May 07, 2011
Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Fears are growing for the fate of a political activist in Iran who is facing imminent execution after being convicted of acting against national security.
Sherko Moarefi, a 31-year-old ethnic Kurd from Baneh in north-west Iran, was arrested in October 2008 on suspicion of being a member of a Kurdish OPPOSITION political party, Komala. The leftwing separatist group has been branded a terrorist organisation by Iran.
Moarefi was sentenced to death after being convicted of ‘acting against the national security’ and moharebeh (waging war against God) – vague charges that Iran has used against many political activists in recent years.
According to Khalil Bahramian, one of his lawyers in Iran, Moarefi’s conviction has been upheld by the Supreme Court and he was scheduled to be hanged on Sunday morning but his execution was delayed for a possible judicial review.
‘I have genuine fear that he might be executed at any time. This delay does not mean that his sentence has been halted,’ Bahramian told the Guardian in a phone interview from Iran.
‘Sherko is innocent. Enmity with God is a charge for those who have taken up arms against the regime but Moarefi has been a peaceful activist,’ he added.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on Iran to change Moarefi’s death sentence.
Both human rights organisations have expressed alarm over the increase in capital punishment in Iran, which last year executed more people than any other country, apart from China.
Since the beginning of this year, Iran has executed at least 135 people, according to official sources, although Amnesty says dozens more unacknowledged executions have taken place.
Activists see it as a tactic to intimidate people at a time when pro-democracy movements are sweeping across the Middle East. Thirteen men have been hanged in public this year.
Speaking to the Guardian, Kaveh Ghasemi-Kermanshahi, a Kurdish Iranian activist who recently fled to Iraq after being sentenced to four years in jail, said: ‘This coming week is the death anniversary of five Kurdish prisoners, including Farzad Kamangar, a teacher, who were executed in May last year … even a year later Iran refuses to hand over their dead bodies to their families’.
IRAN has launched a campaign against its Kurdish minority’s political activists. At least 15 other imprisoned Kurdish activists are on death row.
In Tehran, Siamak Pourzand, an 80-year-old journalist who spent much of the past 10 years in jail, has killed himself. Pourzand was barred from leaving the country and was separated from other members of his family, who were forced to live outside Iran.
His daughter, Leili, told the BBC Persian network that ‘separation from his family’ led to his suicide.
IRAN is the leading jailer of journalists, along with China, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. At least 34 journalists are in prison in Iran. (The Guardian – May 1, 2011)