Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More Executions by the Compassionate Government

Farhad Rahbar, Rooz Online:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad throws the adjective “compassionate” for his administration and wishes to be viewed as such. But every one agrees with that attribute for an administration that has brought new issues to the daily lives of this nation.

The minister of justice of Iran, who also happens to be the spokesperson for the judiciary branch of government, regularly meets with the press and in those meetings he also regularly reports on the executions that take place by the current hardline administration. Once again, like the first few years of the revolution of 1979 that brought the Islamic clerics to power, executions, hangings from cranes, and “corrupt of the earth” are what one hears in this regard.

These are the punitive terms that are used for individuals whose crimes range from family murders to bombers. But the numbers are so high that London based Amnesty International lists Iran as a country with one of the highest execution records in the world. In fact, it is second in rank, right after China, which has a population of over 1.3 billion people, i.e. almost 20 times that of Iran’s 68 million inhabitants. Iran did not rank 2nd for a long time, even after the 1979 revolution. But in the words of Human Rights Watch organization, executions in Iran have gone up remarkably since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad moved into the presidency in Iran, and cites 21 individuals in just one month (the month of Bahman).

The list of those executed, or on the death row, is long and includes people from all walks of life. It includes men and women, adults and teens below legal age, etc. Iran’s Fars news agency reported that 10 individuals, who had been charged with murder and sentenced to death, were executed last Wednesday. The original list contained two additional individuals, who were spared the death penalty because the family of their victims agreed to spare the lives of those sentenced.

Just earlier, there were those who had been arrested in connection with the bombings in oil-rich Khuzestan province. Two were executed and Dori Najafabadi announced that the trial and proceedings of 5 others would be soon complete. Translation: they would be soon executed. “These seven have been found guilty of armed struggle against the Islamic Republic, corruption on earth, murder and the creation of illegal organizations,” he said.

While the Khuzestan case was concluded rapidly, Hojat Zamani was not as fortunate, or was more fortunate. He was arrested many years ago for belonging to the Mojahedin Khalq organization that pursues armed resistance to the Islamic regime but his case had been pushed around so much that he past his twenties into thirties behind bars awaiting his fate. Finally, he too was hanged about six weeks ago. He was 31 years old.

The same fate may await Khaled Hardani and Farhang and Shahram Pour-Mansouri. They were arrested on charges of air-piracy four years ago. They belong to the same family who hijacked a small place with the goal of emigrating from Iran. All three have been sentenced to death. The chief of the judiciary has suspended their execution for now. But will they be swept with the next execution wave? Shahram was only 17 years old when he was arrested and the question many ask is will he be executed despite Iran’s adherence to the international convention that forbids the execution of individuals under the legal age. Today, Shahram is of legal age and so by regime standards qualifies.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that Behrouz Mehranpour, who had hearing and seeing problems, was executed in public last Friday for allegedly killing his aunts and uncle when he was 18 in a family feud. Etemad newspaper reports that Nazanin who is just 18 years old too faces the death penalty any time. She is accused of killing a young man with a knife. Three boys approached me and Somayeh, threw us on the ground and wanted to rape us,” she has reported. I defended myself by striking one of the boys with a knife, which killed him,” she concludes. Etemad reported that Nazanin told the court in tears that she did not intend to kill the boy, but was only defending herself and her relative, adding that she did not know what to do when she was under attack and when there was no one to help them.

It is ironic that in a land where women are stoned for committing adultery, defense of one self too is a crime. Nazanin has been unanimously sentenced to death by division 71 of the criminal court. Another young woman, Delara Darabi who was arrested when she was only 17 and sentenced for a similar act, also faces the death penalty. READ MORE

These events are disturbing to any one who hears them, but particularly to those whose life is dedicated to the defense of human rights. Emadedin Baghi, a prominent Iranian journalist and head of Iran’s Society for the defense of prisoners’ rights wrote an open letter to ayatollah Hashemi Shahrudi, the head of Iran’s judiciary branch requesting the suspension of executions in the country. In the letter, he articulated that even the judiciary officials did now wish to be on top of the list of countries that execute the most. “Ending the life of a person only spreads violence and has nothing to do with being “compassionate” or God’s mercy.