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UN experts call on Iran not to execute Iranian Arabs after ‘grossly unfair trial’

UN experts call on Iran not to execute Iranian Arabs after ‘grossly unfair trial’

Three independent United Nations human rights experts have called on Iran to stop the imminent execution of seven Iranian Arab dissidents on charges of “being at war with God,” citing allegations of torture and “trials that made a mockery of due process.”

In a statement issued in Geneva yesterday, they urged the Government to grant a fair and public hearing to the seven, part of a group of 10 sentenced to death after a secret trial in Khuzestan province, three of whom were executed last month.

“We are fully aware that these men are accused of serious crimes, including having tried to overthrow the Government after having received military training by US and UK forces,” the experts said.

“However, this cannot justify their conviction and execution after trials that made a mockery of due process requirements,” they added, noting that the defendants’ lawyers were not allowed to see them prior to the trial and were given access to the prosecution case only hours before its start. 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,” one of the experts, Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak, said.

In correspondence with the Government last year, the experts had already voiced concern about the charges of “mohareb,” which according to the Iranian media reports triggered the death penalty. Mohareb can be translated as being at war with God and is a charge typically brought against political dissidents, critics of the Government and alleged spies.

The charge carries the risk of being too vague to satisfy the very strict standards of legality set by international human rights law for the imposition and execution of the death penalty, the experts said.

The other two experts, who are also unpaid, serve in an independent capacity and report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, are Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston and Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Leandro Despouy.

The 10 defendants were part of a larger group of Ahwazi Arab activists arrested in June on charges of having received training in Iraq by United States, United Kingdom and Israeli officials to destabilize the country, sabotage oil installations and overthrow the Government.

The experts noted that the Government has systematically refused to provide information generally on Iranians accused of violently opposing it, violating its obligations under the procedures of the 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, they stressed. While the Covenant allows it to retain the death penalty, it prescribes that capital punishment can only be imposed after a trial satisfying the strictest fair trial guarantees.

These 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.

On Monday, authorities in Ahwaz, Khuzestan’s capital, informed the families of the seven men that they would be executed within the next few days. They are Ghasem Salami, Mohammad Lazem Kaabpour, Abdolamir Farjolah Kaab, Alireza Asakereh, Majad Albughbish, Abdolreza Sanawati, and Khalaf Dohrab Khanafereh.

The three already executed were Malek Banitamim, Abdullah Solymani and Ali Matorizadeh.