Nov 30, 2006

Ahwazi: British MPs Condemn Trials

Thirty-three British MPs have signed an Early Day Motion condemning as unfair the recent trials of 10 Ahwazi Arab rights activists. They are calling on the Iranian government to commute the death sentences

Below is an article published by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society:

Thirty-three British MPs, from Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) and Northern Ireland's Social Democrat and Labour Party, have signed an Early Day Motion condemning as unfair the recent trials of 10 Ahwazi Arab rights activists. They are calling on the Iranian government to commute the death sentences. Since the EDM was submitted, a further five Ahwazi activists are known to have been sentenced to death and many more are awaiting trial.

The EDM was drafted by Labour MP Chris Bryant and supported by MPs across the political spectrum, from Jeremy Corbyn on the left to Michael Gove on the right. It follows a successful move by British Green MEPs Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert to secure unanimous cross-party condemnation in the European Parliament of the planned execution of the 11 Ahwazi activists on 16 November. This was followed on 21 November by a Canadian sponsored UN General Assembly resolution that condemned Iran's "increasing discrimination and other human rights violations against ethnic and religious minorities" and its "persistent failure in Iran to comply fully with international standards in the administration of justice - including the absence of due process of law, the refusal to provide fair and public hearings, and the denial of the right to counsel by detainees."

Commenting on the victimisation of Iran's Arab minority, Mr Bryant said: "Iran's human rights record is pretty grisly on a wide range of issues, but the Ahwazi Arabs have suffered more than most from the authorities in Tehran.

"Of course Britain should try to have a good relationship with Iran, but it must be on the basis of an honest criticism of their human rights abuses.

"The widespread use of torture to extract so-called confessions, the refusal to allow defendants to have proper consultations with their lawyers before a trial begins, and the fact that many trials last less than a day and have no witnesses, means that many of these convictions would be considered completely unsound in any civilised country.

"I very much hope that the UK and the European Union will call on Iran to commute the death sentences," said Mr Bryant.

Daniel Brett, Chairman of the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The Ahwazi community, particularly the families of those facing execution, will be thankful of the international solidarity with the men on trial and the efforts of British politicians such as Chris Bryant, Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert to campaign on their behalf. The solidarity shown by the British and European Parliaments and the UN General Assembly has given Ahwazis a sense of hope and optimism, showing that there is an alternative to armed conflict to advance their campaign for equality, freedom and justice.

"It was widely expected that the death sentences would be carried out two weeks ago, following forced confessions by the 11 Ahwazi human rights activists on Khuzestan TV. However, there appears to be a delay. We hope that this is in response to international and domestic pressure and that the government is considering either commuting the death penalties, ordering a retrial that meets international standards and Iran's own obligations, or that the men will be set free.

"No country's judicial system is perfect. But in Iran's case, these miscarriages of justice appear to be the result of political interference at the highest level. Is the Iranian government strong and confident enough to admit the mistakes in these cases? It will certainly prove its critics wrong if it does."

The following is the text of the Early Day Motion in the House of Commons:



Moved by Chris Bryant, MP

That this House notes the long-running persecution of the Ahwazi Arabs in the south west Khuzestan region of Iran by the authorities in Tehran; further notes that 10 Ahwazi Arabs named Ali Motairi, Abdullah Solaimani, Abdulreza Sanawati (Zergani), Ghasem Salamat, Mohamad Chaab Pour, Abdulamir Farajullah Chaab, Alireza Asakreh, Majed Alboghubaish, Khalaf Khaziri and Malek Banitamim have been sentenced to death; supports Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in their complaints that Iranian justice has meant that many Ahwazi Arab defendants have had no opportunity to meet their lawyers before their case has begun, have had one-day trials in secret with no witnesses and have had false confessions extracted through torture; and calls on the Iranian Government to respect the human rights of all its peoples and to commute the death penalty in these cases.