and Loghman Moradi were put on death row after Iranian authorities accused them of murdering the son of a Friday prayer leader in Marivan, a charge they have always denied. Censured by human rights organizations from the outset for its shoddy documentation and lack of evidence, the Moradi’s case was still incomplete at the time they were put to death.

The Moradis wrote an open letter, published in May 2017, detailing their ordeal along with case facts they alleged were constructed by the Ministry of Intelligence. The letter also described torture they experienced at the hands of authorities.

Ramin Hossein Panahi, the third executed Kurd, was tried and sentenced to death by Branch One of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj on a charge of “acting against national security by violating the rights of others” on January 16, 2018. His sentence was upheld in mid-April by the Supreme Court before being forwarded to the Execution of Sentences Unit.

Eventually, these three Kurdish political prisoners were executed on the morning of Saturday, September 8th, after having been transferred to solitary confinement in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison.

Letter from Afshin Hossein Panahi Honors Executed Brother, Supporters

Posted on: September 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Following the execution of his brother Ramin, political prisoner Afshin Hossein Panahi has expressed his gratitude and solidarity in the form of a letter, addressed to an international community which continues to champion the memory and cause of his late sibling.

At an undisclosed location in Tehran province on September 8th, Ramin Hossein Panahi was hanged to death alongside Zanyar Moradi and Loghman Moradi, without notice to their respective families or lawyers, and pursuant to a legal process on which human rights organizations had already cried foul.

Once the brothers were hanged to death, their families received threatening messages from the Ministry of Intelligence and were refused the right to inter their bodies.

In the wake of these executions, residents and merchants of several Iranian cities where Iran’s Kurdish population is highest– particularly in the provinces of Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan –went on a general strike. In response, civil activists in the cities of Sanandaj, Marivan (Kurdistan), Oshnoviyeh, Sardasht (West Azerbaijan), and Ravansar (Kermanshah) have been taken into custody.

Seven political detainees at Evin Prison, including Atena Daemi, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Golrokh Iraee, have written letters to express their condolence to the families of Moradi, Moradi, and Panahi.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet responded to the executions in the following statement: “I deeply deplore the executions last week of three Iranian Kurdish prisoners despite the serious concerns raised by Special Procedures mandate holders that they were not afforded fair trials, and were subjected to torture.”

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, has also condemned these executions.

The full text of Afshin Hossein Panahi’s letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

A whisper echoes through the iron labyrinth
It sings, “endure! dawn is upon us!”

To the dear civil rights activists, and political parties and groups both inside and outside Iran,

I am thankful and grateful for your unfaltering efforts and support over the past year in trying to stay the execution of my innocent yet audacious brother.

I have a heavy heart and tearful eyes in my grief over the loss of Ramin, who died with dignity. He was proud to fight for the freedom of those who would *later rise in [his] defense and honor, those who have peacefully troubled the foundation of despotism.

Fettered in prison, I am no free man. Notwithstanding my innocence, and my faith in the righteousness of the freedom march, I suffer pains common to all Iranian civil and political activists, and my demands have become one with theirs. I demand my rights be realized, and I will not rest or falter until they are restored. I am infinitely thankful to those comrades who strive to raise the voice of Iran’s political hostages.
Let it be known that the strength of our pact and the spirit of our fight will prevail.

Afshin Hossein Panahi,
Sanandaj Central Prison

* Referring to the general strike in Kurdish areas of Iran

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

Afshin Hossein Panahi is a political activist who was arrested on June 26th, 2017 in his home. He was sentenced to eight and half years in prison by judge Saeedi of Branch one of Sanandaj Revolutionary Court on charges of “disseminating propaganda against the regime” and “collaboration with a Kurdish opposition group through participation in a Nowruz ceremony.” This sentence was upheld in appeals court. He was also arrested in 2011 for inquiring into the suspicious death of another one of his brothers, Ashraf Hossein Panahi. In that case, he was sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.”

Merchant Strikes Sparked by Recent Executions Lead to Backlash and Arrests

Posted on: September 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Kurdish merchants in Iran’s Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan provinces have shut down shop and gone on strike, heeding a call from Kurdish activists to organize a rebellion in response to the recent execution of three Kurdish political prisoners.

Loghman Moradi, Zanyar Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi were hanged to death in dubious circumstances on September 8th, sparking international outcry and rebuke from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Kurdish opposition parties reacted to the untimely deaths of Moradi, Moradi and hossein Panahi by sounding the call to strike through Kurdish regions of Iran, inviting fellow Kurds to protest their comrades’ executions, HRANA previously reported.

The Kurdish shop owners began staging strikes September 12th, which have thus far led to the arrest of 16 political and civil activists in the Iranian Kurdish cities of Sanandaj, Marivan, Oshnavieh, Sardasht, and Ravansar. In addition to civic arrests, security forces have responded by spray-painting threats onto shuttered bodegas.

On Tuesday, Labor activist Khaled Hosseini was detained by security forces in Sanandaj–the Iranian city with the largest Kurdish population–along with Mozaffar Salehnia and Mokhtar Zarei, who were arrested one day later. All were transferred to Sanandaj Central Prison with a bail set at approximately $8000 USD (800 million IRR).

Meanwhile, the western border city of Marivan is experiencing the brunt of the crackdown: Moslem Bahrami, Suran Daneshvar, Aram Fathi, Mohammad Azkat, Dalir Roshan, Ahmad Tabireh, Nishervan Rezaei, Nooshirvan Khoshnazar, Aram Amani and Ahsan Partovi were all reportedly arrested there Tuesday.

Oshnavieh resident Rashid Naserzadeh was also detained on Tuesday, and released on bail a few hours later.

Jafar Rasoulpour was arrested the same day in Sardasht, West Azerbaijan Province. Bagher Safari, age 60, was taken in Wednesday by security forces in Ravansar, Kermanshah.

Zanyar and Loghman Moradi were put on death row after the Iranian authorities accused them of murdering the son of a Friday prayer leader in Marivan, a charge they have always denied. Censured by human rights organizations from the outset for its shoddy documentation and lack of evidence, the Moradi’s case was still incomplete at the time they were put to death.

The Moradis wrote an open letter, published in May 2017, detailing their ordeal along with case facts they alleged were constructed by the Ministry of Intelligence. The letter also described torture they experienced at the hands of authorities.

Ramin Hossein Panahi, the third executed Kurd, was tried and sentenced to death by Branch One of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj on a charge of “acting against national security by violating the rights of others” on January 16, 2018. His sentence was upheld in mid-April by the Supreme Court before being forwarded to the Execution of Sentences Unit.

Tensions Mount over Unlawful Execution of Three Kurdish Political Prisoners

Posted on: September 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Shock, sorrow, and censure over the executions of Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi continue to pour in from both international institutions and Iranian citizens in-country, further straining relations between Iranian authorities and the human rights activist community at large.

A number of Kurdish opposition groups have sounded the call to strike to Kurdish regions of Iran, inviting fellow Kurds to protest their comrades’ executions.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated, “I deeply deplore the executions last week of three Iranian Kurdish prisoners despite the serious concerns raised by Special Procedures mandate holders that they were not afforded fair trials, and were subjected to torture.” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, has also condemned these executions.

Imprisoned civil rights activist Atena Daemi was among a number of imprisoned civil rights activists publishing separate letters expressing sorrow and outrage over the men’s deaths. Golrokh Iraee and Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, two more imprisoned activists, wrote and published their own messages of protest and sympathy, with Sotoudeh likening their executions to the *political massacres of 1988.

Some of these letters have reportedly incited blowback from prison authorities, who have subjected Daemi and Iraee to repeated non-routine body searches after their letters were published. When these women inquired about the reason for the searches, they learned the order for frisking had been issued by the Prison’s Director. A Prosecutor Assistant has since promised to investigate.

Excerpts from the letters of Sotoudeh and Iraee, translated into English by HRANA, are below.

Nasrin Sotoudeh:

“The judicial system has executed three Kurdish compatriots. Our Kurdish compatriots have been plagued by oppression for decades. The verdict and sentences of the Revolutionary Court, condemning these three compatriots to die, was the product of an unlawful process that runs counter to Human Rights principles and the laws of the Islamic Republic. In at least one of these trials, had due process been respected, the defendant may very well have been acquitted.

Zanyar and Loghman Moradi were on hunger strike when they were hanged, another testament to the inherent brutality of the judicial system, who itself is supposed to protect us from violence.

I extend my condolences to our Kurdish compatriots, who have had a steadfast, crucial presence in the cultural promotion of Iran; to all Iranians; and, in particular, to the families of Moradi, Moradi, and Panahi. I hope that in heeding the diverse manifestations of Iran’s judicial violence, the urgent need to renounce all forms of it will become clear.”

Golrokh Iraee

“[Their death] invites the wrath of Kurdistan’s Children […] Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi, freedom fighters, Kurdistan’s immortal resistance, teachers of patience and persistence, have left behind a lesson in determination. They were hanged while on hunger strike, in protest of their mistreatment at the hands of authorities; they stood up to the monsters of despotism and reactionarism.

They unmasked those traitors who call themselves statesmen and rulers. Let it be known that the time for lip service has passed. To hold them accountable, we must act.”

****

After being hanged to death in an undisclosed location in Tehran on September 8th without notice to their lawyers, the bodies of the Moradis and Hossein Panahi were *confiscated by the Iranian authorities. The Ministry of Intelligence has since threatened the men’s surviving family members.

Ahmad Amouee, journalist and former prisoner of conscience, published an account of the Moradi and Moradi families’ visit to Tehran’s main cemetery, Behesht-e Zahra, where officials had summoned them to bid farewell to their sons’ bodies. Their final resting place remains unknown.

* In the summer of 1988, on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran at the time, thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners were executed after inquisition-style interrogation sessions. Almost all of these prisoners had already been tried and were either serving their sentence or, having completed their sentence, were awaiting release. All were buried in unmarked, often secret, mass graves.