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The Iranian Judiciary should immediately halt all executions of people who have been sentenced to death in secret following unfair trials that do not meet minimal international standards of justice, Human Rights Watch said today. In the past year, at least a dozen Iranians of Arab origin have been condemned in this way.

On February 14, 2007 the Iranian authorities executed three men in the southern province of Khuzistan: Majed Albughbish, 30, Raisan Sawari, and Ghassem Salamat, 45. On February 13, prison officials informed the families, who were visiting the prisoners, that the three men, all Iranians of Arab origin, would be executed the next day.

Since March 2006, the Judiciary has executed a total of 12 men in Khuzistan, also ethnic Arabs, accusing them of carrying out bombings in Ahwaz, capital of Khuzistan, in October 2005 and January 2006. At least another 13 ethnic Iranian-Arabs have been sentenced to death in Khuzistan.

“Iran has accused these men of capital crimes, and it must ensure they receive fair trials and full due process protections,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, the Iranian Judiciary has conducted secret trials that deny the defendants the most basic legal rights.”

According to Emad Baghi, an Iranian human rights defender who has vigorously campaigned to stop the executions, the authorities arrested 19 men who belonged to a group named Kataib in March 2006, accusing them of involvement in bombings. The authorities held the men in solitary confinement and denied them access to their lawyers until the day before their trials. The Judiciary did not allow the lawyers access to the accused men’s files until one day before their trial.

On July 17, 2006, the revolutionary court in Ahwaz sentenced 10 of the men to death following a one-day secret trial held on July 16. Judge Sha’bani sentenced the men to execution by hanging under Iran’s penal code, charging them as Mohareb, meaning “enemies of God.” The court sentenced the other nine men to imprisonment.

Iran has now executed all 10 men sentenced on July 17, despite strong international condemnations, including an appeal by three senior United Nations human rights officials: Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions; Leonardo Despouy, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

On January 10, the three UN officials issued a public appeal to the Iranian government to stop the executions, stating that the trials “made a mockery of due process requirements.” The Iranian authorities ignored this and other international appeals, executing four of the men on January 24, and three more on February 14. Another three men were executed on December 19, 2006.

The judiciary has sentenced to death another 13 Iranians of Arab origin for armed activity against the state. They are: Zamel Bawi; Awdeh Afrawi; Nazem Bureihi; Alireza Salman Delfi; Ali Helfi; Jaafar Sawari; Abdolreza Sanawati; Mohammad Ali Sawari; Moslem al-Ha’I; Abdulreza Nawaseri; Yahia Nasseri; Abdulzahra Helichi; and Abdul-Imam Za’eri.

Human Rights Watch calls on the Judiciary to rescind their death sentences, and to grant new trials that meet international fair trial standards and are open to the public.

Iran executes more people annually than any other nation but China. In an alarming development, the number of publicly known executions rose 70 percent in 2006 as compared to 2005. Human Rights Watch believes the true number of executions is higher, but remains unknown due to the Judiciary’s lack of transparency and public accountability. Iran also executes more juveniles annually than any other nation.

“Today Iran stands out for handing down the death penalty on a grand scale without giving defendants a fair trial,” Whitson said.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment under any circumstances due to its inherent cruelty and irreversibility.

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