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Confusion over Ahwaz executions

According to Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Justice Minister Jamal Karim-Rad has dismissed suggestions that seven Ahwazi Arabs accused by the regime of masterminding bomb attacks in Ahwaz will face the death penalty (click for report).

Karim-Rad claimed that "the foreign media had fabricated news that the persons convicted of the bombings in Ahvaz had received the death sentence," according to IRNA. However, on Monday State Prosecutor General Ghorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi was quoted by the hard-line Mehr News Agency stating: "Some of the convicted in this case have received execution verdict, including the two main culprits, whose presence in the recent Ahvaz incidents was proved and their execution verdict is definitive."

Karim-Rad appears to have over-ruled the death penalty. He told IRNA: "Islam lays down four types of punishment for enemies of God and the crimes committed by all the seven convicts do not call for the death sentence." The news agency said that he "did not say what punishment their crimes deserved." He simultaneously acknowledged that two of the seven have been sentenced to death, but said their cases were under review by the Supreme Court, which has the power to over-turn sentences handed down by lower courts.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "There is a lot of confusion over who is facing execution as the regime is not revealing the identities of those it has convicted or what crimes they are accused of committing. The trials have been held in secret religious courts and relatives are not allowed direct contact with the accused. Matters have not been helped by contradictory statements by officials of the regime. It gives the impression that the justice system is in chaos and hands down arbitrary and politically motivated sentences.

"Over the past few days, BAFS have obtained the names of 12 people who are known to have been sentenced to death. We have also received reports that two people have been executed in Dezful prison and two in a public square in Shiraz. Whether there is any relation between these people and those mentioned by the regime is a mystery.

"We hope that Karim-Rad's statement indicates that lives will be spared. This will go some way to restoring justice for the accused, particularly for the six sons of the Ahwazi tribal leader Hajj Salem Bawi who we are convinced are innocent. Any executions would be highly provocative in a situation where tensions are running high in Ahwaz.

"We back calls by the relatives of the accused for transparent, fair and open trials. We also call on the authorities to release all political prisoners that have been detained since last April's uprising in Ahwaz. We urge the EU and the UNCHR to support the deployment of human rights monitors in Khuzestan in order to review the situation facing Ahwazi Arabs."

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