Iran arrests anti-death penalty activist

On Oct. 14, Iranian authorities arrested Emaddedin Baghi, a prominent activist who who heads the Committee for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights and has campaigned against the death penalty “He is charged with spreading propaganda against the regime and publishing secret government documents,” his lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told AFP. Baghi is a former journalist who served a three-year prison term from 2000-2003 over his writings in several pro-reform newspapers. In recent months, he has publicly protested against a wave of public hangings that has swept Iran as part of a “security” campaign. In September he wrote an open letter to the heads of reformist partiesā€”including former president Mohammad Khatami and ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubiā€”complaining of their silence over the hangings. At least 207 executions have been carried out in Iran so far this year, already well above the figures for 2006. Baghi, who in 2005 was awarded a human rights prize by France for his work against the death penalty, was particularly prominent in cases in Khuzestan province, which has seen a spate of executions following the emergence of armed Arab separatist activity.

AFP said Baghi had been sentenced to three years earlier this year over his activities, but has yet to serve this sentence pending an appeal. AFP also said that in the same case his wife Fatemeh Kamali Ahmad Sarahi and his daughter Maryam Baghi were also each handed three year suspended sentences. An AP account said Baghi had served two years of a three-year term on charges of violating national security, with the third year suspended. “Now, the suspended term will go into force,” AP quoted an unnamed official telling the official news agency IRNA. “Baghi was doing his activities against national security under the cover of defending prisoners’ rights,” IRNA quoted the official. (AFP, AP, Oct. 15)

See our last posts on Iran and the struggle in Khuzestan.