Feb 19, 2007

Ahwazi: Prisoner Granted Reprieve

An Ahwazi Arab scheduled for execution has been given a last-minute reprieve in what one British Ahwazi Friendship Society leader believes is Iran’s attempt to avoid further international censure.

Below is an article published by British Ahwazi Friendship Society:

The Iranian regime has announced that it made an eleventh hour decision to grant an Ahwazi prisoner a reprieve from execution in a bizarre twist to its campaign of violent oppression of Ahwazi Arabs.

On 13 February, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) received reports that Ahwazi teacher Reisan Sawari died from torture wounds during a hunger strike. The following day, the Iranian regime announced that it had executed three men, who BAFS had assumed were the final three of a batch of 10 Ahwazi men executed following convictions for "waging war on God", but did not include Reisan Sanawati. The secret trials had been condemned by human rights organisations and UN officials for failing to meet international standards, with defendants denied access to lawyers or the right to call witnesses.

In an extraordinary development, the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) reports that the case of one of the three - possibly 41 year old father of six Ghasem Salami (Salamat) - had been referred to the country's Amnesty Commission and the execution had been postponed. The regime appears to be suggesting that Reisan was one of those executed on Wednesday, even though his execution had not been scheduled and there are doubts as to whether the Supreme Court had approved the sentencing by the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court.

BAFS Chairman Daniel Brett said: "Ahwazi activists have accused the Iranian regime of attempting to pass off the illegal killing of Reisan Sawari as a formal execution. Consequently, one of the three scheduled to be executed has been given a last-minute reprieve to avoid international censure over illegal killings. In doing so, the regime has proven the arbitrary nature of Iranian justice. Reisan Sawari was summarily killed and an Ahwazi who was due to be executed was given a summary reprieve.

"Summary justice is being dispensed from the highest echelons of the Islamic theocracy, not by criminal courts. Only the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has the power to overturn at last minute Supreme Court approval of a death sentence. This is proof that he is directing the justice system for his own political purposes. It appears that Khamenei decided last year that a certain number of Ahwazi Arabs had to die following a series of mass demonstrations and did not care whether they were innocent. This is not justice, it is state terrorism and innocent Arab men are being unlawfully killed in a bloody campaign of vengeance against opponents of the Iranian regime.

"The decision to grant a stay of execution also shows that Khamenei is in a weak position, fearing the response of the international community to the treatment of Ahwazi Arabs. He did not anticipate that his execution campaign against Ahwazi Arabs would attract such a high level of international criticism, with the European Union and the UNHRC heavily criticising the executions of Ahwazis. If it had not been for the gathering international solidarity campaign, the regime would not have felt compelled to cover up the reasons for Reisan Sawari's death.

"Khamenei has been shown up as an oppressor of Iran's own Arab population. His actions severely undermine his regime's assumption of leadership in the Islamic world. The Ahwazi issue is like a running sore for Iran - the more it is scratched, the more inflamed it gets.

"The unrest can only be resolved when the minority rights that are enshrined in the Iranian constitution prevail over the vested interests of the religious establishment. This can only occur with free and fair elections, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech so that everyone in Iran has the right to determine their own destinies, without state intimidation and oppression."