Committee of Human Rights Reporters – On January 18, five Ahwazi Arab political prisoners sentenced to death were transferred from Karoun prison to an undisclosed location and their whereabouts remain unknown despite their families’ efforts to obtain any information.
The 5 Ahwazi Arab political prisoners are named Hashem Shabanijed, poet, blogger, teacher of Arabic literature with a masters degree in political science from Ahwaz University; Hadi Rashed, M.A. in applied chemistry and a chemistry teacher; Mohammad Ali Amourinejad, blogger, student activist and former member of the Islamic Society of Isfahan University of Technology; Jaber Alboshoka, computer science major and private in the military; Mokhtar Alboshoka, worker at a stone mining company. On July 7, 2012 Branch 2 of the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court handed down death sentences to these five civil activists, which was recently upheld by the country’s Supreme Court.
In addition to the systematic human rights violations in Khuzestan province, during the past months three other Arab prisoners were executed and a number of accused have died while in custody.
Committee of Human Rights Reports conducted an interview with Kamal Alboshokeh, who is a cousin of 2 brothers in the group of death row prisoners.
What is the latest news you know about the condition of the Arab Ahwazi prisoners?
Last Wednesday (January 16), their families visited them. Men and women are allowed visitation on different weeks so last week the mother and sister of Jaber and Mokhtar visited them. They also visited with other prisoners including Mr. Asakareh who is serving a 20-year prison sentence. The next day they spoke to them on the phone and that is the last contact the family has had. Hopefully nothing bad has happened. I pray nothing has happened.
How did you deem the psychological state of the prisoners during visitation and phone calls?
They were very stressed out due to the upholding of their death sentence. No doubt about that. They told their families they are innocent and the charges against them are trumped up. Jaber told his mother he is mostly worried for the future of his daughter, having to live a life without a father. Hashem felt the same way.
Hadi Rashedi has liver disease and rheumatic heart disease. His maladies worsened after he was tortured. He is in danger of dying anyway due to his ailing health. The last time he was seen he was very sick and he was mentally defeated. He asked that we give his regards to his mother and said he is innocent and has done nothing. Mokhtar has suffered from extreme psychological issues since he was tortured. For a long period of time after he was first released, he had forgetfulness. For example when we would tell him a friend sent regards, he had no recollection of who the person was. All of them suffered from severe psychological distress.
Please share the psychological state of their families
When Mr. Mahmoud Amouri, Mr. Shabaninejad and one other individual escaped [from Iran] to Iraq around December 2007, they were arrested in Iraq. Mohammad Ali’s father then suffered from a heart attack. After that Mr. Farez Seylabi lost his life while in detention in Iraq due to the severe psychological and physical torture he was subjected to. The rest were diverted back to Iran and subsequently detained. The parents of Mohammad Ali both suffered heart attacks. His father could no longer speak. When the death sentence was issued, his mother suffered another heart attack. Hadi’s mother also suffered from a heart attack when the death sentence was announced.
Do these 5 prisoners have a lawyer in Khuzestan province? Has a lawyer been appointed?
They all had lawyers besides Mr. Hadi Shabani and he was provided a public defender. But the lawyers were only able to meet with them 2-3 times during the 6-month period before they were sent to the Revolutionary Court for their trials. The lawyers got most of their information from the families. When they saw their lawyers at the trial, the lawyers said based on the supposed evidence presented to them, they would probably receive a few years in prison. When the judge handed the death sentences everyone was dumbfounded.
They told the judge how they had been coerced into false confessions under severe torture. Mr. [judge] Mousavi, why the death penalty? The judge responded to the lawyers it is not in his control and asked them to leave. When the files were sent to Tehran we had hope that the death sentence would be overturned. The accused have done nothing. All of them were civil and cultural activists. After the death sentence was upheld, imagine, Mr. Mohammad Ali Amouri, Mr. Rashedi and Mr. Shabani did not know. I had to call them and give them the news that the death sentence has been upheld. Even the lawyers had not been told. The only person who knew was my uncle. The lawyers went to prison to meet with the accused but were not allowed to see them. The lawyers are waiting for a date to be allowed to meet with their clients.
Please explain the court files of these 5 individuals, the time and reason of their arrest
Their situation was similar to other detainees. Their families were contacted by the Ministry of Intelligence 15 days after their arrest and were told that they had been detained but gave no reason. After 5 months the families were finally allowed to visit their children for 15 minutes. The prisoners were shackled and each had 2 guards assigned to them, one on each side. After Haber and Mokhtar Alboushke were transferred to Karoun prison their families were allowed visitation every 2 weeks. The others were able to see their families for a few minutes only and 3 months after being held at the Intelligence Ministry detention center they were transferred to the prison. At Karoun prison they were allowed visitations on Wednesdays with women & men visiting separately every other week.
The prisoners who are sentenced to death, 26-year old Mokhtar Alboshka, 28-year old Haber Alboshka, 39-year old Hadi Rashedi, 31-year old Hashem Shabani, 34-year old Mohammad Ali Amouri, and 36-year old Rahman Askareh are good friends.
A death sentence for a person such as Hashem Shabani who has an M.A. in political science and is licensed in Arabic literature and is a great poet! They want an excuse to destroy people such as Hashem and this is why they accuse them with trumped up charges.
Mokhtar Alboshka is a 26-year old with an M.A. from Omidiyeh University. He was a solder with the Revolutionary Guards and was home on leave to visit his family when he was detained. Jaber Alboshka is a 28-year old who worked at his father’s stone mining company and he is the father of a 2-year old daughter named Soraya. The brothers live in their family home.
My uncle is a martyr. Imagine they have no mercy even on the family of martyrs. Mohammad Ali Amouri, son of Abdolzahra Amouri has a fisheries engineering degree from Isfahan University. Hashem Shabani has a B. A. in Arabic studies and an M.A. in political science from Ahwaz University. He is also a teacher. Hadi Rashedi, son of Hamze Rashedi is a teacher with an M.A. in Chemistry.
On February 16 Mohammad Ali Amouri was deported from Iraq along with his brother Amir Amouri, martyr Shabani (Hashem’s uncle) and (the now deceased) Farez Seylani, and they were all detained upon their arrival in Iran. On February 28, Hadi Rashedi, his brother Habi Allah Rashedi and Rahman Asakreh were detained. On March 13, 2011, the brothers Mokhtar Alboshka, Haber Alboshka and Bagher Alboshka were detained.
In 1986, Mohammad Ali Amouri, Shahid Shabani (Hashem’s uncle) and Zendeyad Farez Silavi escaped from the Islamic Republic forces to neighboring Iraq and requested asylum. Despite the urging of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch against doing so, they were all eventually deported back to Iran. Hadi Rashedi and Rahman Asakreh were detained in Iran one day after Mohammad Ali Abouri and Hashem Shabani. Later that year the brothers Haber and Mokhtar Alboshka were detained at their father’s residence.
When Mohammad Ali Amouri, Hashem Shabani, and [a friend] Fars Seylavi were in custody in Iraq they were brutally tortured. Fars Seylavi lost his life under torture while in custody and the others were eventually returned to Iran.
My family members shared the events with me. There were more than 70 officials who were clad in black and their faces covered with black masks. Some were intelligence agents. The families of the prisoners had no news of them until the end of March. The families had no idea where their loved ones were. They knew the arresting agents were from the Ministry of Intelligence but they had no idea which branch they were from and where they could obtain any information. After 3 months they were given permission for visitation. Some of the arrested were released on bail while others were transferred form the detention center to prison.
In June the families were allowed a 15-20 minute visit. These are things the families have recounted to me. Haber’s jaw and teeth were broken under torture and he had lost 10 kilograms. Hashem Shabani was in the same predicament. They were all returned to the Intelligence Ministry detention center in June. My cousins were transferred back to prison while the other 4 stayed at the Intelligence Ministry detention center for a period of about 7 months.
Finally in December 2011, Hadi Rashedi, Hashem Shabani, and Taha Heidari made a public confession on Pars T.V. that was clearly extracted under severe duress. They claimed they had connections with foreign entities and had used violence. After that in June 2012, Taha Heidari was executed along with his brothers and a friend. The judge in charge of their cases was Bagher Mousavi presiding over Branch 2 of the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court.
Rahman Askareh was sentenced to 20 years in prison and the rest were handed the death penalty. The families conducted a letter signing campaign and got 13,000 signatures stating the innocence of these men. Even the families of the victims who had been shot at insisted that the accused were not the perpetrators of the crimes but the Ministry of Intelligence did not take heed.
These individuals were cultural activists. The five men in question are founding members of Al-Hiwar (“Dialogue” in Arabic), a scientific and cultural institute registered during the administration of Iran’s former President Mohammad Khatami [who served from1997 to 2005.] Al-Hiwar organizes seminars, educational and art classes, and poetry recitals.
When the Ministry of Intelligence demanded that they stop their activities, they let them know that everything they did was legal. But as you know, Khatami was not in charge of the Intelligence Ministry. Al-Hiwar was banned in May 2005 resulting in their activities going underground.
Explain how and when your uncle was killed
In 2006 when security agents attacked our home to arrest my cousin and I, my innocent uncle was killed. They fired at my uncle and he was riddled with around 20 bullets resulting in his immediate death. We even have pictures. They fired the last bullet into him as he lay wounded. We escaped towards Europe and all my family members were detained. My mother was held for a night, and my father for about 15 days. They even detained my 83-year old grandfather who is the father of a martyr, for eleven days. Several of my close friends were also detained. My uncle’s wife was held at the Intelligence Ministry for a week. Several cousins were held for 15 days. During that time I was able to leave Iran. And the arrests continued.
In 2007 my grandfather was detained again. In 2009 my father and brother Jamal were detained for 3 months. In 2010 my father was detained for another 3 days. On January 26 2012 my 19-year old cousin Naser Darafshani Alboushkeh was detained and 4 days later on January 30, 2012, his corpse was delivered to our family. He died under torture. It did not end here. In June 2012 agents attacked the sons of my father’s cousin instantly killing one son. The other 2 brothers later died from the bullet wounds inflicted by security agents.
There have been accounts of the torture inflicted on the 5 prisoners in question in order to extract false confessions. Share with us what happened.
The interrogators started with psychological torment. Then they punched them as they hurled insults. Then in order to inflict more physical pain they used car straps. They used electric shock and electric cables. Hashem Shabani’s feet were scorched in boiling water. Hadi Rashedi suffered memory loss due to repeated blows with a pipe.
Hadi Rashedi who is now very sick and broken from all that torture was a former boxer from Khuzestan province. Imagine how they had no mercy on 3 teachers, a boxer from the Khuzestan team and one of their own from the Revolutionary Guards. These men were held on trumped up charges. The accused were so violently tortured they eventually agreed to sign anything intelligence agents required of them. But they later told the judge they had made false confessions under severe duress due to the brutal torture they were subjected to. They said there was no truth to their confessions. I don’t comprehend how the judge did not ask himself how Mohammad Ali Amourinejad who lived in Iraq during the incident in question could have possibly been a perpetrator of the alleged crime.
The prisoners mistreated and tortured. My cousin Haber has a broken jaw, broken teeth, and lost 10 kilos. His brother Mokhtar has problems with his vision now and has memory loss. They have no memory of when they were detained and do not know a clue as to the reason. They were subjected to offensive language and extreme vulgarity. Under severe duress and torment from the abuse and torture, they confessed to crimes they did not commit.
Intelligence agents and judicial authorities have said they always follow Islamic codes of conduct. Have they followed this in their dealings with the family of the Arab Ahwazi prisoners?
The authorities have been ill mannered and have a fascist attitude. While torturing the prisoners they hurled insults such as “Arab dog” and “Arab mouse.” They even humiliated the family when they went for visitation. The judge threatened their lawyer with arrest. The behavior is fascist like, brutal and extremely vulgar. It is surprising and unfortunate that such behavior exists in the 21st century.
As a family member very close to these 5 prisoners, what is your request from the Islamic Republic
These men are innocent. An innocent person should not be executed because of his cultural activities. Their files should be transferred to a fair court not in Ahwaz but in Tehran presided by an experienced and fair judge with no connections to the Ministry of Intelligence. If the prisoners get a fair trial presided by a judge who is not cruel with fascist-like attitudes, I promise you they will be vindicated of all the charges, their death sentences will be commuted and they will be released.
The prisoners’ confessions were extracted under torture and they are innocent