August 16, 2017—The Iranian judiciary must immediately release ailing political leaders Mehdi Karroubi, who is currently on hunger strike, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, said the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Karroubi (79), who along with Mousavi (75) and Rahnavard (71) has been under house arrest, without public charge or trial since February 2011, embarked on a hunger strike on August 16, 2017, his wife Fatemeh Karroubi told Saham News.
“Karroubi’s life is in danger and the state, which has detained him without trial, is responsible for whatever happens to him while he is in its custody,” said CHRI’s executive director Hadi Ghaemi.
“Karroubi is still demanding his first trial more than six years after he was imprisoned in his home,” added Ghaemi. “The judiciary must immediately tend to this emergency medical situation and free these political leaders who have been imprisoned for peacefully expressing their opinion.”
Recently released from hospitalization, Karroubi is demanding security agents leave his home in northern Tehran and that he be granted a public trial—a demand he has been making for more than six years.
“He has had two angiography procedures in recent days and he’s not in good physical condition at all,” Karroubi’s son Mohammad Taghi Karroubi told CHRI. “But against doctors’ advice, he has been forced to start a hunger strike for his most basic rights.”
“We are extremely worried for him,” he added. “Going on a dry hunger strike is very dangerous for anyone at his age.”
Karroubi, Mousavi and Rahnavard were put under house arrest on February 13, 2011 for peacefully disputing the results of Iran’s 2009 presidential election, which brought hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term in office.
The Green Movement arose out of the peaceful protests—violently repressed by the state—that swept Iran after the election, and are still a highly sensitive subject in Iran, referred to by hardliners as “the sedition.”
Ending the house arrests was one of President Hassan Rouhani’s top pledges during his 2013 election campaign.
Crowds of supporters chanted for the trios’ freedom during many of his campaign rallies in 2013 and again in 2017.
However, after his re-election on May 19, 2017, Rouhani adopted a more cautious line and suggested that a solution depends on cooperation from other branches of state.
Hardline officials have stated that the reason the judiciary is holding the trio under house arrest is because they would have received a much harsher sentence for leading the peaceful protests if they were tried in the Iranian court system.
The Iranian judiciary should immediately end its routine practice of detaining individuals without charge.
“Many individuals are held in this legal purgatory for extended periods in Iran, but six years of imprisonment without charge is long even by Tehran’s standards,” said Ghaemi.
Prominent Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh: Case Had “Serious Holes”
August 10 – Iran has violated its international obligations by executing Alireza Tajiki, who was 15-years-old when he was arrested and 16 when he was sentenced to death, said the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“The execution of Alireza Tajiki, who was just 16 when he was sentenced to death, again highlights Iran’s total disregard for children’s rights,” said CHRI’s Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“The judiciary is not fooling anyone by using the tactic of holding children in prison and waiting until they’re legally adults to execute them,” he added.
Tajiki was arrested in May 2012 at the age of 15 for allegedly raping and murdering a 16-year-old male friend in the city of Fasa, Fars Province. He was sentenced to death in April 2013 after a criminal court in Fars Province, southern Iran, convicted him of murder and lavat-e be-onf (male homosexual rape).
Tajiki was hanged in Adelabad Prison in Shiraz, south-central Iran, on the morning of August 10, 2017, at the age of 21.
His lawyer, prominent human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, told CHRI other suspects were not fully investigated and Tajiki was tried as an adult for a crime he allegedly committed as a child.
“There are many serious holes in his case, but our requests for judicial reviews were denied several times,” Sotoudeh told CHRI on August 9, 2017.
“It is important that Alireza was accused when he was only 15, but in addition to that, evidence indicates he did not commit the murder or rape,” said Sotoudeh, who was imprisoned in Iran from 2010-13 for peacefully engaging in her profession.
Sotoudeh pointed out that Tajiki was considered medically “not fully mature” at the time of the crime, but the medical examiner’s conclusion was ignored and replaced with another mental evaluation that was conducted three years later.
Based on Article 91 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, the court could have halted the execution if there was “uncertainty” about his “full mental development.”
“Initially the medical examiner ruled that Tajiki was not fully mature to grasp the gravity of the crime, but when the medical board in Shiraz examined him three years later, it decided that when the crime was committed, he was mature enough to understand right from wrong,” Sotoudeh told CHRI.
“Their decision was questionable from a psychological standpoint because it would be very difficult to evaluate what the mental development of an 18-year old was when he was several years younger,” she said.
The initial medical evaluation was disregarded by the prosecution.
“Alireza Tajiki was mentally mature when the crime was committed and understood that it was wrong and therefore from a legal standpoint he was completely culpable,” said the prosecutor in the case, Ali Salehi, after the execution.
“Because this was a sensitive case, even the judiciary’s human rights division looked into it to make sure there were no problems in carrying out the ruling,” he added.
Sotoudeh had acted on behalf of the Tajiki family to get a stay of the execution, which had been granted twice before since May 2016.
“When the Islamic Penal Code was ratified, there was widespread publicity over claims by judicial authorities that the execution of juvenile offenders would be stopped,” said Sotoudeh. “However, we see these executions are on the rise.”
According to the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is illegal to execute someone for crimes committed under the age of eighteen. Iran is party to both treaties, but remains one among a handful of countries still putting juveniles to death.
“Iran continues to be a leading executioner of juveniles and must put an end to this inhumane practice, which is in violation of its international obligations,” said Ghaemi.
Karroubi and Mousavi’s Health in Peril After Six Years of Forced Isolation
August 2, 2017—More than six years into their extrajudicial house arrest, the health of leading Iranian political opposition leaders is in grave danger, renewing urgent calls in Iran for their freedom.
The Iranian authorities should immediately release and provide full medical care to Mehdi Karroubi, who was recently hospitalized, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said in a statement today. The three have been imprisoned in their homes without trial since 2011 for leading the peaceful protests against the 2009 presidential election.
“The Iranian state thought it could silence Karroubi, Mousavi and Rahnavard by isolating them from society, but it can’t silence the public’s demands for their release,” said CHRI’s Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“President Hassan Rouhani was re-elected on a platform of improving human rights, with the release of these three leaders at the forefront of the people’s demands,” added Ghaemi. “Rouhani should explicitly call for the opposition leaders’ release when he is inaugurated on August 3.”
Former presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, 79, was taken to a hospital in Tehran on July 24 for low blood pressure. Two days after he was admitted, he underwent a TIPS procedure that corrected a vein blockage, according to his son, Hossein Karroubi.
He was discharged on July 28, but within hours his condition took a turn for the worse and he was taken back to the hospital where he received an angiography on July 31.
Mousavi, 75, who like Karroubi ran for president in 2009, is also in a deteriorating health situation, according to his family.
“We have no good news to report from our meeting, tweeted his daughter, Zahra, on August 2. “Only unkept promises [from the authorities], signs of my father’s critical health, without knowing what is happening.”
Crowds chanted slogans for the opposition leaders to be released during many of Rouhani’s campaign rallies in 2013 and again in 2017.
“We state unequivocally that alongside the person of the supreme leader and the broken judiciary, the president and the intelligence minister are directly responsible for the lives of those under house arrest,” said a statement issued by Karroubi’s family on July 31.
The statement added that an agent of the Intelligence Ministry has been harassing the elderly opposition leaders.
“[The Rouhani government] has a duty to respond to the illegal and inhumane actions by its agents,” said the statement.
Karroubi’s hospitalization was met with an outpouring of support by members of Iran’s Parliament, former political prisoners and on social media, where many among Iran’s citizenry renewed their calls for an end to the house arrests of the opposition leaders.
“Mr. Karroubi’s heart disease and his transfer to the hospital is a good opportunity to use some wisdom to end this tragic house arrest saga,” tweeted conservative MP Ali Motahari, a longtime supporter of freeing the opposition leaders, on July 24.
Several reformist MPs were not allowed to visit Karroubi in the hospital. Defying the state ban on visiting him, prominent activists brought flowers to Karroubi, which they were forced to leave with a guard.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has long insisted that the three must “apologize” for their role in the peaceful mass protests of 2009, which were violently repressed by the state, before they can go free.
“The door is open (for a resolution). The Supreme Leader has not declared any solution impossible” said Rouhani government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht on August 1 after Iran’s health minister said he was personally checking in on Karroubi and Mousavi.
“The authorities should recognize that the death of any of these leaders will not solve their problem; rather it may precipitate another national crisis,” said Ghaemi. “It is in the national interest of the country to prevent this crisis and release them.”
Shortly before Iranian officials took the Swedish and other foreign ambassadors on a staged tour of Evin Prison on July 5, 2017, Swedish resident Ahmadreza Djalali and other political prisoners were moved to a ward under the control of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
“That same morning, security agents took Ahmadreza and several other inmates to Ward 209 and returned them to Ward 4 in the evening,” a source close to Djalali’s family told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “The agents themselves admitted that they were hiding them from the ambassadors who were coming to visit the prison.”
When the Djalali family contacted the Swedish Embassy in Tehran, “they were told that the embassy was following up on Ahmadreza’s case at the highest levels, but unfortunately, they still do not have precise information about his situation,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
“They did not answer the family’s questions about the Swedish ambassador’s visit to Evin Prison,” added the source.
Intelligence Ministry agents arrested Djalali, an expert in emergency disaster medicine who lives in Sweden, near Tehran on April 24, 2016. He was visiting Iran on an official invitation by Tehran University and had previously cooperated with the country’s Red Crescent Society.
More than a year and a half into his imprisonment, the charges against him have not been publicly disclosed, but during the interrogation stage he was accused of “collaborating with enemy states.”
“Moving the prisoners before the ambassadors arrived means Iran’s human rights situation is not good,” added the source. “Otherwise there was no reason to move Ahmadreza and the other prisoners. Obviously they have violated his human rights and they didn’t want him to talk to the ambassadors and tell them what hell he has been through.”
Continued the source: “They have accused him of espionage and kept him in prison for 15 months without any evidence. The family has repeatedly asked for his case to be reviewed and his human rights to be respected. The family wants the Swedish ambassador and Iranian officials to look into his case.”
Djalali is due to go on trial on August 2, 2017 at Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Abolqasem Salavati.
Salavati has not only denied Djalali’s lawyer of choice on several occasions, he also threatened Djalali with the death sentence on the first day of his trial.
Salavati has presided over many cases involving dual nationals, including Iranian-British citizens Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, currently serving a five-year prison sentence, and Kamran Foroughi, serving a seven-year prison sentence.
The judge is also infamous for imposing harsh sentences in politically motivated cases.
“They have no evidence whatsoever against Ahmadreza,” the source told CHRI. “All they have is a piece of a confession that he was forced to sign after months of interrogations and threats against his family.”
Forced “confessions” in politically motivated cases are often extracted under the threat of or actual torture and then broadcast by the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) to win public opinion.
Responding to a tweet by CHRI, Swedish Ambassador Helena Sångeland said she was aware of the limited nature of her visit to Evin Prison.
“Clearly limits to what we were shown,” she said.
Envoys from countries including Great Britain, Germany, Japan and Denmark were among the dozens of diplomats who were treated to a reception on Evin Prison’s lawn after the heavily guarded tour.
Civil rights activists Atena Daemi and Golrokh Iraee, currently imprisoned in Evin, pointed out some of the places the ambassadors were prevented from viewing in a joint letter from the prison on July 8.
“Did they give you a tour of Ward 209, Ward 2-A or Ward 241? Did they show you the solitary cells without windows, ventilation or toilets? What about the cells known as the ‘graves?’” asked the political prisoners.
“Did they introduce you to a physician with the alias ‘Shahriari?’” asked the prisoners. “He’s the one who finds out what’s wrong with sick prisoners just by looking at them. He’s the one who never dares to sign his name because he’s afraid one day he will be exposed for his malpractice.”
“When we invite guests to our home, we obviously try to make a beautiful presentation, even if it’s the same place where [thousands of] political prisoners were executed in the 1980s,” added the letter.
An estimated 4,500-5,000 political prisoners who had already been tried and sentenced—mostly members of political opposition groups—were suddenly executed in prisons throughout Iran including Evin during the summer of 1988 without being provided access to due process.
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Dedicated to all those who struggle for freedom and democracy for Iran
Long live freedom, long live Iran
April 14, 2017–The candidacy in Iran’s upcoming presidential election of Ebrahim Raisi, who played a leading role in crimes against humanity during the 1980s, is a serious setback for a country striving to rejoin the international community.
In 1988, Raisi was part of a four-man commission that implemented the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners. Current President Hassan Rouhani, Raisi, and the former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are considered at present to be the most serious contenders for the presidency, which will be decided in Iran’s elections on May 19.
“A man who should be on trial for the most heinous crime in contemporary Iranian history, is instead seeking the presidency,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“Allowing him to run for president is yet another grievous wound for the families who unjustly lost their loved ones in 1988,” he added.
Thousands of political prisoners were executed in Iran that year after facing what came to be known as the “death committee,” which decided whether the prisoners would live or die based on their perceived loyalty to the Islamic Republic.
The victims, who had already been tried and were serving prison sentences, did not know they were facing death when they then faced the inquisition-like proceedings conducted by the committee.
At that time, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was the heir apparent to the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, condemned the killings, telling members of the committee: “I believe this is the greatest crime committed in the Islamic Republic since the  revolution and history will condemn us for it…. History will write you down as criminals.”
Montazeri’s son, Ahmad, released the taped recording of that conversation in an audio file posted online in August 2016, bringing the massacre to the forefront of public memory.
The dissent of Montazeri, who until that point was being groomed to become Iran’s second supreme leader, paved the way for his removal from his post. Despite being put under house arrest from 1997-2003, he continued his criticism of the executions until his death in 2009.
To date, no official has been held accountable for their role in the mass executions.
After serving on the “death committee,” Raisi went on to serve in senior judicial positions, and currently heads Astan Quds Razavi, one of Iran’s wealthiest religious institutions that effectively functions as a major business conglomerate.
In a statement posted on his website on April 9, Raisi said he wanted to rectify the “wrong culture in the management of the country” as president.
“We can save the country from impending crises and restore peace of mind to the public by simply transforming the administration of the executive branch and recruit strong and trustworthy managers,” he added.
In an interview with CHRI, Montazeri’s son, Ahmad, criticized Raisi’s decision to run and said he had more audio files in his possession.
“If any of the candidates had attacked a person with a knife, he would have had a criminal record and would not get clearance from the authorities, never mind Mr. Raisi, whose record is very clear,” he said.
“When the conditions are right and the people in charge of the country are more tolerant, the rest of the audio files will be published,” he added. “Already a lot of transparency has been achieved (with the release of the first file).”
In August 2016, Ahmad Montazeri was sentenced to six years in prison for releasing the audio file of his father’s condemnation of the commission. The Intelligence Ministry also tried to suppress and confiscate the recordings.
“When I was being interrogated, the Intelligence Ministry agents demanded all the files be handed over,” he added. “I told them, and replied in writing, that the files are not about me or my personal property.”
“They belong to the entire Montazeri family and indeed to the history of our country,” he said. “I cannot hand them over.”
Ahmad Montazeri was detained on February 21, 2017 to begin serving the sentence, but was granted furlough (temporary leave) and released the next day.
“The executed victim’s families who have requested a public investigation into the atrocities of 1988 or simply tried to find out where their loved ones were buried have been harassed and even arrested,” said Ghaemi.
“Instead of punishing the victims, and attempting to silence Ahmad Montazeri, all the files should be publicly released and everyone who enabled the executions, including Raisi, should be publicly investigated and held accountable,” he added.