Iran: Organiser of music concerts sentenced to death

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Iran:
Organiser of music concerts sentenced to death

The death sentence on education activist and concert organiser Yaghub Mehrnahad highlights the situation in Iran where many live in risk of execution for expressing their views. Iran has one of the highest number of recorded executions of any country in the world, and the second highest rate of death penalty after China.

After ten months of arrest, 28-year-old Yaghub Mehrnahad (also spelled: Ya’qub Mehrnehad, Yaghoob Mirnehad or Yaghoub Mirnahad) was sentenced to death. He was tried by a closed court in Zahedan on 25 December 2007, and a month and a half later, on 7 February, his family and his lawyer who had not been allowed to attend the trial were informed of the death sentence. On 19 February, according to the news agency Associated Press, authorities in Iran represented by spokesman for Iran’s judiciary, Ali Reza Jamshidi, said that Yaghub Mehrnahad was sentenced to death “because of his membership in the terrorist Jundallah group as well as for crimes against national security.” This statement was the first official confirmation of the death sentence from the Iranian government.

In 2002, Yaghub Mehrnahad founded an association, Sedaye Edalat (the Voice of Justice Young People’s Society) which organised various cultural events such as music concerts and painting and computer classes for the youth in his area. Mehrnahad was also representative of a reformist, Tehran-based daily newspaper called ‘Mardom Salari’ (Democracy).

The Voice of Justice association was a legally established entity which had been registered in the governmental National Youth Organisation.

Baluch minority
Yaghub Mehrnahad comes from Sistan-Baluchistan – a poor and deprived province in south-east of Iran, near Pakistan and Afghanistan. The area is populated by the Baluch minority, a group of around two million people with their own language, Baluchi. They are Sunni-Muslims in a country where nine out of ten inhabitants are Shiite-Muslims. The Baluch minority are claimed to experience discrimination within the Iranian society, not having the same rights as the Shiite-Muslims. The Baluch pupils and students are not allowed to speak their language in schools and universities.

A student activist in Tehran, who asked not to be quoted by name, told the news agency Inter Press Service that the death sentence is very unusual:
“Nobody knows what could have led to such a heavy sentence because he is not known to have advocated any violence. But there are suspicions that the death sentence is intended to cover up evidence of physical torture that, according to his family, he has been subjected to,” she said.

Yaghub Mehrnahad has three children: five-year-old Abubakr, three-year-old Omar, and Asiye who is seven months. Asiyeh was born two months after her father’s arrest. His family has only been able to visit him only four times the ten months of his arrest. In their last visit, they noticed that he had lost weight (about 15 kilos), could not balance himself and was in very poor physical and mental condition.

Many executions in Baluchistan
According to a report by Amnesty International, from January to August 2007 out of the total 166 executions reported in Iran, 50 happened in the Baluchistan province.

According to a statement by the Justice Department of Sistan-Baluchistan on 6 January 2008, released by Iranian Students News Agency, five men were sentenced to amputation of their right arms and left legs on the charges of taking up arms against the Islamic state, hostage taking and armed robbery, and the sentences were carried out.




Yaghub Mehrnahad

Photo credit: IranOnline

Sources

IPS News – 19 February 2008:

‘Intolerance Marks Sunni Student’s Death Sentence’

The Associated Press / International Herald Tribune – 19 February 2008:

‘Iran sentences journalist to death on terrorism charge’

Amnesty International – September 2007:

‘Iran: Human Rights Abuses against the Baluchi Minority’

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization – 19 February 2008:

‘Iran: When Will Minority Languages Be Free?’

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