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Relative Of Hanged Ahwazis Calls for International Prosecution Of Judges

A relative of two executed Ahwazi Arabs is calling on the international community to issue a warrant for the arrest of two Iranian judge...

UNHCR: Syria lied over return of Ahwazi refugees

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has suggested that the Syrian government lied to the UN and broke international law when it secretly deported four Ahwazi Arab refugees to Iran in May (click here for UNHCR's statement).

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said the organisation was "extremely worried" about the four Ahwazis who Syria deported to Iran despite promising not to, and despite resettlement places already having been secured abroad for them. The Syrian regime, which is allied to Iran, lied to the UN that the four were in custody after they had been forcibly removed to Tehran.

The British Ahwazi Frienship Society (BAFS) has learned that the prominent Ahwazi dissident Faleh Abdullah Al-Mansouri, a refugee who obtained Dutch nationality, is being held in Section 209 of Evin Prison, which operates as a torture centre run by the Ministry of the Interior. He had fled Iran after being sentenced to death in 1989 for his activities.

Redmond appealed to Iranian authorities "to ensure the well-being of the four and allow for a fair trial and the right to due process."

"Extradition does not mean that a refugee or asylum seeker loses his or her international protection status," he added. "UNHCR also appeals for access to the four refugees and we are prepared to find alternative solutions for them."

In a statement released to the media, the UNHCR calls on Syria to abide by its obligations under international law and to ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is recognised. According to Article 34 of the Syrian Constitution, the deportation of refugees to countries where they will face persecution should be prevented. Moreover, non-refoulement is a principle of customary international law which prohibits states from returning a refugee or asylum seeker to territories where there is a risk that his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. This principle has precedence over any bilateral or multilateral extradition agreement.

Amnesty International has been among those who have accused the Syrian regime of defying international law with the illegal deportation of Ahwazi refugees.
Iran names three executed Ahwazis

Iran names three executed Ahwazis

The Iranian regime has named the three men it executed on Tuesday. They are: Ali Matouri Zadeh (pictured on left), Malek Bani Tamim (centre) and Alireza Asakre (right). The regime has prevented relatives of the men from burying them in accordance with Islamic custom and is instead burying them in a mass, unmarked grave site called Lanat Abad or "place of the damned" (click here for details).

The death sentences against 11 men, including the three executed on Tuesday, were condemned in a unanimous vote by the European Parliament as well as an Early Day Motion in the British Parliament (click here for details).

Ali Matouri Zadeh, 30, had been forced to confess to heading an insurgent group after months of torture and threats to the lives of his wife and baby daughter, who were also imprisoned by the regime. He had been a founding member of the Lejnat Al-Wefaq (Reconciliation Committee), which attempted to advance Ahwazi Arab minority rights through constitutional and legal means. It was set up in 1999 and participated in elections. However, in the last parliamentary elections in 2004, conservatives in the regime barred candidates nominated by Lajnat Al-Wefagh. The group was dismantled, closing down legal possibilities for demands for Ahwazi rights. In November, it was outlawed for allegedly stirring up communalism against the regime - a claim that is without foundation.

Matouri Zadeh is described by friends as a gentle and principled human rights activist. He was arrested in February along with his pregnant wife, 26 year old school teacher Fahima Ismaili Badawi (pictured). She gave birth to a baby girl named Salma in the notorious Sepidar Prison in March. Both mother and daughter have remained in prison, with intelligence officials putting pressure on Fahima to denounce her husband, divorce him and change the girl's name to a Persian one. She refused and was sentenced in June to 15 years imprisonment by Branch 3 of the Revolutionary court in Ahwaz City.

Amnesty International has suggested the mother and daughter were held to pressure Matouri Zadeh to confess to participating in bomb attacks (click here for latest report). Matouri Zadeh's "confession" was probably intended to save his wife and daughter's lives, but has also vindicated the regime's violent clamp-down on Ahwazi Arab reformist groups such as Wefaq.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "These men were innocent. The European Parliament, members of the British parliament and international human rights organisations agree that they were not granted a fair trial. The charges against them were false, they were denied access to lawyers and their trials were held in secret revolutionary courts. Despite all evidence that this was a miscarriage of justice, the regime went ahead and killed three innocent Ahwazi men with a further 11 men set to be executed in coming days and weeks.

"The executions are intended to intimidate, terrorise and collectively punish Ahwazi Arabs for daring to speak up against the regime's ethnic cleansing programme in the Ahwazi homeland. This programme of ethnic restructuring involves forced relocation, land confiscation, the elimination of local Arab language and heritage and institutionalised racial discrimination. The regime wants the resources of the Ahwazi homeland and is deliberately impoverishing them and denying them their birthright.

"We call on the international community - particularly the Arab League - to impose direct sanctions on Iran's religious and political elites, including the freezing of financial assets that are held in offshore bank accounts and are used finance terrorism. The wealth of the mullahs comes from the oil-rich and fertile land stolen from the Ahwazi Arabs. They must be denied access to profits made from the slaughter, persecution and impoverishment of Ahwazi Arabs."
Iran begins mass execution of Ahwazis, defying world opinion

Iran begins mass execution of Ahwazis, defying world opinion

The Iranian regime has defied the UN General Assembly, the European Parliament and Iranian and international human rights organisations and has begun its campaign of mass executions of Ahwazi Arab opposition activists.

The Khuzestan branch of the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) has reported that three Ahwazi Arabs have been executed for "waging war on God" (click here for ISNA article). ISNA did not name the men and it is believed that the executions were carried out in prison. A further 11 Ahwazis are awaiting execution following trials that were condemned by the European Parliament in a unanimous resolution in November (click here for details) as well as 48 British MPs who signed an Early Day Motion (click here to download the EDM).

The regime broadcast videos of forced confessions of 11 Ahwazi Arabs on Khuzestan TV in early November (click here for more information), but delayed the executions due to international outrage and municipal elections. Today's execution of the three men comes just two days after the results of the Ahwaz municipal and Assembly of Experts elections, which were affected by a mass boycott and the defeat of pro-Ahmadinejad supporters.

The men were convicted following one-day trials in closed sessions of the Revolutionary Court in Ahwaz, with little or no access to lawyers and after being tortured into giving confessions. In some cases, family members were held in custody to put pressure on the men to confess.

Ali Matourizadeh, a founding member of the Lejnat Al-Wefaq (Reconciliation Committee), an Arab group that won control of Ahwaz City Council in the 2003 municipal elections but has subsequently been banned, was among those sentenced to hang. His wife was taken into custody when eight months pregnant and gave birth to a girl called Salma while in prison in March. She was instructed by the regime to denounce and divorce her husband and change the baby's name to a Persian name, but she refused the regime's demands. Both mother and daughter remain in prison.
Crushing defeat for Ahmadinejad in Ahwaz

Crushing defeat for Ahmadinejad in Ahwaz

Ahwazi Arabs delivered a crushing blow to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received in the elections for the Assembly of Experts and municipal authorities as well as by-elections for the Majlis.

Writing in the Elaph newspaper, the Tehran-based Ahwazi journalist Youssef Azizi Bani Torouf wrote that 60 per cent of eligible voters boycotted the elections in the Arab majority province of Khuzestan, where over 170 Arab candidates were barred from standing. Despite this, anti-Ahmadinejad independent "reformists" achieved a complete landslide.

The popular rejection of Ahmadinejad comes after months of mass arrests and executions of Ahwazi political activists and the outlawing of the Lejnat Al-Wefaq (Reconciliation Committee), an Arab group that had won all but one seat on the Ahwaz City Council in 2003. This year's elections saw Ahmadinejad supporters win just two seats on the council, despite violent intimidation; over 25,000 political activists have been arrested and hundreds have been killed or 'disappeared' since the April 2005 Ahwazi Arab intifada (uprising) against the regime.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The largest vote was the boycott vote, with an absolute majority of Ahwazis rejecting the entire political system. Those elected to office have no mandate to govern when the majority of voters boycotted the elections. Unless Ahwazi Arabs are allowed to form their own parties to contest free and fair elections, they have the right to reject the political system and sabotage the instruments of their oppression.

"Ahmadinejad is so unpopular in Ahwaz that his supporters cannot achieve any respectable vote despite state violence and ballot stuffing. Ahwazi voters completely rejected him in last year's presidential election and anti-Ahmadinejad sentiment has hardened since he came to office. Ahmadinejad has not even dared to step into the city because he is not welcome."
Turkmen-Iran Free Trade Zone Withers

Turkmen-Iran Free Trade Zone Withers

This article has been submitted for publication on the BAFS website by Muhammad Tahir based in Aq Qala, northern Iran. He is a Prague-based journalist specializing in Afghan, Iranian and Central Asian affairs and is author of "Illegal Dating-a journey into the private life of Iran".

Amangeldi sits cross-legged in his shop, surrounded by heavy silver jewelry and handmade carpets, sipping green tea pondering the future of his failing business.

He was one of the first merchants to set up shop when Iran launched a special economic zone here in Inche Borun, a town in northeast Iran right on the border with Turkmenistan. He was drawn by the prospect of easy access to traditional handicrafts from Turkmenistan, and thought he would find a ready market in what was promised as a flourishing duty-free zone visited by people on both sides of the border.

It should have worked. The people in this part of Iran are mostly ethnic Turkmen, who would welcome contact with their kin across the border, which was hermetically sealed until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Inche Borun lies on the main route into Turkmenistan from Gunbad-e-Kavus, the major town in this part of Iran.

"We had very good contacts with our Turkmen brothers over the border. They used to come to this bazaar to sell their handicrafts and buy staple goods," said Amangeldi, 32. "It was beneficial to both communities - on one side [Iran] it helped reduce unemployment, while for the people on the other side, it was the nearest place to come and get basic goods, as the major towns in Turkmenistan are a long way away."

The idea was driven by Iranian officials in a bid to boost border trade and create employment. Initial success after the special zone was launched in 1997 led them to expand the number of shops to around 250, although local Iranian officials say Turkmenistan never delivered on its promises to invest in the project.

Nearly ten years on, the plan has failed due to lack of support from both governments, neither of which has proved keen on freedom of movement in a sensitive border area. Turkmenistan has enforced strict border controls, most directed at its own citizens, which have effectively strangled trade.

Iranian statistics show that fewer than 1,800 people crossed the border at Inche Borun in the first eight months of 2006.

Seven out of ten businesses in the Inche Borun's duty-free market have closed, so that just 40 of the 137 original shops in the bazaar are still functioning. The market opens only on Fridays instead of daily, and the only customers are Iranian nationals, plus the occasional long-distance truck driver heading north into Turkmenistan.

Amangeldi thinks he will be joining the exodus of traders soon.

"I don't know what went wrong on the Turkmen side - they started implementing such strict policies on crossing the border," he said.

Oraz Muhammad, who has just closed the shop he had in the bazaar, explained that ethnic Turkmen from Iran are allowed to travel into Turkmenistan within a 45-kilometre radius of the Inche Borun crossing point. But he said this was not enough, since they would need to travel further to be able to visit major commercial centres. Nor do Turkmenistan's border officials allow the traders to bring bulk consignments of goods out of the country.

Other merchants complained that their own government had failed to sustain the duty-free zone, and water and electricity supplies remained erratic.

A more serious gripe voiced by many was that the Iranian government had failed to pressure Turkmenistan to ease the border controls.

Many see political factors behind the failure of Tehran and Ashgabat to support the scheme over the longer term.

Politically, Iran and Turkmenistan are a world apart - one a Shia theocracy, the other a secular post-Soviet state dominated by the personality cult surrounding idiosynchratic president Saparmurat Niazov. But both governments have made great efforts to get on since Turkmenistan emerged as an independent country.

Their cooperation is pragmatic and focuses on economic links across their long border. In addition, both countries have cool relationships with other neighbours and the wider international community, so they have an interest in remaining on good terms. Because of this, the election of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as Iran's president in place of the reformer Mohammad Khatami has not substantially affected the relationship with Turkmenistan.

One local analyst in Gunbad-e-Kavus, who did not want to be named, attributed the decline in official support for the Inche Borun market to a change in personalities at the top in Iran the year the project was launched.

"This was an entirely political project rather than a social or economic one, because the Iranian president at that time [Ayatollah Akbar] Hashemi Rafsanjani was a close friend of President Niazov," he said. "So after Rafsanjani lost the presidential election [to Khatami] in August 1997, the Iranian-Turkmenistan relationship never regained its former warmth."

Other analysts, such as Aziz Ismailzade, an Iranian Turkmen who now lives abroad, say both governments are paranoid about letting any of their citizens travel freely.

"Their reluctance stems from the same reason - the fear factor. Neither [government] wishes to allow its people unfiltered access to outsiders," he said,

Thus, restricting border traffic may have less to do with bilateral relations than with the external pressures both governments are facing over human rights and other concerns.

"Just as pressure on Niazov's regime has increased in recent years, international pressure on Iran is also at a high level because of its nuclear ambitions," said Ismailzade. "This has led both countries to impose unprecedented restrictions on population movement."

Tehran keeps a close eye on its own ethnic Turkmen community, as it does with other minorities on its periphery such as the Azeris and Kurds, for any sign of separatist ambitions. Niazov's nation-building exercise is all about Turkmen identity - but he has taken care not to irritate Tehran by stirring up nationalist sentiment among the Iranian Turkmen.

Burhan Karadaghi, an Iranian historian based in Germany, believes both governments may have concluded that keeping these border communities at a distance from each other may be best for everyone.

"Neither Niazov nor Ahmedinejad is in favour of letting these [Turkmen] people stay in touch. Niazov would feel insecure if the border was wide open, while the Iranian regime would be unhappy if its own own ethnic minority was in contact with kinsmen outside the country," he said.
Ahwaz elections: Iran's intimidation, repression and racism

Ahwaz elections: Iran's intimidation, repression and racism

Ahwazi Arabs have staged a mass boycott of the elections to the Ahwaz municipal council and the Assembly of Experts amid accusations of electoral fraud, intimidation and political repression.

Writing in the Arabic media, leading Ahwazi journalist Youssef Azizi Bani Torouf has highlighted the regime's ban on Arab candidates, with members of the Ahwaz council prevented from seeking re-election.

In the 2003 elections to the council, all but one of the winning candidates were supported by the Lejnat Al-Wefaq (Reconciliation Committee) which advocated Arab minority rights on the basis of the equal rights enshrined in the Iranian Constitution. The elections were widely praised for being free, fair and transparent. Since then, the party has been outlawed and Wefaq members have been imprisoned, with leading members such as Ali Matouri Zadeh now facing execution.

In this year's elections, the regime has blocked over 170 Ahwazi Arabs from running for election to the Ahwaz municipal council following a racist vetting procedure conducted by the regime. While Ahwaz City is 70 per cent Arab, the vast majority of candidates allowed to stand for election are non-Arabs, including hardliners from the Revolutionary Guards which has conducted ethnic cleansing programmes in the province.

In the run-up to the polls, the regime conducted mass arrests of Ahwazi Arabs and fired on crowds of demonstrators with live ammunition (click here for further details). The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation reports that three Ahwazis arrested by the security services during recent demonstrations - Hassan Mola Niassi (31), Jassim Nadhan Niassi (30) and Nasseri Ramadan (26) - are being tortured in custody.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "These elections have been marred by state violence, intimidation and electoral fraud. The bar on Arab council members from seeking re-election in order to elect hardline non-Arab outsiders is yet more proof of violent institutional anti-Arab racism in Iran.

"The elections violate the spirit of Iran's constitution, particularly Articles 15, 19 and 20 which guarantee equal rights for ethnic minorities. If the government is violating the constitution, then the government has no mandate to govern and no authority over the Ahwazi Arabs.

"Ahwazis have the right to disrupt peacefully all the activities of illegitimate municipal authorities and sabotage the instruments of their oppression. We urge Ahwazi Arabs to adopt civil disobedience tactics to overthrow the new Ahwaz City Council, whoever is declared the winner."

Iran/Syria: Ahwazis in fear after news of deportation and deaths

The following report was published by IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service - click here for the original article

Ethnic Arab (Ahwazi) refugees from Iran now living in Damascus have expressed fear as news emerged that Syria has deported three more Ahwazi activists to Iran, where they face torture and execution.

Three Ahwazi activists, thought to be imprisoned in Damascus since their arrest in April, were deported to Iran in May, Sima Watling of Amnesty International's East Gulf team told IRIN on 6 December.

Watling said relatives of two of the men, Rasool Mazra - whose family has resettled in Norway - and Taher Mazra - whose family was prevented from leaving Syria for Sweden in October - had received telephone calls from the men to say they were being held in Karoun Prison, in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan.

On 7 December, a source who spoke directly to the family of Taher Mazra told IRIN that Taher Mazra was, indeed, forcibly returned from Syria to Iran in May. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Rasool Mazra had also called his family in Khuzestan to say he was imprisoned and was facing imminent execution.

Both men had been recognised as refugees by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Laurens Jolles, acting head of the UNHCR in Damascus, said that despite numerous requests, the agency had been unable to obtain information about the status of the Ahwazis arrested in Syria.

"Syria is aware that its own constitution prevents the deportation of refugees to countries where they will face persecution, as do international laws," he said.

Both men are members of the Ahwazi Liberation Organization (ALO), the Ahwazis' leading political opposition movement, and according to their families they had been tortured since their recent captivity in Iran.

The third Ahwazi, Jamal Obaidy, Chair of Ahwazi Student Union in Syria, is also believed to have been deported to Iran, though no contact has been made with his family. Neither Iran nor Syria have confirmed or denied any of the three returns.

The UNHCR in Damascus is currently unable to confirm that Rasool Mazra, Jamal Obaidy and Taher Mazra have been deported from Syria to Iran.

The news followed two similar cases of deportation.

Faleh Abdullah Mansuri, the 60-year-old head of the ALO who holds Dutch citizenship, was also arrested by Syrian security in April while he was visiting an Ahwazi friend in Damascus.

Syrian authorities confirmed earlier this year that Mansuri, also a UNHCR recognised refugee, was deported to Tehran in May at the request of Iran, just a few weeks before the two countries signed a landmark agreement on military and security cooperation.

Mansuri is now reportedly in prison in Tehran, facing a sentence of death by hanging imposed on him in 1988 by a military court, apparently in connection with his activities as a member of the ALO.

Saeed Saki, also a member of the ALO and a UNHCR refugee, had been due to be resettled in Norway when he was arrested and extradited to Tehran. Only high-level intervention from international officials prevented his execution, and he remains imprisoned in Iran.

Since an uprising by Ahwazis in April 2005 - a two-month campaign of civil unrest that culminated in a bomb attack on an oil installation east of Ahvaz - Iran has intensified its campaign against the Ahwazis, detaining more than 25,000, executing at least 131 while more than 150 have disappeared, according to the US-based Ahwazi Human Rights Organisation.

Amnesty International report that following the uprising hundreds of Khuzestan's Arabs were arrested, some were reportedly tortured, and at least two men were executed following unfair trials.

A source at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that any prisoners of conscience had been extradited from Syria to Iran.

"There is an agreement between Syria and Iran that any Iranian who has been jailed in Syria for a crime can be transferred to complete his sentence in Iran," he said. "But no prisoners of conscience have been handed over to Iran by Syria."

Ahwazi refugees first began arriving in Iraq and Syria in the 1980s during the Iran/Iraq war as Tehran accused them of supporting Baghdad.

The past two years has seen concern rising about the deteriorating human rights situation in Khuzestan where activists estimate some 1.5 million Arabs have been driven off their land by a series of vast state-sponsored industrial projects, coupled to massive organised influxes of Persian workers and their families.

According to human rights organisations, individuals promoting Arab rights in Khuzestan have been targeted, and access to the region has been denied to foreign and local journalists.

Al-Mansouri to receive "open trial" in Iran

This report is based on an article by Danya Chaikel, a Maastricht resident, in the on-line Crossroads magazine.

Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot has received assurances from his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, currently on a visit in the Netherlands, that Ahwazi dissident and Dutch citizen Faleh Abdullah Al-Mansouri (pictured with the mayor of Maastricht) is still alive in Iran and that he will get an open trial.

Al-Mansouri, a UNHCR registered refugee and leader of the Ahwaz Liberation Organisation (ALO), was abducted by Syrian authorities while on a visit to Damascus in May and illegally deported to Iran, in contravention of the Geneva Conventions on Refugees. He is currently being held in Section 209 of Evin Prison, which is run by the Ministry of the Intelligence and where opposition activists are tortured by interrogators.

An open trial will mean that representatives of the Dutch embassy or consulate will be allowed in court. Mottari added that Al-Mansouri's family would be allowed to visit him in Iran. He did not however give any information about the visa application submitted by Al-Mansouri's Dutch lawyer Gerard Spong. Iran does not recognise Al-Mansouri's Dutch nationality.
According to Dagblad De Limburger, Amnesty International Maastricht spokesperson Sigrid Haenen comments that the human rights group is caustiously optimistic about this latest development, but that it will advise Al-Mansouri's family not to accept Iran's offer (click here for report). Al-Mansouri's son believes that his father's lawyer Gerard Spong would be more helpful to him at this point in Iran than his direct family (click here for more information).
Dagblad De Limburger further reports that Amnesty International Maastricht hopes that the city will send an official representative - "preferably Gerd Leers himself" - to Iran in order to ensure that Al-Mansouri, who is charged by Iranian authorities for "terrorist activities", receives a fair trial.
Al-Mansouri was a former high-ranking officer in the Iranian military who rebelled against the Islamic Republic during the Iran-Iraq War. He was sentenced to death by an Iranian military court in 1988, but escaped from custody and fled to Baghdad. He, his wife and four children were relocated to the Netherlands by the UNHCR in 1989 and later acquired Dutch citizenship.
It is unclear whether the Dutch government has accepted the methods by which Al-Mansouri was abducted and transferred to Iran or whether it is making representations to move the dissident from Section 209. The Iranian government has not given any assurance of open trials for four other Ahwazi refugees abducted from Damascus and it is unclear whether the Dutch government is pursuing these cases. The UNHCR has issued complaints on behalf of all five men.
The Iranian regime has tried other Ahwazi dissidents in one-day trials revolutionary courts, which have been held in closed sessions with defendents denied access to lawyers. Fifteen Ahwazi Arabs are currently facing execution. The trials and death penalties have been condemned by the European parliament, the UN General Assembly and an Early Day Motion signed by 47 British members of parliament.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Condemns Iran's Execution of Ahwazis

Intelligence Committee Chairman Condemns Iran's Execution of Ahwazis

The Chair of the British Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, Paul Murphy, has signed a parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM) condemning Iran's persecution of Ahwazi Arabs. Mr Murphy, a former government minister, heads the powerful parliamentary committee which oversees the administration and policies of the MI6, MI5 and GCHQ.

The EDM, which is a non-binding declaration by the legislature, was drafted by Labour MP Chris Bryant and has so far attracted the support of 47 MPs from across the political spectrum. Leading members of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs have also backed the EDM, including Labour leadership candidate John McDonnell.

The EDM states that "this House notes the long-running persecution of the Ahwazi Arabs" by the Iranian regime and condemns the planned execution of 10 Ahwazi Arabs. It "supports Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in their complaints that Iranian justice has meant that many Ahwazi Arab defendants have had no opportunity to meet their lawyers before their case has begun, have had one-day trials in secret with no witnesses and have had false confessions extracted through torture; and calls on the Iranian Government to respect the human rights of all its peoples and to commute the death penalty in these cases."

Commenting on the victimisation of Iran's Arab minority, Mr Bryant said: "Iran's human rights record is pretty grisly on a wide range of issues, but the Ahwazi Arabs have suffered more than most from the authorities in Tehran.

"Of course Britain should try to have a good relationship with Iran, but it must be on the basis of an honest criticism of their human rights abuses.

"The widespread use of torture to extract so-called confessions, the refusal to allow defendants to have proper consultations with their lawyers before a trial begins, and the fact that many trials last less than a day and have no witnesses, means that many of these convictions would be considered completely unsound in any civilised country.

"I very much hope that the UK and the European Union will call on Iran to commute the death sentences," said Mr Bryant.

John McDonnell told the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS): "We all have a responsibility to stand up to protect the human rights and security of all those who are at risk. It is for this reason that I join many elected representatives drawn from across the world in calling for the rights of Ahwazi Arabs to be respected and for a halt to the threatened executions."

The EDM follows a successful move by British Green MEPs Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert to secure unanimous cross-party condemnation in the European Parliament of the planned execution of the 11 Ahwazi activists on 16 November. This was followed on 21 November by a Canadian sponsored UN General Assembly resolution that condemned Iran's "increasing discrimination and other human rights violations against ethnic and religious minorities" and its "persistent failure in Iran to comply fully with international standards in the administration of justice - including the absence of due process of law, the refusal to provide fair and public hearings, and the denial of the right to counsel by detainees."

Related stories::
British Anti-War MPs condemn Iran's persecution of Ahwazi Arabs - 5 December
British Foreign Minister condemns Iran's treatment of Ahwazis facing execution - 28 November
British MPs condemn Ahwazi trials - 28 November
UN General Assembly Criticises Iran's Discrimination of Minorities - 23 November
Swedish MPs appeal to Ahmadinejad over executions - 19 November
European Parliament condemns Iran over Ahwazi executions - 16 November
Senior European Parliamentarian condemns Iran's ethnic cleansing - 14 November
"Iran is guilty of ethnic cleansing" - Green MEPs - 14 November
Iran accuses Canada of spying after UN vote

Iran accuses Canada of spying after UN vote

The Iranian regime is seeking retribution for the UN General Assembly's condemnation of its atrocious human rights record (click here for more information) and has launched an astonishing attack on the Canadian government, which sponsored the UN resolution.

The regime has accused the Canadian embassy in Tehran of espionage and has threatened to close down the diplomatic mission. It also tabled a resolution condemning Canada over its treatment of aboriginals and immigrants, which was rejected by a margin of 170-6. Iran only managed to muster the support of some of the world's most notorious human rights abusers - Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Burma and Belarus - indicating its increasingly isolated status. Even its new-found ally Venezuela refused to back the Iranian position.

In an interview with the BBC's Persian Service, Canadian Foreign Office spokesman Rodney Moore claimed that the espionage claims and the attacks on Canada's human rights record were baseless. He said the Iranian claims were retaliation for international condemnation of Iran's treatment of women and ethnic and religious minorities as well as poor standards of justice (click here for the BBC interview). Canada's relations with Iran have been strained since a Canadian photographer, Zahra Kazemi, was tortured to death in Iran's notorious Evin Prison in 2003.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "Ahwazi Arabs and other ethnic groups in Iran can only dream of having the political autonomy and cultural freedom Canada's Innuit enjoy. Canadian federalism is a model for a diverse multi-ethnic society like Iran. It is therefore ironic that Iran is condemning Canada for its treatment of minorities, given Iran's record of systematic abuse of Ahwazi Arabs and other non-Persian ethnic groups which at times has led to ethnic cleansing, particularly in Al-Ahwaz and Balochistan."