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"27 Ahwazi dissidents in custody" - Emadeddin Baghi

According to BBC Persian Service, one of Iran's leading human rights activists, Emadeddin Baghi, the head of the the Society for Defending Prisoners' Rights and editor of the banned Jumhuriyat (Republic) newspaper, has identified 27 Ahwazi Arab political prisoners in custody, including 18 alleged members of the Kataeb party. They are among 146 dissidents being held by the regime, which also include 50 members of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and five members of the Kurdish Komala party.

The regime does not recognise dissidents in its custody as political prisoners and therefore does not publish statistics. This makes it difficult to assess the true number of prisoners of conscience held by the regime. Most are accused by the regime of posing a threat to national security. Baghi himself received a three-prison sentence in 2000 for "attacking national security" and "disseminating false news." He was released in February 2003, but his passport has still not been returned to him.

Baghi wrote an appeal in June in relation to death sentences issued to Ahwazis who the regime claims were "waging war on God". He wrote: "Discussions with the families and lawyers of those sentenced have convinced me that the court decision made about the fate of these individuals requires your close attention in order to prevent the possibility of grave injustice."

He called on the authorities to reduce the sentences, allow the accused to meet with their lawyers and added that "the possibility of defendants admitting to uncommitted crimes under duress is not unheard of and in this case of particular national sensitivity all possibilities must be investigated in order to avoid costly mistakes not only in relation to the taking of precious human lives but also because of the real potential for heightening and injuring ethnic sensibilities."

Click here for Mr Baghi's letter to Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, Chief of the Judiciary