By Fereshteh Ghazi, Rooz Online
“We have absolutely no political executions in Iran and those executed are related to individuals who have taken up arms against the regime. This is not political activity. Furthermore, according to the laws of the Islamic republic, execution is not the only punishment for those who have engaged in acts against the national security of the country. If you assert that we have executed individuals solely because of this, you should publish their names.” These are parts of remarks made by Sadegh Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary branch of government during whose term tens of political prisoners have been executed and many more remain on the death row.
Execution of Kurdish opposition in Iran in August 1979
1980 Pulitzer Prize, Spot News Photography, Jahangir Razmi of Ettela'at, Iran
The execution of political prisoners and opponents of the Islamic republic began right after the victory of the 1979 revolution when those associated with the previous regime were executed. This included those who held senior posts in the ancient regime to those who held no posts or were in some way affiliated to the monarchy. This also included some who had fought for the victory of the 1979 revolution along with people who attained official posts in the newly-created Islamic republic but who had turned into critics or opponents of the policies of the new rulers. They all faced the firing squads.
In the first years of the Islamic republic, news and images of those who were executed filled the pages of the local media. But coverage of the executions gradually dropped and reached a point where officials at different levels would actually even begin to deny them or prevent their publication. It is in this light that Mr. Larijani claims that “there are no political executions” in Iran.
The80s are generally labeled as the decade of executions in the Islamic republic. This is the period when thousands of political activists, including critics and opponents of the Islamic republic were sent to the firing squads. The height of these massacres came in September of 1989 when hundreds of political prisoners were executed en masse, according to narratives provided by eye witnesses or family members. Officials and authorities of the Islamic republic, then and subsequently, have remained silent on these executions and have refrained from announcing their position on the killings.
Such executions continued into the next decade as well so that today there is a list of political prisoners among the prison population who have been sentenced to death. In the south of the country individuals such as Mohammad Ali Amvari, Hashem Shabani, Hadi Rashedi, seyed Jaber Alboshoke and his brother seyed Mokhtar Alboshoke have been sentenced to death on charges of “acting against national security” as they await their fate in prison. These five were members of a cultural organization, Alhavar, that in obtained its operational licence during Mohammad Khatami’s presidency in 2002. It even chose its name - which means dialog - because that is precisely the message that Khatami spread domestically and internationally, his famed dialog of civilizations idea. Their activities were cultural, aimed at preserving the Arabic language through poetry gatherings and the recitation of chants in Arabic, organization of classes and ceremonies, including staying in touch with families who did not allow their female members to pursue their education.
In Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, Mohsen and Ahmad Daneshpour Moghadam are among those arrested on the day of Ashoora of 2009 (the day Shiites commemorate the historic killing their imams some 1400 years ago) and have been sentenced to death on charges of fighting God and cooperating with the Mujahidin Khalq organization. But in interviews with Rooz, Mohsen’s son Meysam said, “Members of my family have had no [political] activities. Unfortunately one of my brothers is in Iraq and we have no contacts with him. We are not only disinterested in the Mujahidin Khalq, but even view it as a terrorist organization. Our only contact with our brother in Iraq was when my mother travelled there. During her trip or even after her return, no issues were raised by authorities and she was not asked anything about this. On Ashura day however, our mother, father, brother my father’s close friend and another relative were unexpectedly arrested. When I returned home one day, I found a note that simply said the ministry of intelligence had arrested them.”
Vahid Asghari and Ahmad-Reza Hashempour are also political prisoners sentenced to death who contrary to the assertions of the head of the judiciary have not taken up arms against the Islamic republic. Vahid has been in prison for the past five years and as explained by his family members, had been a student in India. He came to visit his family but on his return was arrested at the airport. He, along with others, has been charged with operating anti-religious websites.
Zaniar and Loghman Moradi are two political prisoners in Rajai Shahr prison close to Tehran who also, contrary to the claims of the head of the judiciary, never took up arms against the Islamic republic but who face the death sentence. Along with Majid Bakhtiar and Hojabr Ibrahimi, they are accused of having a hand in the killing of Saeedi, the son of Marivan’s Friday imam in 2009. They are also accused of being agents of Britain.
A video was aired on the English television channel of the Islamic republic which a number of individuals including images that appear to be that of Zaniar and Loghman claim responsibility for the murder of the imam’s son.
But their family members say that the videos are fake and fabrications, and that their children made incriminating statements out of duress. Soon after this, Zaniar and Loghman published an open letter from the prison announcing that their self-incriminating statements were made under torture and that they had been raped by their interrogators.
In Kurdistan, Habibollah Golparipour, Habibollah Latifi and Shirkoo Moarefi are among political prisoners who have been sentenced to death on charges of moharebe (enmity with God). Their father rejects the charges who told Rooz that he was active in cultural activities and that when he was arrested the books that he had on him were confiscated as well. There were no fire arms and he had not engaged in any armed activity, the father said. “My son’s crime was the possession of a few books. I do not know on the basis of which law they have made these accusations against my son,” he lamented.
Shirkoo Moarefi was a Kurdish political and civil activist who was arrested in 2008 in the Kurdish town of Saghez. He has been sentenced to death on charges of “acting against national security” and being a member in the Komele party. His defense attorney says Shirkoo was not a member of Komele, only a sympathizer. The attorney said because his client had surrendered his weapon to authorities and had voluntarily gone to the authorities, he did not qualify to be a mohareb, as is claimed by the state.
These are just some examples of political prisoners sentenced to death. These prisoners have not had public trials and their defense attorneys were not given the opportunity to defend their clients. Most of them have said that their self-incriminating statements were extracted from them under torture.
So contrary to Mr. Larijani’s assertion, many executions of political prisoners have taken place during his own tenure as judiciary chief. In many cases even the bodies of the victims were not returned to family members. Among these are Farzad Kamangar, Shirin Elmhooi, Jaafar Kazemi, Ali Aghayari, Ali Saremi, Arash Rahmanipour, Mohammad Alizamani and Zahra Bahrami.
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