Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rights groups to Iran: Stop executing Arab activists

LONDON (Reuters) - Two rights groups urged the Iranian judiciary on Thursday to quash death sentences against five members of Iran's Arab minority and halt their executions on grounds of torture and unfair legal proceedings.

London-based Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York, said in a statement the five had been sentenced last year on terrorism-related charges because of their links to a banned cultural institute that promoted their Arab heritage.

Their death sentences were upheld last week and they were transferred from Karoun prison in Ahvaz, capital of the southwestern province of Khuzestan. Their families no longer know where they are being held, the statement added.

"The reported transfer of these men to an unknown place is an extremely worrying development," said Ann Harrison of Amnesty International. "We fear the authorities may be planning to execute them imminently."

Families of the five men, two of whom are brothers, say they were subjected to "physical and psychological torture" during their detention, the statement said.