Death Sentence Issued for Baluchi Activist
(26 February 2008) The Judiciary’s spokesman, Alireza Jamshidi, confirmed that the Revolutionary Court in the southeastern city of Zahedan issued a death sentence for Yaghoob Mehrnehad, a social activist, on 7 February 2008.
Yaghoub Mehrnehad (28), sentenced to death following an unfair trial, is a well-known social activist in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan.
Mehrnehad is the executive director of Voice of Justice Youth Association, a local NGO. On 11 April 2007, Mehrnehad posted an article on his blog that was highly critical of local officials’ performance. He called for their resignation or removal from office.A few weeks later, during an annual conference held in Zahedan, “Inquiring Youth; Accountable Officials,” Mehrnehad and a number of other members of Voice of Justice Youth Association confronted local officials, demanding accountability for their poor performance. Subsequently, intelligence agents detained Mehrnehad and five of his colleagues. The authorities released all detainees, except for Mehrnehad, after a few days.
Mehrnehad was held in the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in Zahedan for five months before he was transferred to Zahedan’s central prison.
On 25 December 2007, Zahedan’s Revolutionary Court held a trial for Mehrnehad behind closed doors. Only Mehrnehad and his lawyers were present. His family was not allowed into the court room. The officials also failed to inform his family of charges brought against Mehrnehad. Judiciary officials notified his family that he is sentenced to death penalty on 7 February 2008.
The authorities did not provide any information regarding the basis for Mehrnehad’s sentence until 19 February when the Judiciary’s spokesman confirmed his death penalty and stated the charges against him as “connections with Jundallah.”
Jundallah is a local Baluchi armed group fighting against the Iranian government. It has taken responsibility for a number of bombings and fatal attacks against government forces and civilians in the Southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan over the past two years. Under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code the punishment for taking up arms against the government is the death penalty.
However, the Judiciary has not provided any evidence that Mehrnehad was in contact with Jundallah or if he bears any responsibility for armed attacks. The Campaign believes the charges against Mehrnehad are politically motivated. According to Mehrnehad’s associates, the only evidence against him is based on interrogation reports provided by the Intelligence Ministry.
As long as Mehrnehad’s trial is not held in public with prosecutors providing conclusive evidence relating to charges against him, the Court’s decision has no credibility under Iranian law and international standards for fair trial. According to local sources, he has been subjected to torture and forced to make false confessions.
On 24 February 2008, security forces detained Mehrnehad’s younger brother, Ebrahim Mehrnehad, at his home. Ebrahim Mehrnehad had publicized the death sentence against his brother.
The Campaign is urging the human rights community world-wide to contact the appropriate authorities in Iran to appeal for the cancellation of Mehnehad’s sentence and a new trial that conforms to Iranian law and international standards.