Int'l Pleas: Halt Kurdish Student's Execution; Jundallah Chief in Custody
26 Dec 2010 00:41
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Concern over 'Imminent' Execution of Kurdish Student
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | Dec 25
Human rights groups and activists are expressing concern over the imminent execution of a Kurdish student, Habibollah Latifi, who has been accused of terrorist activities.
Iranian websites have quoted Latifi's lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, as saying that he's been informed that Latifi would be hanged on the morning of December 26.
Latifi, a 27-year-old engineering student, has been reportedly sentenced to death on charges of moharebeh (waging war against God). Authorities have said that he is a member of armed opposition groups.
He's been accused of involvement in several explosions in Sanandaj as well as filming them and taking pictures. He's also been reportedly accused of involvement in an assassination attempt on the life of a Sanandaj prosecutor and also an attack on a police station. He is said to have denied the charges against him.
Amnesty Appeals for Life of Kurd Student in Iran
AFP | Dec 25
Amnesty International has appealed to Iran to commute the death sentence of a Kurdish law student who it said is set to be executed on Sunday.
"We are urgently appealing to the Iranian authorities to show clemency, halt the imminent execution of Habibolah Latifi, and commute his death sentence," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director.
"While we recognise that governments have a responsibility to bring to justice those who commit crimes, this must be done according to international standards for fair trial," Smart said.
"It is clear that Habibolah Latifi did not receive a fair trial by international standards, which makes the news of his impending execution all the more abhorrent."
Iran Poised to Execute Student Accused of Being Kurd Terrorist
Guardian | Dec 25
Iran says he was a member of Kurdish Independent Life party (PJAK), an armed opposition group and has convicted him of Muharebeh (enmity against God) but his family denies his connection with PJAK and claims the charges were fabricated .
"This is nonsense, they're just angry with his political activities as a student and have charged him with the false claim that he was a member of PJAK, that's absolutely a lie, it's just an excuse for them to execute him," his sister said.
Human rights advocate Peter Tatchell, who has campaigned in defence of Iran's ethnic minorities, said: "Iran has a long history of persecuting its Kurdish ethnic minority population, including framing peaceful, lawful Kurdish rights activists on false charges.
He added: "Habibollah Latifi was sentenced to death after an unfair trial in a closed court, where he had no legal representation - clearly in violation of articles 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"The Iranian authorities should, at the very least, revoke the execution order and schedule a new trial where Latifi can have legal representation, call witnesses and submit forensic evidence in his defence."
Riggi May Be Handed Over to Iran Soon
News International | Dec 25
Jundallah chief Abdul Rauf Riggi, who was tracked down by Pakistani authorities through his wireless set while he was making a call to a London-based newspaper from his Pak-Iran border area hideout in Balochistan, may soon be handed over to the Iranian authorities after interrogation by Pakistani security agencies.
According to well-informed security officials in Islamabad, the Pakistani agencies had been making frantic efforts to track down Riggi, especially after the December 15 killing of 40 people in a deadly suicide bombing in the Iranian city of Chabahar, when the most wanted Jundallah chief appeared on their radar on December 21, making a call on his wireless set to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, a leading international Arabic newspaper.
As the call had given the Pakistani authorities a fair idea about Riggi's whereabouts on the Pakistani side of the Iranian border, they moved quickly and detained him in the next 24 hours following a brief commando operation.
Abdul Rauf Riggi had actually succeeded his elder brother Abdolmalek Riggi as the Jundallah chief following his arrest and subsequent execution in Iran. The elder Riggi was captured in February 2010.
President Zardari assured the Iranian president that Pakistan would not withhold any help in uprooting terrorism. On December 20, a few days after Ahmadinejad and Zardari had spoken, the Iranian government hanged 11 members of Jundallah who were convicted of bombings in Iran that killed 15 policemen and 12 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The next day, on December 21, a furious Abdulrauf Riggi made a phone call to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper and threatened Tehran that an official of the Iranian nuclear plant, who was kidnapped by Jundallah in October this year, would be executed shortly if the group's demands for the release of over 200 militants and political prisoners being held in the Iranian jails were not met.
Iran Urges Pakistan to Extradite Terrorist
Press TV | Dec 25
A senior Iranian official says Tehran is holding diplomatic consultations with Pakistan for the extradition of the new ringleader of the Jundallah terrorists.
"After Pakistani media announced the news of the arrest of Mohammad Zaher Baluch, the ringleader of [Abdolmalek] Rigi's terrorist group, diplomatic consultations are being held with officials of [Pakistan's] Baluchistan Province," Governor General of Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan Province Ali Mohammad Azad said on Saturday.
The Iranian nation, especially the citizens of Sistan-Baluchestan, who have experienced the bitter taste of terrorism more than others, expect Pakistan's political and security officials to arrest and extradite these murderers to Iran, Azad added.
He said that Iran has always kept its borders safe for its neighbor and brother country Pakistan, and today Tehran expects the country's officials, especially authorities of Baluchistan Province to extradite the terrorist group, Mehr News Agency reported.
Resentment Builds in Iran over Price Hikes, Overhaul of State Subsidies
Washington Post | Dec 24
Nearly a week after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched a plan to overhaul a long-standing system of state subsidies, Iranians are reeling from drastic government-ordered price increases for staples such as fuel and bread amid signs of growing frustration and anger.
At the city's Rah Ahan train station, a sandwich seller who gave his name only as Ali complained that after the price of traditional bread was raised from about 15 cents to 40 cents, he was losing money badly.
"I'm not allowed to increase prices, but the government can," he said as commuters hurried through the grand hall of the 1920s train station. "We are all losing money. People are extremely upset."
South of the capital, at the vast Tehran truck terminal near Akbarabad, there were no truckers to pick up goods ranging from fresh tomatoes to cigarettes and bring them to and from Iran's 31 provinces.
Farhad Gholizadeh of the Tak Tarabar transportation company said he had never seen the normally bustling terminal so empty. "The government has given small, cheaper rations [of fuel] depending on the type of truck, but they quickly run out," he said. "Most of the drivers have pulled up their hand brake and stopped working until they are allowed to increase their prices."
A colleague stepped in and complained that the government itself increases prices tenfold but forbids many others to do the same. "This is crazy," he said.
Gasoline Consumption Falls in Iran
Press TV | Dec 24
Iran has announced that gasoline consumption in the country fell by 10.6 million liters just one day after the implementation of the economic reform plan.
The Iranian government on Sunday launched the targeted subsidies plan, which will eventually slash all government subsidies in place since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
The gasoline consumption on Saturday was 63.9 million liters and reached 53.3 million liters on Sunday, according to data by the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company published on the Oil Ministry's website.
Meanwhile, Managing Director of the National Iranian Gas Company Javad Oji said it is predicted that natural gas consumption in Iranian households will decline by 25 percent following the implementation of the targeted subsidies law.
'Not All Iranian Expats Support the Opposition'
Tehran Times | Dec 26
Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi has said that very few Iranian expatriates support opposition groups.
"All Iranians who live outside of the country are not in the opposition. The number of Iranian expatriates who are opponents of the system is limited, but foreign intelligence agencies have provided facilities and equipment to them to help them make their voices widely heard," Moslehi said at a conference on Iranian expatriates' achievements held at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti University on Saturday.
Commenting on the political unrest that occurred following the June 2009 presidential election, he said that the Intelligence Ministry was able to contain the "sedition" through monitoring the emails exchanged between the protestors.
"Email was a tool used during last year's sedition, and the intelligence agency was able to control many dimensions of last year's sedition by closely monitoring email addresses," he said.
With "Deep Concern" For Iran Rights Situation, Resolution Passes 78 For, 45 Against
ICHRI | Dec 23
The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on Tuesday expressing deep concern about widespread violations of human rights in Iran, where government officials target human rights lawyers and direct the suppression of government critics. Seventy-eight countries voted for the resolution, forty-five against, while fifty-nine countries abstained.
The draft resolution was approved on 18 November 2010 and was finalized amidst dedicated efforts from Iranian authorities who lobbied with supportive and neighboring countries and African and Latin American countries to defeat its approval. In recent months, Iran's Human Rights Delegation led by Mohammad Javad Larijani, has held frequent meetings with diplomats from other countries to lobby against the resolution, suffering a failure after all.
During the voting process, Larijani, who went to New York in order to lobby against the resolution, tried to stop the voting by filing a No Action Motion (NAM). But with 91 votes against and 51 in favor, the maneuver demonstrably failed.
This is the seventh consecutive year a resolution has been passed regarding the human rights situation in Iran and it reflects the attention given by the UN to Iran's lack of commitment to observing human rights standards. It further demonstrates the willingness for cooperation among UN officials in order to confront Iran's violations of human rights. However, in an effort to rally opposition for the plan, Larijani called it a political attack by the West, and "provocative."
The resolution addresses the increasing number of executions, especially public executions, stoning, and hangings. Iran is one of the few countries in which individuals who commit crimes under the age of 18 could face the death penalty. The issue of violence against women is another subject addressed by the resolution.
Ayatollah Kafami's Son Arrested
RAHANA | Dec 23
A group of security agents entered the house of Mohammad Ali Kafami, the son of late cleric Ayatollah Mahmoud Kafami, and detained him along with his wife and 2 children. It has been said that the family's son in law has also been detained.
After the police raid during the prayers ceremony of the Freedom Movement of Iran supporters in September, the Isfahan Intelligence Ministry has summoned many of the individuals in that ceremony and the arrest of Kafami family is related to the incident.
Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi is one of the detainees of the ceremony who is still imprisoned.
U.S. Approved Business With Blacklisted Nations
New York Times | Dec 23
Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government has allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism, an examination by The New York Times has found.
Even the sale of benign goods can benefit bad actors, though, which is why the licensing office and State Department are required to check the purchasers of humanitarian aid products for links to terrorism. But that does not always happen.
In its application to sell salt substitutes, marinades, food colorings and cake sprinkles in Iran, McCormick & Co. listed a number of chain stores that planned to buy its products. A quick check of the Web site of one store, Refah, revealed that its major investors were banks on an American blacklist. The government of Tehran owns Shahrvand, another store listed in the license. A third chain store, Ghods, draws many top officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.
The licensing office's director, Mr. Szubin, said that given his limited resources, they were better spent on stopping weapons technology from reaching Iran. Even if the connections in the McCormick case had come to light, he said, he still might have had to approve the license: the law requires him to do so unless he can prove that the investors engaged in terrorist activities own more than half of a company.
"Are we checking end users? Yes," he said. "But are we doing corporate due diligence on every Iranian importer? No."
As Sanctions Squeeze Trade, Iran Looks For Options
NPR | Dec 23
The Iranian Business Council says hundreds of Iranian companies have closed their operations in Dubai in recent months, and economists are expecting year-end statistics to reflect an estimated 10 percent dip in total Iran-Dubai trade.
Adal Mirza with the Middle East Economic Digest says aggressive U.S. efforts to keep Gulf banks from financing Iranian trade are having an effect. He says this is partly due to the financial crisis that rocked Dubai's real estate market over the past two years. Dubai gratefully accepted a $20 billion bailout from its conservative, oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi, but Mirza says Dubai also lost some of its independence.
"Since the financial crisis, Abu Dhabi has actually increased its influence on [Dubai]," Mirza says. "They will put a lot of pressure on banks in the UAE to make sure the regulations are adhered to.
"Trade in dollars is obviously impossible with Iran," he adds, "so Iranian banks and companies are having to pay a premium to work with other currencies."
Britain Tried to Block Press TV: WikiLeaks
Tehran Times | Dec 23
The British Foreign Office has tried to abuse UN sanctions on Iran to limit the operation of the country's news broadcaster Press TV in Britain, according to information published by the whistle-blower website, WikiLeaks.
U.S. State Department cables published by WikiLeaks show that the British Foreign Office told the U.S. embassy in London back in February that it was "exploring ways to limit the operations of... Press TV."
The WikiLeaks documents revealed that the authorities reconsidered their decision in the face of legal difficulties at the time, but were still looking at other ways to address the issue, including using possible new anti-Iranian sanctions to justify their measures.
Based on the secret cables, the action on Press TV was meant to pressure the Iranian government, which Britain claimed was jamming the signals of BBC Persian TV, after London failed in its joint efforts with Paris and Washington to lobby the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which regulates satellite transmissions, to rule against Tehran over BBC Persian.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Iran Uses the Holidays to Announce the Imminent Execution of a Student
Today many of us who believe in the importance of due process of law feel helpless and overwhelmed by a cascade of unanswered questions. How can we do our work effectively? How can lawyers do their work of defending their clients if the law allows detainees to be interrogated, and tortured, without their presence and if the judges accept coerced confessions as evidence? How can the accused present a proper defense if the law allows the judge to decide whether or not an attorney would be present at their trial, whether or not they can call witnesses to testify? How can attorneys advocate on behalf of their clients and protest about irregularities in the judicial process if doing so leads to their arrest?
Most authoritarian states execute dissidents to deter dissent. A young unknown Kurdish student in an isolated region is a perfect target. Publicizing an unverifiable accusation of involvement in an armed group is meant to prevent a public opinion outrage and create confusion. Many dissidents like Habibollah Latifi have been executed based on trumped-up charges, including a school teacher, Farzad Kamangar, who was executed earlier this year. The judicial process leading to these executions rarely allows the public to know the truth about the case or the charges leveled against the defendants.
The Islamic Republic authorities do not often feel compelled to discuss about the evidence in specific cases, explain why trials are held behind closed door, or why they feel threatened by attorneys if their accusations are based on evidence. But they are uncomfortable enough with a judicial process that fails to meet the minimum standards of fair trial to announce their decision to execute Habibollah Latify on a Thursday afternoon two days before Christmas when local authorities are inaccessible and, they hope, there will be no international reaction.
Pakistan's Big Decision
Farhan Bokhari (Gulf News) | Dec 26
Pakistan's ties with Iran are on shaky ground with Tehran getting impatient with Islamabad's inability or unwillingness to act against militants that it says have committed acts of terrorism on its soil and taken refuge in Pakistan.
On Friday, though, Pakistan's senior security officials for the first time confirmed reports of the arrest of Abdul Raouf Riggi, a much wanted terrorist connected to the shady group Jundullah which is allegedly responsible for carrying out several attacks in Iran.
Though Riggi remains in Pakistan's custody for now, officials in Islamabad believe he would likely be handed over to Iranian authorities eventually. The Riggi incident could mark a unique episode in Pakistan-Iranian relations. If indeed, he is eventually brought to justice in Iran, there could be appreciation by the Iranian authorities for Pakistan's growing support to their campaign against terrorists.
But there is a broader challenge which needs to be tackled in cementing this crucial relationship. As two large and populous countries located next to each other alongside the north of the world's most vital oil supply lanes, Pakistan and Iran must not only cooperate to their own benefit but indeed also to the benefit of others.
For Pakistan, the way forward must lie with choosing to even defy the US on the matter of its relations with Iran, if indeed disagreements on this score instigate a certain clash.
Pakistan's cash-starved and energy-deficient economy can simply not afford to miss out on closer ties with a neighbour which has surplus energy resources to offer. Similarly, there must also be a stronger resolve in Islamabad to use the Riggi case as a stepping stone for closer collaboration with Iran on jointly combating terrorism.
DOCUMENTS & DECLARATIONS
Halt Student's Execution, Review Torture Allegations
The Iranian Judiciary should immediately halt the execution of Habibollah Latifi, which is scheduled to take place on 26 December, and review allegations that his confession was coerced under torture, as well as numerous other irregularities in his trial including interference by security agents, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
"No one seriously and objectively reviewing the facts could have any confidence in a guilty verdict and death sentence in the case of Habibollah Latifi," stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the Campaign.
"His execution would confirm that the Iranian justice system arbitrarily deprives people of their lives, which is the most tragic of all injustices," he said.
A source close to the case told the Campaign that the execution sentence is based solely based on confessions obtained under pressure, and that no substantive evidence was presented to support the verdict.
Latifi, 29, who is an engineering student of Kurdish ethnicity, was arrested on 23 October 2007. He was charged with Moharebeh, or "enmity against God," for allegedly attacking a police station, planning the assassination of the Sanandaj prosecutor, and setting off explosions.
A member of his family told the Campaign that he was tortured in prison to coerce a confession to having committed crimes he absolutely denied after his trial.
In an interview with the Campaign, his niece, Sogand Ahmadzadeh, said that during the first days after his arrest, the Sanandaj Intelligence forces had beaten him with batons so hard that he developed kidney bleeding.
She rejected unsubstantiated claims that he had been involved in illegal political activity, and said she believed the case had been "fabricated" by intelligence officials.
"He was just a student. He was a student who participated in student activities such as sit-in's and gatherings, and all these activities are legal. How can a student be a Mohareb, enemy of God? Habib himself said in court that they have extracted confessions from him under special circumstances and under torture. But his confessions are not true, because he had to accept whatever they said under horrific conditions. But the judge did not accept his statements in court," said Sogand Ahmadzadeh about her uncle's Moharebeh charge.
During his trial, the court barred defense witnesses from giving testimony that would have proven Latifi's innocence.
Nemat Ahmadi, one of Latifi's lawyers, told the Campaign that he was presently at the Head of the Judiciary's office to deliver a letter addressed to Sadegh Larijani, requesting clemency for his client, as well as objecting to the way this case has been reviewed.
He also told the Campaign that this case has several legal problems, including objections to the court that reviewed the case:
"In the newly-passed law pertaining to General and Revolutionary Courts (2004), charges which could lead to death sentences are within the jurisdiction of the Province Criminal Courts, which means the cases must be reviewed by five judges presiding, whereas in cases which are within the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, only one judge presides. We believe that this death sentence should have been issued by a court presided over by five judges, not a court with one judge. This is a problem in this case," Ahmadi said.
"If this trial had been held in a more open atmosphere without the presence of security forces, there would most definitely be no charges against him," he said.
A number of Kurdish Iranians who have been socially active and engaged in defending the rights of members of their community have been executed since 2007, including Ehsan Fatahiyan, Fasih Yasamini, Farzad Kamangar, Farhad Vakili, Hassan Hekmat Demir, Ali Heydariyan and Shirin Alamhooli.