Thursday, July 01, 2010

Iran: Fears two women may be executed -- one by stoning

Amid fears that two Iranian women may be executed imminently, including one by stoning for adultery, Amnesty International renewed its demand today that Iranian authorities immediately halt all executions and commute all death sentences.

The human rights organization is also urging the authorities to review and repeal death penalty laws, to disclose full details of all death sentences and executions, and to join the growing international trend toward abolition.

Two women are feared to be at imminent risk of execution. Zeynab Jalalian, a political activist and member of the Kurdish minority , was sentenced to death in early 2009 after being convicted of "enmity against God," while Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose conviction of "adultery while being married" was upheld in May 2007, could be executed by stoning at any time.

Prisoners on death row are often not informed when they are due to be executed until the last minute, adding to their suffering and that of their families. Sometimes their lawyers are not informed 48 hours in advance, as is required by Iranian law.

Other prisoners under sentence of death include two members of the predominantly Sunni Muslim Baluch minority in Sistan-Baluchistan province. On May 31, 2010, the Zahedan prosecutor said they had been sentenced to death for their alleged involvement in clashes between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims which led to the deaths of six individuals. He also said that the death penalty has been sought in the trials of six other individuals. The clashes followed a bomb attack on a Shi'a mosque in May 2009, which killed at least 25 individuals, which was claimed by the People's Resistance Movement of Iran (PRMI), an armed Baluch group opposed to the Iranian government.

The PRMI's leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, was hanged by the Iranian authorities on June 20 in Zahedan. His brother, Abdolhamid Rigi, was hanged in Zahedan in May 2010.

In Kordestan province, home to many members of the Kurdish minority, government officials said on Sunday that at least 20 prisoners were being held on death row there who had been convicted of drug smuggling. At least 15 other members of the Kurdish minority, all political prisoners, are also on death row in the province and are at risk of execution. Two are said to be facing execution by firing squad. Most executions in Iran are carried out by hanging.

Many prisoners on death row did not receive fair trials, having been sentenced on the basis of vaguely-worded charges and "confessions" which they allege were made under torture or other duress while they were detained incommunicado before trial. Some were denied access to a lawyer.

Despite these grave shortcomings, the Iranian authorities continue to carry out more executions than most other states. This year, Amnesty International recorded no less than 126 executions in the period from January 1 to June 6. Those hanged included five political prisoners who were executed on May 9; the authorities may have intended the executions as a warning to potential protestors in advance of the anniversary on June 12 of the disputed presidential election of 2009, which sparked mass protests and a wave of state repression.

Source: Amnesty International