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May 22, 2008

Human Rights Situation in Iran Continues to Deteriorate, Groups Report

Washington DC – Iran continues to rank second in the world for executions, according to Amnesty International, with 317 people put to death last year. That figure nearly doubled the number of prisoners executed in Iran the previous year. Only China performed more executions in 2007.

The Defenders of Human Rights Centre, a group led by Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, said it “deplores and denounces the systematic violation of human rights in Iran.” The group also reports a decline in freedom of opinion and expression since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.

“Censorship and indirect pressure has reached the highest level,” it said, noting the forced closure of 17 publications and eight news websites, as well as the jailing of 32 media workers.

As part of its campaign of oppression, the government of Iran arrested over 100 students and scores of labor leaders. The report states: “It seems that the government and the system do not recognise any rights to protest, strikes and pursuing union rights for labourers—oppressing any move in the name of acting against national security.”

Conditions for those held in prison in Iran remain a concern. Amnesty International has challenged the harsh detention in Evin Prison of human rights defender and journalist Emadeddin Baghi. Baghi was arrested on October 14, 2007 for his activities as head of the Association for the Defence of Prisoners’ Rights and for allegedly “publishing secret government documents.” In a statement to its membership, Amnesty International said it considers him “a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”

While in prison on May 7, Baghi suffered a seizure— his third in six months. After being treated in the prison hospital, he was sent back to his cell the same day. In its statement, Amnesty expressed concern that Baghi is not receiving adequate medical treatment and that his life may be in danger.

Baghi’s most recent seizure followed an intense interrogation session that took place despite his doctors’ insistence that he recover in a calm, quiet environment free of stressful situations. Amnesty also reported that upon returning to his cell that evening, Baghi found his belongings ransacked and the file he was preparing for his defense was missing.

In related news, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence arrested six leaders of the Baha’i faith for “anti-Iranian” activities on May 14, sending them to Tehran’s Evin prison. The group makes up the remaining leadership of the “Friends of Iran,” which coordinates activities for Iran’s Baha’i community. The seventh member of the group, Mahvash Sabet, has been imprisoned since March.

In a statement, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said, “We are deeply concerned that the detention without charge of the entire Baha’i leadership is consistent with a pattern of violent and illegal persecution of Baha’is in Iran. The persecution of religious minorities will bring neither internal stability nor international security to Iran.”

NIAC board member Dokhi Fassihian called the worsening situation in Iran “very serious,” and said the US and the world “must pay greater attention to Iran’s deplorable human rights record. We cannot just focus on spinning centrifuges.”

 

 

 

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