Report from Reuters Alertnet/Human Right Watch:
Iran's judiciary should rescind the death sentences of at least 10 Iranians of Arab origin convicted of plotting against the state, and retry them before courts that meet international fair trial standards, Human Rights Watch said today.
At least 10 Iranians of Arab origin have been condemned to death following secret trials in the southwestern province of Khuzistan, which has seen ethnic unrest among its Iranian-Arab population in the past year [pictured is 30 year old teacher Raisan Hassan Sawari, one of those sentenced to death - click here for more information]. All the men were charged with armed activity against the state and were tried before Revolutionary Courts. Human Rights Watch spoke with one of the two defense lawyers for the men sentenced most recently, who confirmed that all trials were held behind closed doors and without any independent and impartial observers present.
"These men are accused of serious crimes, but they clearly haven't had a fair trial," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "We always oppose the death penalty, because it is cruel and flawed. But sentencing people to death after such an inadequate trial is especially outrageous."
The lawyers did not have an opportunity to meet with their clients to discuss their case with them, but had to prepare a defense based on the prosecution file presented to them. The trials have all been closed to the public, and defense lawyers remain the sole source of non-official information as to what occurred.
On March 2, the authorities hanged Ali Afrawi and Mehdi Nawaseri in Ahwaz, the capital of Khuzistan province. The authorities accused them of carrying out two bombings in Ahwaz that killed six people on October 15, 2005.
On June 6, Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad said that a Revolutionary Court had sentenced six men to death, after it found them guilty of bombing oil pipelines in July 2005. He did not provide any information about the condemned men, or about when or where their trial was held.
Defense lawyers told Human Rights Watch that on June 8, the Third Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Ahwaz sentenced another four men to death following a one-day trial on June 7. The court found the men, Zamel Bawi, Jaafar Sawari, Raisan Sawari, and Abdulreza Nawaseri, guilty of armed activity against the state.
Human Rights Watch said that the Iranian government is obliged as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to provide persons accused of crimes with "fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal."
"A summary trial behind closed doors does not meet the international standards binding Iran," said Whitson. "For Iran to put these defendants to death would be the ultimate violation of their rights."
Zamel Bawi's lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, told Human Rights Watch that during his client's trial on June 7, the Revolutionary Court prosecutor charged the four men under Iran's penal code as mohareb, meaning "enemies of God." The accusation of being mohareb is leveled against anyone charged with taking up arms against the state and committing violent acts, and is punishable by death.
According to Nikbakht, the state presented evidence that the defendants had purchased homemade bombs which they deactivated and hid, a charge that carries a 10-year prison sentence. But the lawyer said that since the prosecutor presented no evidence that the men had actually carried out any violent acts, they had not committed a capital offense under Iranian law.
Human Rights Watch called on the Iranian government to stop using the death penalty, due to its inherent cruelty and irrevocability.
UNPO Urgent Appeal Concerning Ahwazi Executions
Ahwazis face arrest, deportation and execution - 1 June
Amnesty International: Eleven Ahwazis Face Execution - 17 May
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