It's been a year since the Iranian government took the life of Farzad Kamangar, a Kurdish Iranian teacher and human rights activist. He was hanged in Evin prison in May 2010 along with four others. After summary trials, they had been convicted on trumped up charges of endangering national security and the vague charge of moharabeh, that is, enmity with God.
Now another young Kurdish Iranian is in imminent danger of execution. Habibollah Latifi is a student of engineering at Azad University. He was arrested in October 2007 in Sanandaj, the capital of Kordistan province, and has spent more than three and half years in prison. Politically active at his university, he too was convicted of moharebeh. The regime claims he was a member of an armed opposition group – a charge he and his family vehemently deny. His conviction followed a trial behind closed doors with no lawyer present to defend him. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports that the only evidence presented against Mr. Latifi was a confession obtained under torture, which he later renounced. He has been sentenced to death and could be executed at any time.
While all political dissidents live under threat in Iran, ethnic minorities like the Kurds are particularly targeted by the regime. Human rights monitors say that currently at least 16 Kurdish Iranian prisoners are on death row, and many other Kurdish journalists and rights activists languish in prison.
U.S. Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner recently expressed deep concern over the Iranian government's denial of human rights to its own citizens and others within Iran. "Judicial cases, trials, and sentences continue to proceed without transparency and the due process rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Iran's own constitution," he said in a statement.
Mr. Toner specifically mentioned "reports that Kurdish activist Habibollah Latifi was soon to be executed despite serious questions about the motives of the Iranian government and the charges against him." He also cited the recent execution of two Iranian brothers, Abdollah and Mohammad Fathi, who were hanged "amid serious questions about whether [they] were granted their rights.
"The United States," said Deputy State Department Spokesman Toner, "urges the Iranian government to halt these executions, to release its political prisoners, and to guarantee the full enjoyment of human rights to all persons in Iran in accordance with its international obligations and its constitution."