Iran ‘secretly executing’ Azerbaijani prisoners

Iran has come under fire for arbitrarily executing five Iranian Azerbaijanis and has also been criticized by a UN report for secretly applying the death penalty.
Iranian Sajjad Karimi, who was hanged in public for murdering Dr.Gholamreza Sarabi in Tehran, is seen in this file photo. Human Rights Watch counted 388 executions in Iran in 2010, while Amnesty International put the figure at 252, ranking Iran second only to China in the number of people put to death last year. Abaca Press photo.

Iranian Sajjad Karimi, who was hanged in public for murdering Dr.Gholamreza Sarabi in Tehran, is seen in this file photo. Human Rights Watch counted 388 executions in Iran in 2010, while Amnesty International put the figure at 252, ranking Iran second only to China in the number of people put to death last year. Abaca Press photo.

The Iranian regime has secretly executed hundreds of prisoners, according to a new U.N. report detailing growing rights abuses in the Islamic republic. The report came on Oct. 10 as five Iranian Azerbaijanis who were convicted of drug trafficking were executed.

Five Iranian Azerbaijanis – Jamal Shaikhzade, Farhad Islamdust, Muhammad Jangali, Dehqan Salamat and Riza Alipour – were executed on the World Day Against the Death Penalty (Oct. 10) in the central prison of Urmia, Iran.

According to the Association for Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP), the individuals were convicted after an unfair trial process largely based on confessions extracted under torture and false documents allegedly prepared by the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of Iran. ADAPP works on the human rights situations facing Iran’s minorities, in particular the Azerbaijani Turkic community.

Three of these five executed individuals, Shaikhzade, Islamdust and Jangali, were residents of Isti Su village and were members of the Iranian Azerbaijani Sunni minority commonly referred as “Sunni Turk” or “Kuresunni” by locals. According to their families, they were subjected to severe psychological and physical torture under interrogation. There are reports that at least one of the executed individuals, Jamal Shaikhzade a 30-year-old driver assistant, may have been innocent.

Skyrocketing rate of executions

The Sunni Muslims are a religious minority in the Shia-dominated Iran. The Sunni Azerbaijanis mainly live in the cities of Urmia, Salmas, Khoy and Maku in Iran’s western Azerbaijan province. Discrimination against the Sunni Azerbaijanis by the Iranian government is evidenced by their lack of opportunity to complete higher education, their being prevented from establishing religious schools and non-governmental organizations or associations, and their difficulties obtaining state positions.

In its report, the U.N. cited a growing number of rights abuses in Iran, while U.N. Human Rights Committee experts yesterday criticized Iran’s failure to provide sufficient details on the use of the death penalty, as well as policies surrounding issues like gay rights.

The mysterious executions at Vakilabad prison in Mashhad in eastern Iran were also highlighted in the report. The report, which will be presented to the U.N. General Assembly today, detailed numerous abuses from the denial of women’s rights to torture.

The most shocking data, however, pertains to the skyrocketing rate of executions. The report, obtained by AFP, said 200 officially announced executions had taken place in 2011, with at least 83 in January alone. “Furthermore, authorities reportedly conducted more than 300 secret executions at Vakilabad prison in 2010,” the report said. Human Rights Watch counted 388 executions in Iran in 2010, while Amnesty International put the figure at 252, ranking Iran second only to China in the number of people put to death last year.

French expert Christine Chanet said Iranian responses have been “partial and vague,” and that the Iranian delegation failed to provide an exhaustive list of capital punishment carried out. In its responses about the death penalty, the Iranian delegation said capital punishment was only used in the “most serious crimes.” As for data, the Iranian delegation said 70 percent of death sentences relate to drug trafficking.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
VANCOUVER / UNITED NATIONS