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Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and rights groups demand moratorium on executions

(Human Rights Watch/RSF/IFEX) - 16 February 2011 - "Other nations and the UN should speak out against a wave of executions in Iran," the Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi and six human rights organizations said today. Shirin Ebadi and the human rights groups called on the Iranian Judiciary and Parliament to institute an immediate moratorium on all executions.

At least 86 people have been executed since the start of 2011, according to information received by the six organizations. The groups are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Borders, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the International Federation for Human Rights, and its affiliate, the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights. At least eight of those executed in January were political prisoners, convicted of "enmity against God" (moharebeh) for participating in demonstrations, or for their alleged links to opposition groups.

"The Iranian authorities have shown that they are no longer content to repress those contesting the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by arresting and convicting them - they have shown they will now resort to execution," Shirin Ebadi said.

"They are using the familiar tactic of carrying out political executions at the same time as mass executions of prisoners convicted of criminal offences. These executions may increase if the world is silent," she added.

The increase in executions follows the entry into force in late December 2010 of an amended anti-narcotics law, drafted by the Expediency Council and approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Officials have also vowed to step up enforcement measures against drug trafficking. Sixty-seven of those executed in January had been convicted of drug trafficking. The true number of executions may be even higher, the groups said, as there are credible reports that some executions that are not officially announced are taking place in prisons.

The recent executions also raise fears for the lives of two men, Saeed Malekpour and Vahid Asghari, believed to have been sentenced to death by Revolutionary Courts following separate unfair trials in which they were accused of "spreading corruption on earth."

On January 30, the Tehran Prosecutor, Abbas Ja'fari Dowlatabadi, announced that the death sentences of two unnamed "administrators of obscene websites" had been sent to the Supreme Court for review. Human rights activists in Iran believe that he was referring to Saeed Malekpour and Vahid Asghari.

Saeed Malekpour, a 35-year-old web designer and permanent resident of Canada, was sentenced to death at the end of November 2010 for creating "pornographic" internet sites and "insulting the sanctity of Islam". Prior to his arrest during a family visit to Iran in 2008, he had created a programme enabling the user to upload photos. That programme had then been used to post pornographic images, which he said had happened without his knowledge. He is alleged to have been tortured while being held for more than a year in solitary confinement in Evin Prison.

Vahid Asghari, a 24-year-old information technology student enrolled at a university in India, has also been detained since 2008 and reportedly tortured. He is believed to have been tried in late 2010, but the verdict has never been officially announced.

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To read the full press release, click here

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