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Iran is using the death penalty against several journalists and activists for their work, say rights groups. On 4 August 2008, Yaghoub Mehrnehad, a social activist and journalist for the "Mardomsalari" ("Democracy") newspaper in Baluchistan, was executed, report the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). He was also executive director of Voice of Justice Youth Association, a local NGO registered with the authorities since 2002, and an advocate for the Baluchi minority.

According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), Mehrnehad was accused of membership in Jundallah (Soldiers of Allah), an armed Baluchi group. FIDH called the December 2007 trial "blatantly unfair" as it was behind closed doors and his family was not informed.

Human Rights Watch said the trials of Mehrnehad and social activist Farzad Kamangar, both sentenced to death in February, failed to meet international standards of fairness. ICHRI said no evidence was produced that Mehrnehad was in contact with Jundallah. Local sources said he had been tortured and forced to make false confessions.

In April 2007, Mehrnehad posted an article on his blog that criticised local officials and called for their resignation or removal from office. At a youth conference in the Baluchistan capital of Zahedan a few weeks later, Mehrnehad and other Voice of Justice Youth Association members confronted local officials. Intelligence agents later detained all six, but only Mehrnehad was held more than a few days.

"Authorities do not seem to make any distinction between peaceful advocacy for the right of minorities and terrorist attacks by armed groups," said OMCT. FIDH and OMCT demanded that authorities immediately release Yaghoub?s 16-year-old brother, Ebrahim Mehrnehad, detained since February for having publicised the death sentence. In March, Amnesty International expressed fears that Ebrahim and three other Baluchi civil society activists were at risk of torture.‏

Iran has executed about 200 people in 2008. On 27 July, 29 men were put to death, but only 10 of their names were published.

On the same day, said Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Kurdish freelance journalist Saman Rasoulpour was arrested at home in Mahabad, in Iran's predominantly Kurdish northwest. Two days earlier, some 200 Kurds staged a peaceful demonstration in Mahabad to demand the overturning of death sentences against journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed "Hiva" Botimar, and Kurdish teacher Farzad Kamangar.

Visit these links:
- Human Rights Watch:
- Amnesty International on the Baluchi minority (2007):
(Photo of Yaghoub Mehrnehad courtesy of ICHRI)

(20 August 2008)

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