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IRI Executes Two Ahwazi Arab Men

For Immediate Release

January 31, 2014

(New Haven, USA) – The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) has learned further details concerning the executions of two Ahwazi Arab prisoners, Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Sha’baninejad, in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).  On Wednesday, January 29, reports emerged that Mr. Rashedi and Mr. Sha’baninejad—two of five members of al-Hiwar, an Ahwazi Arab cultural organization, who were sentenced to death in July 2012—were executed.  IHRDC has since learned that IRI authorities executed the two men without notifying their attorneys or their families.   

According to an IHRDC source, intelligence officials called the homes of these two individuals on January 29 and informed their families that they have been executed. The second branch of the Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court had sentenced them to death on charges of muharibih (or “waging war on God”), sowing corruption on earth, propaganda against the Islamic Republic and acting against national security. Mr. Rashedi and Mr. Sha’baninejad were teachers from the town of Ramshir in Khuzestan Province.

The families of these individuals went to the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS) office in Ahvaz to ascertain the validity of the information they had received on the phone. MOIS officials confirmed their executions, and stated that they had been executed “three or four days ago.” The regulatory code governing the conduct of executions specifies that the attorney for the person being executed must be notified at least 48 hours prior to the execution. In addition, the same code states that the person being executed is entitled to have visitors in the prison before his or her execution.

MOIS officials reportedly stated that they will tell the families where they have buried Mr. Rashedi and Mr. Sha’baninejad at a later date. The source who spoke with IHRDC indicated that on the evening of January 29, the authorities contacted the families again and told them that they only had 24 hours to hold religious services for the executed individuals, and that any such service should be held at their homes and not at a mosque. Otherwise, the families were told, they would be arrested and prosecuted.

The date or the location of the executions cannot be verified. According to the reports that the families of the executed persons received from contacts inside Karoun Prison in Ahvaz, Mr. Rashedi and Mr. Sha’baninejad were transferred out of the prison on December 7, 2013. Also, a prison official reportedly told one of the attorneys that they were handed to the MOIS on December 7. Although the MOIS initially stated that they were in its custody for further investigation, they did not confirm their presence at the MOIS afterwards. Nor did prison or judiciary officials provide any information on the whereabouts of Mr. Rashedi and Mr. Sha’baninejad to their families. A complaint filed to President Rouhani’s office was also left unanswered.

Three other individuals, Mohammad Ali Amourinejad, Jaber Alboshoka and Mokhtar Alboshoka, were sentenced to death along with Mr. Rashedi and Mr. Sha’baninejad. In early December, however, MOIS officials informed the families of these three individuals that their sentences have been commuted to life in prison. A judiciary official has also reportedly conveyed the same information to one of the attorneys representing them. The judiciary, however, has not officially announced the reduction of the sentences of the three men.

If the executions of Mr. Rashedi and Mr. Sha’baninejad were indeed carried out within the last few days as MOIS officials have reportedly stated, these executions would have directly preceded or coincided with the visit of “the Elders,”—a group of former world leaders—to Iran. The group that traveled to Iran includes former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Martti Ahtisaari of Finland and former President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico. The group’s mission is to “support greater openness and dialogue between Iran and the international community,” and to “encourage Iran to play a stabilizing role in the wider Middle East.”

Iran is the global leader in executions per capita, with a total of 624 executions in 2013. Human rights groups and UN experts have expressed concern about the rising numbers of persons executed in recent months.  According to IHRDC’s estimates, there have been a total of 55 executions in Iran so far in 2014.