(New York) - The Iranian judiciary should immediately halt plans to execute Zeynab Jalalian and other Kurdish dissidents, Human Rights Watch said today. Jalalian is one of 17 such dissidents currently on death row in Iranian prisons.
Jalalian may be in imminent danger of execution. Her precise status is unknown because authorities have held her incommunicado and prevented her from retaining a lawyer. Khalil Bahramian, a lawyer who represented Farzad Kamangar, one of four Kurdish dissidents executed without warning in May, told the Persian-language website Roozonline that his efforts to represent Jalalian have been rebuffed by the government and that he is not certain where she is being held. Some media reports say she may be in Section 209 of Evin Prison, administered by the Intelligence Ministry.
"It is absolutely inconceivable that a woman who has been in detention for more than a year and is in danger of imminent execution has still not been granted access to a lawyer," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Facing death, she is denied even her most basic rights."
Iran is in violation of both its own constitution and international law in denying Jalalian a lawyer, Human Rights Watch said.
Iran's Supreme Court confirmed Jalalian's death sentence in November 2009. The government charged Jalalian with the crime of moharebeh, or "enmity against God," in connection with her alleged membership in the outlawed Free Life Party of Kurdistan, or PJAK. The party is widely regarded by analysts to be an Iranian affiliate of the banned Turkish Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK. In May 2010, Human Rights Watch called for a moratorium on all executions and noted that Jalalian was among 17 Kurdish dissidents awaiting execution.
The 16 other Kurds facing execution are: Rostam Arkia, Hossein Khezri, Anvar Rostami, Mohammad Amin Abdolahi, Ghader Mohammadzadeh, Habibollah Latifi, Sherko Moarefi, Mostafa Salimi, Hassan Tali, Iraj Mohammadi, Rashid Akhkandi, Mohammad Amin Agoushi, Ahmad Pouladkhani, Sayed Sami Hosseini, Sayed Jamal Mohammadi, and Aziz Mohammadzadeh.
Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its cruel, inhumane, and irreversible nature.
"Given the secrecy surrounding Zeynab Jalalian's detention and the Iranian government's recent executions of Kurdish dissidents, we believe she is at great risk of imminent execution," Stork said. "The Iranian judiciary will be responsible for any harm caused to her and other prisoners who are at risk of execution."