Jun 29, 2005

Ahwazi Arab Political Prisoner Released in Iran

Leading Ahwazi Arab intellectual Yossef Azizi-Banitorouf was released on Tuesday after being held in prison for two months
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Azizi-Banitorouf was arrested on 25 April after giving a radio interview criticising the regime for killing unarmed protestors in demonstrations in Ahwaz City and other cities and towns in Khuzestan. Recent reports suggested that he become ill after weeks of interrogation and harsh treatment by his captors. It is not known whether he will face trial as the Iranian security services have not announced any charges against him.

An internationally renowned journalist and academic, Azizi-Banitorouf's incarceration attracted criticism from human rights groups across the world, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation. On Monday, the General Assembly of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), which represents many of the world's marginalised ethnic minorities, passed a resolution calling on the Iranian government to release Azizi-Banitorouf and others arrested during and after the April disturbances.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "Yossef Azizi-Banitorouf's release shows that international pressure, not violence, can achieve positive results for the Ahwazi people. We also hope that Akbar Ganji, another Iranian journalist who is still being held in custody despite his ailing health, will be released imminently.

"We call on the Iranian government to uphold human rights and release all Ahwazis who were rounded up and jailed in April. His imprisonment helped bring attention to the economic, social and political marginalisation and oppression of 4.5 million Ahwazi Arabs, who represent around 70 per cent of the population of Khuzestan.

"We are lobbying members of the European Parliament to launch a commission of inquiry and initiate an international investigation into the shooting and killings of unarmed indigenous Ahwazi Arab civilian by the Iranian security forces."

Source: British Ahwazi Friendship Society