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Human Rights Spotlight on Rostam Arkia – A Kurdish Political Prisoner Held at Yazd Prison

As part of its on-going effort to document human rights abuses against Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center has received detailed reports about Rostam Arkia – a Kurdish political prisoner from Maku, Iran – who is currently incarcerated in Yazd prison.

Arkia, a husband and father, was arrested by Iranian security forces in Tehran on January 1, 2008. He was immediately transferred to the intelligence protection detention center of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Orumieh, Iran. For nearly three months following, Iranian authorities tortured Arkia and continually pressured him for confessions.

Arkia was subsequently transferred from the IRGC detention center to the prison in Maku – a city in the West Azerbaijan province of Iran. Judge Nouroozi from the revolutionary court of Khoy sentenced Arkia to death for the crime of moharebeh, or “waging war against God”, and for his alleged cooperation with PJAK – a Kurdish nationalist group in Iran.

After Arkia appealed to the Supreme Court, his death sentence was overturned and the case was remanded to the Orumieh revolutionary court for re-trial. At re-trial, on January 27, 2010, Arkia was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment for the crime of moharebeh and banishment to prison in Yazd, Iran, a city far southeast from his family and friends in Maku.

The deputy prosecutor of Orumieh appealed the verdict and asked for an increase in sentence. On March 18, 2010, the tenth branch of the Appeals Court of Western Azerbaijan province doubled Arkia’s sentence to twenty years of imprisonment and sustained his banishment to Yazd prison. The prosecutor also denied Arkia’s request for furlough during his incarceration.

On June 2010, Arkia was transferred to Yazd prison. At Yazd prison, Arkia and other political prisoners were housed in the same ward as the general prison population. In protest of these conditions, Arkia and eight other political prisoners started a hunger strike on November 22, 2011. They ended the hunger strike after six days when the authorities agreed to their demands to be segregated from the general prison population

Arkia’s initial sentence to death by the Iranian judiciary violates Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Iran is a signatory. Also, the reported torture and pressure of Arkia and denial of due process in the trial, re-trial, and appeal of his case file is in contravention of Articles 7 and 14 of the ICCPR.

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Kurds