Leading Ahwazi Arab intellectual Yousef Azizi Bani Torouf has been subpoenaed to appear at branch three zone seven of Tehran revolutionary court, according to a report by the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
Bani Torouf was detained for 68 days in 2005 following an uprising by Ahwazi Arabs. Human rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation led a campaign for his release. He was released on IRR200 million bail.
Bani Torouf has written on Arab identity in Iran and has criticised the regime's human rights abuses, but has never advocated armed struggle or a secession. He has said that "Arabs of Khuzestan, as a nation or an ethnic group ... are inseparable parts of the Iranian nation. But despite the fact that we are part of the Iranian nation, we do have our own identity that is somewhat different from the rest of the Iranian peoples."
ILNA reported that Bani Torouf, a member of the Iranian Writers Centre, has been ordered to attend the court on 8 February to hear charges against him. The case had been previously heard by Khuzestan (Al-Ahwaz) revolutionary court, where he was accused of acting against Iran's national security. However, the court was not eligible to rule on the matter and the case was moved to the Tehran revolutionary court.
Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Revolutionary courts are renowned for staging show trials. If Bani Torouf is found guilty, he could face execution. There is growing pressure from among hard-liners to stage high-profile executions of famous Ahwazi Arab figures in order to terrorise the Arab population, which has held several anti-government protests in recent months. Bani Torouf's life is in serious danger. His execution would enrage the Ahwazi Arab population. It could provoke massive unrest and in turn give the regime an excuse to step up its ethnic cleansing of Ahwazi Arabs in the name of national security.
"What makes this matter worse is that Bani Torouf is by no means a separatist or a terrorist. He has only ever called for the recognition of Ahwazi Arabs and their rights and an end to state terrorism. He is voicing the opinion of the Ahwazi Arab mainstream, but as a result he is facing imprisonment and execution. Any conviction of Bani Torouf will be a direct assault on the Ahwazi Arab people."
"The Identity and Ancestry of the Indigenous Khuzestani Arabs of Iran" - speech by Youssef Azizi Bani Torouf to University of Isfahan
Arbitrary arrest/fear of torture and ill-treatment, Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf - Amnesty International Urgent Action, 4 July 2005
Arbitrary arrest/fear of torture and ill-treatment, Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf - Amnesty International Urgent Action, 6 May 2005
Reports of Ethnic Violence Suppressed - Human Rights Watch, 11 May 2005
Yosef Azizi Banitrouf freed on bail after 68 days in prison - Reporters Without Borders, 1 July 2005