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Amnesty International: Eleven Ahwazis Face Execution

The following is an urgent action published by Amnesty today regarding the detention and possible execution of members of Iran's persecuted Ahwazi Arab community.

At least 11 men, all members of Iran's Arab minority, are reportedly under sentence of death and at risk of execution. They are believed to have been accused of involvement in bomb explosions in the city of Ahvaz, in Khuzestan province, southwest Iran; distributing material against the state; having contact with dissident organizations operating abroad; and endangering state security. Amnesty International recognizes the rights and responsibilities of governments to bring to justice those suspected of criminal offences, but is unconditionally opposed to the death penalty as the ultimate violation of the right to life.

Brothers Zamel Bawi, 29, and Imad Bawi, 31, were reportedly arrested by security forces on 11 August 2005 along with their three other brothers and a cousin. Their father and uncle, Hajj Salem Bawi, a tribal leader and a businessman who runs a number of computer stores in Khuzestan province, was arrested by security forces after enquiring about where his sons and nephew were being detained. He was released on 28 August 2005 and had apparently met three of his sons while he was held in Amaniya Prison, in the city of Ahvaz. He could see that they had been ill-treated.
Zamel Bawi (pictured) is a businessman who owns shops in Ahvaz. He is married and has an 11 month-old son, Hareth. Imad Bawi was studying law at the Lebanese University of Beirut. He was visiting his family in Ahvaz during the summer holiday when the Iranian authorities banned him from returning to Lebanon. Amnesty International has no further information on the reasons for the ban.

At the end of October 2005, Amnesty International received reports that both Zamel and Imad had been sentenced to death. Further reports indicated that the brothers appeared before a Tehran court on 21 February 2006 accused of distributing material against the state, having contact with dissident organizations operating abroad, and endangering state security, possibly in connection with bomb explosions in Ahvaz city. These reports also suggested that they had not been allowed legal representation and that the court sessions took place behind closed doors. On 19 March 2006 the death sentence was reportedly confirmed for Zamel Bawi. No details of the hearing or the outcome were divulged. Amnesty International has no further information about Imad Bawi.

The nine remaining men, Dr Awdeh Afrawi, Nazem Bureihi, Aliredha Salman Delfi, Ali Helfi, Ali Manbouhi, Jaafar Sawari, Risan Sawari, Mohammad Ali Sawari, Moslem al-Ha’i, may also have been sentenced to death for their alleged involvement in bomb explosions in the city of Ahvaz, which took place in October 2005. Seven of them have been shown "confessing" on local television, with one other mentioned as a participant in the bombings. Another has reportedly been convicted of the same offence. Two other men have already been executed.

There has been confusion over the convictions as the trials have been held behind closed doors. Government officials have also given conflicting statements on whether the nine men have been sentenced to death in relation to the bombings.

According to the Minister of Justice, 45 people have been arrested in connection with the October explosions. On 14 February 2006, the Minister of Justice told the state news agency IRNA that seven of them had been convicted on charges including "enmity with God and corruption on earth (moharebeh and ifsad fil-arz, for which the penalty is execution, cross amputation, crucifixion or banishment), and murder" and that their sentences would be announced shortly. On 20 February 2006, the Prosecutor General reportedly said that "some of those convicted in this case have been sentenced to death, including the two main culprits, whose presence in the recent Ahvaz incidents was proved and their execution verdict is definite". On 21 February, in a statement to IRNA commenting on this report, the Minister of Justice stated that only two had been sentenced to death and these sentences were under review by the Supreme Court. He noted that "the seven convicts have not all committed crimes that call for the death penalty."

Although seven men were said to have been convicted of involvement in the October bombings, nine men were shown "confessing" on Khuzestan Provincial TV on 1 March 2006. Among them were Mehdi Nawaseri and Ali Awdeh Afrawi, who were hanged in public the following morning; Dr Awdeh Afrawi (father of executed Ali Awdeh Afrawi), Risan Sawari, Jaafar Sawari, Aliredha Salman Delfi, Ali Manbouhi, Ali Helfi, and Nazem Burehi.

Dr Awdeh Afrawi, 52, is a psychologist at Ahvaz's Shahid Chamran hospital. He and and his son, Ali Awdeh Afrawi, were reportedly arrested in Ahvaz shortly after the October 2005 explosions.
Teacher Risan Sawari, 30, (pictured) was reportedly arrested in April 2005, released and arrested again in September.

Jaafar Sawari and Aliredha Salman Delfi were reportedly arrested in September 2005. Mehdi Nawaseri was reportedly arrested on 19 October 2005 and teacher, Mohammad Ali Sawari, on or around 4 November 2005. Moslem al-Ha'i was mentioned during the "confessions" as a participant in the bombings, but it is not known when he was arrested.

Ali Manbouhi, Ali Helfi and Nazem Bureihi have reportedly been in custody since 2000, when they were arrested on charges of "insurgency" and were each sentenced to 35 years' imprisonment. However, they also featured in the "confessions" footage. In March 2006 there were unconfirmed reports that they were to face a retrial on charges of moharebeh and murder.

On 10 May 2006, according to E'temad newspaper, the Governor of Khuzestan, Amir Hayat Moqaddam, announced that the cases of an unspecified number of people suspected of involvement in the bombings had been transferred to the judiciary and would be tried soon. He said, "It is anticipated that, on account of the type of crime committed, a number of these people will be executed."

Links
Iran prepares for new round of executions in Ahwaz - 13 May
Executed: Young Men Hung by Iranian Tyrants - 2 March
Iran prepares to execute tribal family - 19 February
Iran sentences seven over Ahwaz bombings - 15 February
Iran increases repression in Ahwaz - 8 February
Ahwaz Bombings Come After Weeks of Unrest - 24 January