Iran: New wave of executions condemned

Hangings of 11 men and one woman latest in “alarming” upsurge of killings

Amnesty International today expressed alarm at a new wave of executions in Iran and said that it has already recorded almost 250 executions since the beginning of 2007.

The victims of the latest executions include a woman who was apparently convicted for a murder that took place as she sought to protect herself from an attempted rape, and one or possibly even three child offenders.

On Wednesday 17 October alone, at least nine people were executed in Tehran’s Evin Prison, all of them convicted of murder, and at least another three in Shiraz, who were convicted for the kidnapping and rape of two Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights. On 10 October, two Iranian Kurds were hanged in Sanandaj Prison for the murder of a security official, which took place in January 2007.

With the executions in Sanandaj, Shiraz and Tehran, Amnesty International has, to date, recorded 244 executions in the course of 2007, although the organisation fears that the true figure could be significantly higher.

Earlier today, Amnesty International also warned ( www.amnesty.org.uk/deathpenalty ) that a child offender (aged 16 at the time of the alleged offence) is facing execution following an incident in a school playground that left another pupil dead. Iran is the only country in the world that executes child offenders - people convicted of crimes committed before they were 18. Over 70 child offenders are currently facing execution in Iran. Amnesty is urging the Iranian authorities to implement a moratorium on all executions of child offenders as a first step towards a complete ban on such executions.

The execution of at least nine people in Tehran’s Evin Prison included Fakhteh S, a 24 year old, who was sentenced to death for the murder of a man, aged 80, at his house. Fakhteh S reportedly worked as a caretaker at the man’s residence and was found by the court to have stolen some of his property. She alleged that he was trying to rape her when she stabbed him. She was hanged inside Evin Prison at 5.30am yesterday.

Babak, 23, was sentenced to death for the murder by suffocation of his room-mate, which took place on 12 January 2002. It is unclear whether he was under 18 years of age at the time, or if either of two others convicted in the same case were under 18; if so, they were the latest child offenders to have been executed in Iran in violation of international standards.

Amnesty is gravely concerned at reports that six members of Iran’s Arab minority are also at risk of imminent execution. According to their families, Rasool ‘Ali Mezrea’, 65, Hamza Sawari, 20, Zamel Bawi, ‘Abdul-Imam Za’eri, Nazem Bureihi and Ahmad Marmazi, 35, all held in Karoun Prison, Khuzestan, have been moved to a cell reserved for those soon to be executed.

Rasool ‘Ali Mezrea’ is a member of the Ahwazi Liberation Organization and is recognised as a refugee by the United Nations High commissioner for Refugees and had been accepted for resettlement in a third country, but was forcibly returned to Iran from Syria on 16 May 2006.

Hamza Sawari, Zamel Bawi, ‘Abdul-Imam Za’eri and Nazem Bureihi had their death sentences confirmed on 10 June 2006 by Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court in Ahwaz, Khuzestan. At the end of July 2006 the Supreme Court upheld the sentences of Abdul-Imam Za’eri and Nazem Bureihi.

The five men have reportedly been accused of being “mohareb” (at enmity with God) which can carry the death penalty. Other charges include “destabilising the country,” “attempting to overthrow the government,” “possession of home made bombs,” “sabotage of oil installations,” and carrying out bombings in Ahvaz, which took place between June and October 2005 and caused the deaths of at least six people and wounded more than a hundred others.

Nazem Bureihi has reportedly been in custody since 2000 having been arrested on charges of “insurgency”. Though he was serving a 35-year prison sentence, he was among nine men shown on Khuzestan Provincial television on 1 March 2006 “confessing” to involvement in the October 2005 bombings. Zamel Bawi was reportedly convicted of hiding seven home-made time bombs, which he allegedly defused before his arrest.

Amnesty International recognises the right and responsibility of governments to bring to justice those suspected of criminal offences, but opposes the death penalty as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The organisation is calling on the Iran to commute all death sentences with a view to establishing a moratorium.

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