How Iran Deals with Ahwazi Arabs

Amnesty reports:

Amnesty International deplores the executions earlier today of four Iranian Arab men and fears for the lives of other prisoners who are reported to have been sentenced to death recently following unfair trials.

Those executed today are believed to be Khalaf Derhab Khudayrawi, Alireza Asakreh, Mohammad Jaab Pour and Abdulamir Farjallah Jaab. They were among 10 men, all members of Iran’s Arab minority, who were reportedly convicted of being mohareb (at enmity with God) on account of their alleged involvement in bomb attacks in October 2005 which caused the deaths of at least six people and wounded more than a hundred others, in Ahvaz city, Khuzestan province. According to reports, the four men were denied access to their lawyers in the two weeks prior to their execution.

On 9 November 2006, the head of the Khuzestan Prosecutor’s Office, Abbas Ja’afari Dowlat Abadi, reportedly announced that the Supreme Court had upheld the death sentences against 10 of some 19 people allegedly responsible for bomb explosions in Khuzestan and that they would be publicly hanged.

On 13 November 2006, an Iranian local television station, Khuzestan TV, broadcast a documentary film which included the “confessions” of nine of these men, In the programme, the 10 people, said to be members of a group named Al-e Naser, (a little-known Iranian Arab militant group that is not known to have been active since the time of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s) “confessed” to their involvement in the bomb explosions.

On 19 December 2006 three of them, Abdullah Suleymani (initially named as Alireza Asakreh), Malek Banitamim and Ali Matouri Zadeh were reportedly executed in prison in Khuzestan province.

At the beginning of June 2006, seven lawyers who appeared before Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court representing the defendants, including some of the 10 who were sentenced to death, reportedly wrote formally to the court’s president complaining about irregularities in the trial. They said they were notified of their clients’ trial date only one to two days in advance, instead of the minimum of five days stipulated in Article 64 of the Civil Procedure Code, and could not study their clients’ files fully; that they were not allowed to meet in private with their clients although they had requested this and despite the head of the judiciary’s stated assurance on 20 May 2006 that “nobody has the right to issue an order in contravention of the law and to deprive the accused of the right of visits by their family and lawyer. They must know quite clearly that they may request private meetings with their lawyers.” The lawyers also complained that trial sessions have been held without other defendants or their lawyers being present.

Following this letter, in October 2006 at least five of the lawyers were summoned to appear before Branch 7 of the Revolutionary Court in Ahwaz for allegedly endangering national security by complaining about the legal proceedings and publishing their protest on Ahwazi websites abroad. They were reportedly released upon payment of bail.

On 10 January 2007, three leading UN human rights experts – Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Leandro Despouy, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture – jointly called on the government of Iran to “stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing.” The seven individuals concerned were reported to be Abdulreza Sanawati Zergani, Qasem Salamat, Mohammad Jaab Pour, Abdulamir Farjallah Jaab, Alireza Asakreh, Majed Alboghubaish Khalaf and Derhab Khudayrawi. These UN experts stated: “We are fully aware that these men are accused of serious crimes… However, this cannot justify their conviction and execution after trials that made a mockery of due process requirements.”