'Alarming' Rise In Executions In Iran Raises Concern
By Golnaz Esfandiari,
A public execution in Tehran (January 2010)
According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, in
January alone 83 people were executed in Iran. A total of 179
executions were reported in all of 2010.
Zohreh Eftekhari hopes her husband, prisoner Saeed Malekpour,
will not become yet another victim of what has been described by human rights
activists as "Iran's execution binge."
Malekpour, a 35-year-old dual Iranian-Canadian citizen, was arrested in 2008
after returning to Iran to visit his ailing father. He was sentenced to death in
Malekpour is a web developer who has been accused on a number of charges,
including "designing and moderating adult-content websites," "agitation against
the regime," and "insulting the sanctities."
Eftekhari rejects the charges against her husband, who she believes was tortured
in jail to make a false confession on state television. She complains of a lack
of evidence and irregularities in the case.
"The charges are sensitive in Iran's conservative society, and also they've used
[the case] for political purposes," Eftekhari says. "Those who know Saeed know
that the charges against him are [false]. Those who saw him on television say it
was clear from the way he was speaking and lips trembling that he was forced to
confess to the crimes."
On February 1, Tehran's chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, was quoted by
Iranian news agencies as saying two pornography verdicts were sent to the high
court for confirmation. He did not identify the two men sentenced to death, but
one of them is believed to be Malekpour.
Security Services Nervous
Two independent UN experts warned last week that there has been a "dramatic
surge" in death sentences in Iran, which already has one of the highest
execution rates in the world.
According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, in January
alone 83 people were executed in the country. In 2010, 179 executions were
reported in the Islamic republic.
Executions increased following the 2009 unrest that broke out following the
reelection of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Over a period of three
months -- from election day, June 12, to Ahmadinejad's inauguration in August --
more than 100 executions were recorded by Amnesty International.
Hadi Ghaemi, director of the New York-based International Campaign for Human
Rights in Iran, believes the recent surge in the number of death sentences could
be a reaction to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
"It's very difficult to say why the number of executions has increased, but it
seems that the political developments in the region have had an impact," Ghaemi
says. "Iran's security forces are very much afraid of uprisings like those in
Egypt and Tunisia in Iran."
Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi have accused
Iranian authorities of using death penalties to spread fear and to intimidate
Officials say most of those executed are drug traffickers. In recent months,
however, at least three individuals arrested in the 2009 postelection crackdown
have been hanged.
Human Rights Watch has warned that, at the current rate, more than 1,000
prisoners "easily" could be executed in Iran before the end of the year.
was arrested in opposition protests, then accused of drug
Executions are reportedly taking place after unfair trials and without due
process. Prisoners are being convicted based on what are being described as
"coerced confessions." Those on death row often have no access to their lawyers
and little contact with the outside world, including with their families.
The daughter of Iranian-Dutch woman Zahra Bahrami, who was executed last month
after being charged with drug possession, tells RFE/RL's Radio Farda that she
found out about her mother's death through Persian-language media based outside
Banafsheh Nayebpour says an inmate told her about her mother's last hours. "She
said they came for her" a day before she was executed and "told her to take her
Nayebpour says her mother "spent the night in the prayer room. They didn't tell
her she was going to be executed. They woke her up at four in the morning, took
her to the gallows, and told her to write her last will. She wrote it, and then
they hanged her."
Bahrami was originally arrested for participating in the 2009 antigovernment
protests. The drug charges were brought against her after 400 grams of cocaine
and opium were allegedly found at her house. She was also accused of being part
of an international drug-trafficking ring. Her family has rejected the charges.
'Republic Of Executions'
Ghaemi says issuing and carrying out death sentences is now a state policy in
Iran, prompting some bloggers to refer to the country as the "Republic of
Executions." He says the authorities employ "extreme violence" to strengthen
their rule and to instill fear.
Iran's chief prosecutor, Mohseni Ejei, "has a very prominent role" in the surge
in executions, Ghaemi believes. "He played an important role in the mass
executions that were carried out in the 1980s. He has once again turned that
policy into the policy of the establishment. The executions are being carried
out with his approval."
An observer in the Iranian capital says many citizens appear to support capital
punishment. "Most people believe the state claims that whoever is being executed
is either a murderer or drug trafficker," says the observer, who spoke on
condition of anonymity. "They support that and you always see many showing up
for public executions."
Yet many young Iranians are expressing concern over the executions in blogs and
on online platforms. Several Facebook pages against the death penalty in Iran
have been launched in recent months, including one that calls on Iranians to
state in their wills that even if they're murdered their murderer should not be
One 26-year-old student in Tehran says he supports the death penalty for drug
traffickers and also for those behind bombings that leads to the killing of
civilians. "I am, however, very much opposed to the carrying out of political
executions and [the execution] of juvenile offenders," he adds.
Copyright (c) 2011 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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