Fear of Secret Executions After 5 Prisoners Transferred to Unknown Location
Five political prisoners sentenced to execution were transferred from the General Ward of Karoon Prison in Ahvaz to an unknown location on Saturday, 9 June. A local source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that Police Special Forces have been stationed in Karoon Prison and that it has created a worrying atmosphere.
The five political prisoners, Abdolrahman Heydari, Taha Heydari, Jamshid Heydari, Mansour Heydari, and Amir Moavi, are all from the Mallashieh neighborhood of Ahvaz in the southern province of Khuzestan in Iran, and were all arrested in April 2011.
“After several months [into their arrest], security authorities announced that these political prisoners were convicted of murdering a government security force, a charge families and kin of these individuals deny. Families of the five men, three of whom are brothers, have stated that they have been subjected to torture and that they have been denied a fair trial,” the source told the Campaign.
According to the human rights source, in March 2012, security forces had reported plans to carry out public hangings of said prisoners, but the sentences were not carried out.
Prison guards allegedly told the other prisoners that these men were transferred for the enforcement of their execution orders. A local source told the Campaign that the atmosphere in Ahvaz soured after news of the prison transfer was published and that there is a possibility of demonstrations in the city.
“There are a lot of ambiguities in this case; that’s why the executions have not been carried out yet. There is hope that they will not be executed, though there is concern that the executions may be carried out secretly,” said the source, adding that given the circumstances surrounding this transfer, it is feared that they may be executed unannounced.
Demonstrations took place in Ahvaz in April 2011, when the men were first arrested. For several months after their arrest, their families were uninformed about their detention location, said the source. There have been reports that during the April 14 and 15 gatherings in 2011, several people were killed and arrested in the confrontations of security and police forces with the crowd.
The source explained that the Prisons Organization, the institutional body responsible for managing Iranian prisons, is tasked with carrying out prisoner transfers. In this case, however, officials from the Prosecutor’s Office and the Intelligence Ministry, along with the Operations Team of the Police Special Forces, implemented the five prisoners’ transfer. Since then, Karoon Prison’s atmosphere has become uneasy and Police Special Forces have been stationed in the facility, with police vehicles in the prison yard.
It has been reported that several people were killed and arrested during the 14 April 2011 protests in Khuzestan Province, which commemorated province-wide street protests in 2005. The 2005 protests erupted after the publication of a letter allegedly written by Mohammad Abtahi, the sitting Chief of Staff of then-President Khatami, addressing the President about plans to change the demography of Khuzestan’s Iranians of Arab descent. Though the President’s Office denied the existence of such a letter and called it a fabrication, ethnic Iranian Arabs protested.
The source added that according to information he has been able to gather, it appears that despite the case ambiguities, the Ahvaz Intelligence Office insists that four of the five men be executed as soon as possible:
While these men have been charged with murder and according to the law, the case must be reviewed in a criminal court in the presence of reporters, the family of the victim, and defense lawyers representing the suspects, their case has been reviewed in the Revolutionary Court and they have been sentenced to death by orders from the Revolutionary Court. The only evidence in the case is confessions extracted under torture. Security forces wish to create an atmosphere of intimidation and fear in the city of Ahvaz by executing these political prisoners.
Over the past several years, Iranians of Arab descent in Khuzestan have repeatedly gathered to protest what they consider to be widespread discrimination and deprivation of their civil rights. Human rights activists say that security and police forces have reacted very violently to these protesters. Iranian authorities have consistently questioned the spontaneity of such gatherings, alleging that the gatherings have foreign roots.