November 12, 2009

Amnesty International has strongly condemned the execution in Iran on Wednesday 11 November 2009 of a Kurdish man sentenced to death for "enmity against God" in connection with his alleged membership of an illegal opposition group.

According to reports, Ehsan Fattahian was hanged at 4am Central European time at the prison in the city of Sanandaj, the provincial capital of Kordestan. His body is to be returned to his family in the next two days.

Amnesty had previously urged the Iranian authorities to halt the execution and to commute his sentence, along with the death sentences of two other Iranian Kurdish men also feared to be at imminent risk of execution.

All three executions appear to have been scheduled in reprisal for a spate of assassinations and attempted assassinations of officials in Kordestan province which took place between 9 and 19 September and were widely reported in Iran.At least 10 other Kurdish men and one woman are believed to be on death row in Iran in connection with their membership of and activities in support of proscribed Kurdish organizations.

No group has claimed responsibility for the September attacks, which targeted mainly religious figures and judges. The authorities have variously blamed the Kurdistan Independent Life Party (PJAK), an armed Kurdish opposition group, and "hard-line Sunni fundamentalists" linked to foreign intelligence services.

Those killed included the head of Sanandaj city council, a Sunni cleric who had supported President Ahmadinejad’s re-election campaign, and the Kordestan representative to the Assembly of Experts (the body which appoints the Supreme Leader). Two judges were also injured. Amnesty International condemns these attacks on civilians.

Ehsan Fattahian was detained on 20 July 2008 and said in a letter that he wrote from prison that he was regularly beaten in detention. He also said that he was a member of Komala, a Marxist Kurdish opposition group.

Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj sentenced him to 10 years’ imprisonment to be served in internal exile, after a trial in which he was denied access to a lawyer.

Both Ehsan Fattahian and the prosecutor appealed against this verdict, and in January 2009 Branch 4 of the Kordestan Appeal Court overturned the initial verdict. Instead, he was sentenced to death for “enmity against God". This new sentence was never subject to an appeal, as is required by international law.

He said the new sentence was passed because he refused to agree to “confess” on film and to reject his beliefs. Two other men, Habibollah Latifi, arrested in October 2007, and Sherko Moarefi, detained in October 2008, remain on death row in Sanandaj prison.

Fears were raised that all three were at imminent risk of execution after a judge in Sanandaj received orders in October to carry out their executions. At least another 10 Kurds are on death row in Iran for alleged political offences.

On Tuesday 10 November, Amnesty urged the Iranian authorities to commute Ehsan Fattahian’s death sentence along with those of Habibollah Latifi and Sherko Moarefi.The organization also expressed concern that Ehsan Fattahian is reported to have been tortured and was sentenced to death after an appeal after an unfair trial.It also called on the authorities to impose an immediate and comprehensive moratorium on executions, as a first step towards ending the use of the death penalty.

Kurds, who are one of Iran’s many minority groups, live mainly in the west and north-west of the country, in the province of Kordestan and neighbouring provinces bordering Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iraq. They experience religious, economic and cultural discrimination.For many years, Kurdish organizations such as the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Marxist group Komala engaged in armed opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran.