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Hundreds of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, were held. Some were detained without charge or trial; others continued to serve long prison sentences imposed after unfair trials. Reports of torture and ill-treatment continued to be received and judicial punishments of flogging and stoning continued to be imposed. Reports suggested that possible “disappearances” and extrajudicial executions had occurred. Scores of people were reportedly executed, including at least one prisoner of conscience; however, the true number may have been considerably higher. An unknown number of people remained under sentence of death, some after unfair trials. Armed opposition groups committed human rights abuses.

    President Hojjatoleslam val Moslemin Sayed Mohammad Khatami proceeded cautiously with reforms in the face of opposition in the majles (parliament) and judiciary. Tensions increased on Iran's border with Afghanistan in September following the killing by Afghan Taleban forces of nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist.

    The government continued to face armed opposition from the Iraq-based People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (pmoi), as well as from the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (kdpi), Arab separatist groups in Khuzestan, and Baluchi groups in Sistan-Baluchistan.

    Civil unrest continued sporadically in various regions. In April clashes broke out after a demonstration in Tehran in support of former Tehran Mayor Gholam Hussain Karbaschi was attacked by members of Ansar-e Hezbollah (Helpers of Hezbollah), an informal group linked to elements in the Iranian government. A number of people were injured and others were arrested as security forces broke up the disturbances.

    The un Special Representative on the Islamic Republic of Iran continued to be denied access to the country during the year.

    Prisoners of conscience continued to be detained. Four employees of the daily newspaper Tous _ Mashallah Shamsolva'ezin, Hamid Reza Jalaipour, Mohammad Javadi Hessar and Rahim Nabavi _ were arrested after Tous was banned in September. They were released conditionally in October. Tous had replaced the journal Jameah, banned in July for “publishing lies and disturbing public order”, and maintained its editorial staff. Earlier in the year Mashallah Shamsolva'ezin, then editor of Jameah, had been attacked outside the journal's offices by members of Ansar-e Hezbollah.

    Hojjatoleslam Sayed Mohsen Saidzadeh, an Islamic scholar, was arrested in June reportedly as a result of an article on the role of women in Islam. He was released in December.

    In July Mohammad Reza Za'eri, editor of Khaneh magazine, was found guilty by the Press Court of publishing an article which allegedly insulted the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Mohammad Reza Za'eri was released from custody after issuing a public apology and paying a surety of 20 million rials (us$6,700).

    Former Deputy Prime Minister 'Abbas Amir Entezam, who was released from detention in May 1997 (see Amnesty International Report 1998), was rearrested in September 1998 following a radio interview in which he reportedly criticized the human rights record of Assadollah Lajevardi, the former governor of Evin prison who was killed in August (see below). Despite recommendations by the presiding judge that 'Abbas Amir Entezam be released on bail, the authorities of Evin prison reportedly refused to release him at the end of September. A court hearing to answer charges of defamation brought against 'Abbas Amir Entezam was set initially for October. However, since 'Abbas Amir Entezam was reportedly prevented from attending the hearing by prison authorities, the hearing was postponed. 'Abbas Amir Entezam was reportedly still held in Evin prison at the end of the year.

    Other prisoners of conscience who continued to be held after arrest in previous years included at least 20 members of the Baha'i religious minority, at least six of whom were under sentence of death. Among them were Sirous Zabihi Moqaddam and Hedayatollah Kashefi, arrested in 1997 and sentenced to death in Mashhad for their alleged role in the conversion of a Muslim woman to the Baha'i faith.

    Grand Ayatollah Hossein 'Ali Montazeri, arrested in November 1997 after making a speech which apparently criticized the leadership of Iran, reportedly remained under house arrest in Qom (see Amnesty International Report 1998). Mass arrests of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's supporters _ including his son-in-law, Hadi Hashemi _ took place prior to a planned demonstration in his home town of Najafabad in May. Some were reportedly ill-treated in detention.

    Other Shi'a religious leaders opposed to aspects of government policy, as well as large numbers of their supporters, continued to be detained. Some or all were possible prisoners of conscience. Some were held without charge or trial, others following unfair trials. At least three Grand Ayatollahs were believed to remain under house arrest, including Grand Ayatollah Sayed Hassan Tabataba'i-Qomi, who was reportedly denied access to medical treatment for heart disease (see Amnesty International Report 1998). Several supporters of Grand Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Shirazi also reportedly remained in detention.

    Scores of people arrested following demonstrations in Tabriz and hundreds of others arrested on suspicion of offences such as espionage, “propagating pan-Turkism” or “counter-revolution”, continued to be held without charge or trial (see previous Amnesty International Reports).

    Faraj Sarkouhi, a magazine editor who had “disappeared” for seven weeks in 1996 and was rearrested in January 1997 (see Amnesty International Reports 1997 and 1998), was released from detention in January and subsequently left the country.

    Political prisoners continued to receive unfair trials. Detainees were reportedly denied access either to any legal counsel or to a lawyer of their choice, despite legislation providing for the right to legal representation. Trials before special courts, such as the Special Court for the Clergy, continued to fall far short of international standards.

    Gholam Hussain Karbaschi, former Mayor of Tehran and a close political ally of President Khatami, was arrested in April on charges of corruption and embezzlement. He was sentenced in July to five years' imprisonment, 60 lashes (subsequently set aside on appeal) and a heavy fine. He was also banned from public office for 20 years. Sixteen other Tehran district mayors were also arrested during the investigation, some of whom were sentenced to flogging. Trial proceedings in the case fell short of international standards for fair trial. For example, none of the Tehran municipality officials arrested during the investigation appeared to have had access to a lawyer during their detention. In December an appeal court reduced the custodial sentence against Gholam Hussain Karbaschi from five to two years. An appeal to the Supreme Court was pending at the end of the year.

    Political prisoners serving long prison terms after unfair trials included: supporters of the pmoi; members of the Mohajerin movement (followers of Dr 'Ali Shari'ati); members of leftist organizations such as the Tudeh party, Peykar and factions of the Organization of the People's Fedaiyan of Iran; supporters of Kurdish groups such as Komala and the kdpi; and supporters of other groups representing ethnic minorities such as Baluchis and Arabs.

    Torture and ill-treatment continued to be reported. Many of the Tehran municipality officials mentioned above claimed they were tortured to elicit confessions or to incriminate others: methods used reportedly included beatings with hands, feet and sticks; flogging with whips; sleep deprivation, at times combined with being forced to stand for long periods; exposure to loud noises; lack of food; and threats to relatives.

    Judicial punishments amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment continued to be reported. Flogging was reportedly imposed for a wide range of offences, at times in conjunction with the death penalty or a custodial sentence. Vahide Ghassemi, the co-accused of Helmut Hofer (see below), was reportedly sentenced to 100 lashes in October after she was convicted of illicit sexual relations. It was unknown whether the sentence was carried out. In November Khosrow Ebrahimi was acquitted after he escaped from the pit in which he had been buried to the waist in order to be stoned to death in the town of Lahijan. He had been sentenced to death for adultery. Mohammad 'Ali Ataei, originally sentenced to death by a military court in the city of Rasht in January on vaguely worded charges including robbery and “being against the people”, reportedly received 300 lashes before being released in July.

    A number of possible “disappearances” were reported. Pirouz Davani, a critic of the government who had spent four years in prison between 1990 and 1994, “disappeared” in August in Tehran. The authorities denied all knowledge of his whereabouts.

    Reports of deaths in circumstances which suggested possible extrajudicial executions continued to be received. According to reports, Aman Naroui, a Sunni cleric from Zabol, Sistan-Baluchistan province, was killed by unidentified gunmen in July following his criticism of government policies in the region. To Amnesty International's knowledge the killing was not investigated.

    The threat of extrajudicial execution continued to extend to Iranian nationals resident abroad, as well as to non-Iranians. In September President Khatami and other senior officials sought to distance themselves from the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa calling for the death of author Salman Rushdie, a United Kingdom national, as well as from the us$2.5 million bounty offered for Salman Rushdie's life by the 15 Khordad Foundation (see previous Amnesty International Reports). However, several senior religious figures and members of parliament in Iran continued to support the fatwa, and in October the 15 Khordad Foundation increased to us$3 million the reward for killing Salman Rushdie.

    In November Majid Sharif, a journalist and translator who had reportedly written articles advocating the separation of the state and religion, was found dead after he failed to return from a religious ceremony in the city of Mashhad. The circumstances of his death were suspicious. The same month Dariyush Foruhar, leader of the banned Hezb-e Mellat-e Iran, Iran Nation Party, and his wife, Parvaneh Foruhar, were killed at their home in Tehran. In December Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Ja'far Puyandeh, both of whom had been questioned by the authorities in October in connection with their desire to establish an independent writers' association, were found dead. They had “disappeared” a few days earlier. Both had reportedly been strangled. An investigation was in progress at the end of the year.

    The death penalty continued to be widely used, often imposed for vaguely worded offences _ including political offences and those relating to freedom of belief _ frequently after unfair trials. Scores of executions, including a number carried out in public, were reported, although the true figures may well have been considerably higher.

    Morteza Firouzi, editor of the English-language daily Iran News who was held in unacknowledged detention for over 10 weeks in 1997 (see Amnesty International Report 1998), was reportedly sentenced to death in January on charges of “spying for a foreign country”. In May the death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court, but shortly afterwards the case was referred back to the Court of First Instance for reconsideration. There was no further news of Morteza Firouzi's fate.

    Ruhollah Rowhani was executed in Mashhad in July after he was convicted of converting a Shi'a Muslim woman to the Baha'i faith. Two other Baha'is who were convicted in the same case remained in Mashhad prison under sentence of death.

    Helmut Hofer, a German, was sentenced to death in January for having sexual relations with an Iranian Muslim woman, Vahide Ghassemi (see above). Following an appeal, the court of first hearing reinstated the death sentence in October. A second appeal was pending before the Supreme Court.

    In August 'Abdollah Amini was reportedly given four death sentences on charges of kdpi membership and involvement in the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard prisoners while he was commandant of a kdpi internment camp during the 1980s. It was not known whether he was executed.

    Hossein Dowlatkhah, a businessman reportedly convicted in 1997 of “corruption on earth” and other offences was hanged in Tehran in November.

    In June the pmoi caused bomb explosions at three locations in Tehran, including the office of the Islamic Revolutionary Prosecutor, in which an unconfirmed number of people were killed, some or all of whom were civilians. The pmoi claimed responsibility for the killing in August of Assadollah Lajevardi, former governor of Evin prison, and two other people.

    Amnesty International called for the unconditional and immediate release of all prisoners of conscience and a review of legislation which allows for the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience. Amnesty International urged the authorities to review the cases of political prisoners, so that those sentenced after an unfair trial could be promptly retried in accordance with international standards. Amnesty International also urged that those detained without charge or trial be charged with recognizably criminal offences and given fair trials, or released.

    Amnesty International called on the government to ensure impartial and thorough investigations into allegations of torture, “disappearances” and extrajudicial executions, and to bring those responsible to justice. The organization also called for the commutation of death sentences and of judicial punishments amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

    Amnesty International received replies from the authorities clarifying some cases, but the replies did not address many of the organization's continuing human rights concerns.

    Amnesty International continued to investigate the situation of detainees reportedly held by some armed opposition groups. It called on the pmoi to stop targeting civilians in armed attacks.


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