Social Activist Yaghoub Mehrnehad Executed
Termed a “terrorist,” he was convicted without evidence or a fair trial
(4 August 2008) The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned that Yaghoub Mehrnehad (28), sentenced to death following an unfair trial, was executed today. Mehrnehad is a well-known social activist in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan. The Iranian Students News Agency termed Mehrnehad a “terrorist,” accusing him of membership in an armed Baluchi group.
“Mehrnehad’s prosecution and trial were a farce, and we are left with an impression of a justice system in the hands of those bent on repression by instilling fear, a system that does not value human life or the truth, “ stated Campaign Coordinator Hadi Ghaemi.“State- sanctioned murder of a civilian without evidence of any crime, but justified on the basis of being a “terrorist” is a form of terrorism itself,” he said.
The number of executions in Iran is skyrocketing. On 27 July, Iran executed 29 men, but provided names of only 10 of them. Several other social activists have also been recently sentenced to death.
The authorities accused Mehrnehad of cooperation with the armed group, Jundallah. However, the Judiciary provided no evidence that Mehrnehad was in contact with Jundallah or that he bore any responsibility for armed attacks. The Campaign believes the charges against Mehrnehad were politically motivated. According to Mehrnehad’s associates, the only evidence against him was based on interrogation reports provided by the Intelligence Ministry.
Since Mehrnehad’s trial was not held in public with prosecutors providing conclusive evidence relating to charges against him, the Court’s decision had no credibility under Iranian law and international standards for fair trial. According to local sources, he had been subjected to torture and forced to make false confessions.
Mehrnehad, an ethnic Baluchi, was 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.
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 International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran strongly condemns the widespread, non-transparent, and increasing number of executions in Iran. The Campaign calls on the United Nations Special Rapporteurs to urgently request a visit to Iran to investigate and document the judicial processes leading to such high numbers of executions.
In 2008, Iran has already executed nearly 200 people. After China, Iran executes more people than any other country, although its population is 18 times smaller than China’s.