Oct 19, 2007

Ahwazi: Prison For Those Who Speak Out

An Iranian man who has been campaigning against the imprisonment and executions of Ahwazi Arabs has himself been arrested and thrown in jail.

An Iranian man who has been campaigning against the imprisonment and executions of Ahwazi Arabs has himself been arrested and thrown in jail.

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

Amnesty International has condemned the imprisonment of leading Iranian human rights campaigner, Emaddedin Baghi, for condemning the execution of Ahwazi Arabs, who he claimed were not given fair trials.

Baghi's lawyer told Amnesty that the charges against the prisoners' rights campaigner related to "media interviews and letters to the authorities regarding Ahwazi Arabs sentenced to death in connection with lethal bomb explosions in Khuzestan province." He was detained on 14 October [2007] when he attended a session before Branch 14 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The charges against him include meeting and colluding to commit offences against national security and propaganda against the system for the benefit of foreign and opposition groups.

In February [2007], Emad Baghi issued his strongest condemnation of the Iranian regime's treatment of Ahwazi Arabs. In an article published in French on his website, Baghi stated that the regime itself is responsible for creating the conditions for ethnic Arab unrest, including bomb attacks in Ahwaz.

He reiterated his call for understanding of Arabs' plight, rather than executions, would help quell unrest and also restated his opposition to the death penalty. He said: "They are individuals who live on the black gold of the oil-bearing province of Khuzestan, but have only known poverty and misery. There are among them individuals who believed in the reform, who fought by peaceful means to assert their rights while trying to elect representatives to the municipal councils of their cities and to Parliament. These efforts were in vain, leading to despair.

"There came a feeling of political and social obstruction. Misery, scarcity, humiliation and despair can only generate one of two reactions: depression and passivity or aggressiveness. And what did we who owe our wellbeing with the oil revenue do? Would these attacks have taken place if we had not remained silent over these inequalities and denounced discrimination?"

He had previously suggested that the executions of Ahwazi Arabs would heighten and injure ethnic sensibilities and create more problems than they would solve.

During the Revolutionary Court hearing on 14 October [2007], Baghi's lawyers were not allowed to attend the session with him. Although bail of 50 million Iranian Touman (US$53,619) was reportedly set for his release, when his family attempted to meet the bail, the judge apparently refused to accept it. Baghi's wife and daughter have also been sentenced to three years' imprisonment, suspended for five years, for their participation in a human rights conference held in the United Arab Emirates.

Amnesty International says it considers the charges against Emaddedin Baghi to be "politically motivated and aimed at silencing the human rights defender's criticism of the human rights situation in Iran. The organisation considers him a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.”