Friday, 26 November 2010

Zahra Bahrami | Stop the Executions

Location: Evin prison
Date condemned: Pending as of 25 August 2010
Charge: Moharabeh
Notes: October 28: Zahra Bahrami was moved to Ward 350 of Evin Prison, which is commonly used to house political prisoners.

September 20: Zahra Bahrami is reportedly under pressure to confess to drug possession charges. She refused to speak in court on both September 8 and 11 because her lawyer, Nasrin Sotoodeh, is in jail. Zahra's next hearing will be held on September 23.

Despite drug possession being added to her charges, Zahra Bahrami still does not have access to a lawyer. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have urged Iran to grant her this access, per international law. They are also urging the regime to either grant her consular access or release her immediately.  Her family is under pressure not to speak to the media about Zahra's case, and the drug possession charges were apparently applied after European and foreign media reported her case.  By levying further charges against Zahra and other prisoners, the Islamic Republic is attempting to silence news of their human rights atrocities.

Zahra Bahrami is a Dutch Iranian woman who was arrested after participating in Ashura (December 27, 2009) protests against the Iranian regime. She has been held in Evin Prison in Tehran since her arrest, and showed signs of torture. Ms. Bahrami was in Iran visiting her children, but is a Dutch citizen. She was charged with setting up an anti-government organization, membership in an unnamed monarchist organization, and spreading anti-regime propaganda. She was denied legal representation and the Dutch foreign minister in Tehran is not permitted to offer her any assistance.  The Islamic Republic does not recognize Ms. Bahrami's Dutch citizenship and refuses to release any information about her case. When asked by a reporter about Ms. Rahrami being permitted consular visits, "President" Ahmadinejad responded: "That is not possible. Iran does not recognise dual nationality. You are Iranian or Dutch."

The Foreign Ministry at the Hague confirmed that Ms. Bahrami does hold a Dutch passport, and had changed her name to Sahra Baahrami, which caused initial confusion about her status. She has reportedly been a resident of the UK for several years. As of 24 August, Dutch representatives to the EU have called on EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton to address Zahra Bahrami's detention with Iranian authorities.

That the Islamic Republic is permitted to torture, detain, and execute Ms. Bahrami is an outrage. Although Iran is not recognizing dual citizenship, Zahra Bahrami is a Dutch citizen, and is protected under United Nations conventions to which Iran is a signatory. Not only is the Islamic Republic refusing to honor its own commitments to international law, to human rights, to its own citizens, but it is going to murder a Dutch citizen for alleged political affiliation. Ms. Bahrami is reported to have suffered infection and lung complications as a result of torture and the appalling conditions in Evin prison. She is permitted no visitors and is reported to be suffering from depression.  Her rare phone calls to family members are monitored and only last for a few minutes.  She has also been forced to confess, which is often done through torture and intimidation. These confessions have been aired on state-affiliated television programs. Her daughter says Ms. Bahrami has never been a member of a political party. Even if she were, this is absolutely no justification for execution, and certainly not of a foreign citizen.

Among others, Iran is violating Article 9 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Both of these UN conventions protect Ms. Bahrami against arbitrary detention. Iran is violating Article 6(2) of the ICCPR, which states that, in countries where it has not been abolished, the death penalty can be imposed only for the most serious crimes. There is no rational justification for considering political participation a serious crime. Article 14 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to legal representation and prohibits forced confession. Finally, both Article 5 of the UDHR and Article 7 of the ICCPR forbid torture.

There is a petition to Maxine Verhagen, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding that Zahra Bahrami's death sentence be immediately overturned and the charges against her dropped.