Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Iranian journalist and civil rights campaigner Yaghub Mehrnehad faces imminent execution after an unfair trial

CIF: An Iranian Baluch journalist and civil rights campaigner, Yaghub Mehrnehad, aged 28, has been sentenced to death for an unknown offence, after torture and an unfair trial conducted behind closed doors, according to Amnesty International.
His execution is imminent. He is likely to be hanged in public, using the barbaric slow strangulation method favoured by the Tehran regime. It is deliberately designed to maximise the pain and prolong the suffering of the victim.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) have condemned the death sentence.
Mehrnehad is a journalist for the reformist newspaper, Mardomsalari (Democracy), and president of Sedaye Edalat (Voice of Justice), a lawful, government-registered cultural association in Iranian-occupied Baluchistan.
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples' Organisation (UNPO), which represents oppressed minority nationalities worldwide, is also appealing to Tehran to spare Mehrnehad's life.
On February 19, the Iranian judicial authorities announced that Mehrnehad had been sentenced to death for belonging to the armed Jondollah organisation, also known as the Iranian Peoples' Resistance Movement. No evidence has been offered to substantiate this allegation. On the contrary, all Mehrnehad's activities have been lawful and peaceful.
His appeal against conviction has been fast-tracked, in violation of Iranian law, to prevent him from challenging what human rights organisations say is a grave miscarriage of justice.
Mehrnehad was arrested on May 6 last year, along with other members of his association, after they attended a meeting in the Provincial Office of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which the governor of the city of Zahedan also reportedly attended. The other men were later released.
The exact reasons for Mehrnehad's arrest are not known, although some Iranian press reports in July 2007 state that a man identified as Ya'qub M had been detained on suspicion of "aiding Abdolmalek Rigi", the head of the Baluchistan nationalist organisation, Jondallah, which is resisting Tehran's rule over Baluch territory.In the absence of any evidence for such claims, we can only assume that what prompted the Tehran authorities to act against Mehrnehad was his criticism of the Tehran government for neglecting Sistan and Baluchistan province, his campaigning for the recognition of the Baluchi language, his work with the Islamic Human Rights Commission, a national non-government organisation, and his plan to establish a human rights committee in Baluchistan. These not illegal or violent activities. They do not justify any punishment, let alone execution.
The whole case has been an abuse of Iranian law from the outset. It was not until five months after his arrest that Mehrnehad was allowed visits by his lawyer and family. They reported that he had been severely tortured, had lost about 15kg in weight and was unable to keep his balance and walk properly. He is very ill and needs urgent medical treatment.
Prior to his trial last year, Mr Mehrnehad had received no information about the offence he had allegedly committed or the date or circumstances of his trial. He was tried in the absence of a lawyer and without his family being informed of the hearing.
This imminent execution of a courageous journalist and human rights activist has received scant coverage in the western media. There was a brief report in the New York Times, but nothing in the Guardian or Observer.
Mehrnehad's imminent hanging is the latest in a wave of executions of Baluch people. Human rights campaigners report executions almost every week in Baluchistan. They say there has been a marked rise in the number of Baluch people executed in recent years, often on trumped up charges.
In an interview with the Iranian newspaper, Ayyaran on 17 March 2007, parliamentarian Hossein Ali Shahryari said more than 700 people were under sentence of death in jails in Sistan and Baluchistan province, which is just one of Iran's many provinces.
In 2007, at least 312 people were officially reported to have been executed in Iran, according to Amnesty International. The true figure is likely to be much higher, as some hangings take place in secret and are not recorded in the official figures.
A Facebook support group has been set up to coordinate efforts to save Mehrnehad's life.
Amnesty International is urging protests to the Iranian authorities, especially to the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei. He can be contacted via The Office of the Supreme Leader, Islamic Republic Street - Shahid Keshvar Doust Street, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran. Email: info@leader.ir
Mehrnehad belongs to the Baluch minority, who live in the south-east of the country in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan. Victims of systemic racial and ethnic discrimination by the Persian supremacist ayatollahs, they also suffer religious tyranny. Most Baluchs are Sunni Muslims and are therefore targeted for repression by the Shia Muslim dominated Islamist state in Tehran.
Amnesty International has documented the extreme political, economic, cultural and ethnic oppression of the Baluch people.
The death sentence on Mehrnehad also fits a pattern of persecution by the Tehran regime of journalists, trade union leaders, women's rights activists, human rights defenders and members of Iran's religious and ethnic minorities.

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