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Arab Iranian activists' death sentences approved

UPDATE: Iran: Stop execution of Ahwazi Arab political prisoners (Human Rights Watch, 24 January 2013)

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 14 January 2013 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounces the Iranian authorities' decision to ratify the death sentences of five Ahwazi activists [Arab Iranian] accused of “enmity against God and the prophet and undermining the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

Judge Faragallah Ga'am Maghami of Iran's Supreme Court ratified the activists' sentences on 9 January 2013 on charges of spawning mischief, stirring up propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and threatening national security. They were charged for resisting the authorities' restrictions on Arab Iranians' right to use their original language, Arabic, freely and to establish peaceful organisations.

Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and National Security arrested Hashim Shabani Nejad, a blogger and teacher of Arabic literature, Hadi Rachedi, a chemistry teacher, Mohammad Ali Amuri Nejad, a blogger, Jaber Al-Bushoke and his brother Mokhtar Al-Bushoke in the spring of 2011. They were tortured into making false confessions and despite the doubts surrounding those confessions, the activists were still sentenced to death.

According to ANHRI, the practices used by the Iranian regime against Ahwazi citizens go against the Iranian Constitution, which provides under Article 15 that "the official language and script of Iran, the lingua franca of its people, is Persian. Official documents, correspondence, and texts, as well as text-books, must be in this language and script. However, the use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching of their literature in schools, is allowed in addition to Persian."

Article 16 of the Constitution states that "since the language of the Qur'an and Islamic texts and teachings is Arabic, and since Persian literature is thoroughly permeated by this language, it must be taught after elementary level, in all classes of secondary school and in all areas of study."

Article 26 stipulates that "the formation of parties, societies, political or professional associations, as well as religious societies, whether Islamic or pertaining to one of the recognized religious minorities, is permitted provided they do not violate the principles of independence, freedom, national unity, the criteria of Islam, or the basis of the Islamic Republic. No one may be prevented from participating in the aforementioned groups, or be compelled to participate in them."

ANHRI calls on the Iranian authorities to revoke the death sentences and to release the activists. The organisation also calls for an open discussion to be established with Arab Iranians in order to find out what their demands are and to reach an agreement with them accordingly.

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