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IRAN: EUROPE UNITES IN CONDEMNATION OF EXECUTIONS OF AHWAZI ARABS

The Presidency of the European Council has today issued a strong condemnation of Iran's execution campaign against Ahwazi Arabs (click here to download statement).

The Presidency, which is currently held by the German government, stated that "the European Union deplores the execution of four Ahwazi Arab men on 24 January sentenced to death in Iran for alleged involvement in terrorist activities in the Ahwaz region.

"The EU has raised with the Iranian authorities its concerns about the conduct of the trial that led to these sentences and the defendants' lack of access to lawyers.

"The EU calls on Iran to halt the executions of the remaining three men, to allow these men a fair and public hearing, and to ensure full openness and transparency in all court proceedings. The EU reiterates its longstanding opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances."

The declaration was supported by the governments of EU and EFTA member states and EU candidate countries, including Turkey. Ukraine and Moldova also backed the European Presidency's condemnation.

UN condemnation

European condemnation of the Iranian regime follows serious allegations by three UN independent human rights experts that the trials of 10 Ahwazi men - including seven who have been executed since early December - were seriously flawed. Philip Alston (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions), Leandro Despouy (Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers) and Manfred Nowak (Special Rapporteur on torture) urged the Iranian Government to "stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing".

The experts state that the 10 men were not allowed to see the defendants prior to their trial, and were given access to the prosecution case only hours before the start of the trial. The lawyers were also intimidated by charges of "threatening national security" being brought against them. The convictions were reportedly based on confessions extorted under torture. "The only element of the cases of these men not shrouded in secrecy was the broadcast on public television of their so-called confessions", Mr. Nowak said.

The Iranian regime has ignored letters sent by the three special rapporteurs. The executions of three of the men were staged in December, with no regard for the strong concerns expressed on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council.

Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has a legal obligation to respect its provisions, which include the right to a fair and public hearing, the right not to be compelled to confess guilt, and the right to "adequate time and facilities for the preparation of ones defence" with the assistance of a lawyer of ones own choosing.

Condemnation inside Iran

Ahwazi Arab activists point out that the executions broke Islamic laws which forbid killing during the month of Moharam.

Iranian human rights activists, led by prisoners rights activist Emad Baghi, have also voiced their criticism of the conduct of the trials and the executions. In an interview this week with the Netherlands-based Radio Zamaneh, Baghi said the Iranian regime should admit that the executions were a mistake. He claimed the men "did nothing and did not take part in any explosion" and therefore the executions were against the law.

"They did not have access to lawyer," Baghi added. "They were kept in solitary confinement for months. They did not receive a fair trial. Only four [out of 40 alleged terrorists] were connected directly to the bombings and the rest are not connected."

Baghi said the root causes of unrest among Ahwazi Arabs are poverty and unequal distribution of wealth. He told Radio Zamaneh: "Government policies are wrong. The Arabs do not have good housing, healthy drinking water, electricity and live in poverty, although they live on top of oil reserves. They are also barred from working for the government."