Authorities provided 'contradictory' information to the families of missing Sunni prisoners in Iran.
The fate of seven Sunni political prisoners is still unknown, as reports emerge that the Iranian authorities have been providing contradictory information to the prisoners' families. The seven prisoners, who are all facing execution, were removed from Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj and taken to an unknown location.
Two of the men, Sheikh Kaveh Vaisi and Mokhtar Rahimi, have not been heard from since they were transferred from Rajai Shahr prison on September 29th, 2013.
"The Intelligence officials gave contradictory information about whether they transferred [the prisoners] to ward 209 of Evin prison, or to Sanandaj Intelligence prison," a source told the Human rights Activist News Agency (HRANA).
"We were told that none of it could be confirmed," the source said, "So far [the prisoners] have had no contact with their families and the families have not been allowed to visit them."
Further reports have emerged that the families of five other Sunni political prisoners were also given false or conflicting information by Iranian officials.
The families of the five men have not had any contact with them since they were transferred to an unknown location. The five men, Shahram Ahmadi, Kaveh Sharifi, Arash Sharifi, Talib Malaki and Behrooz Shah Nazari, were removed from Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj on October 9th, 2013.
The authorities had originally provided no information about the whereabouts of the five prisoners, prompting the families to hold a protest last Saturday outside the Ministry of Intelligence in Sanandaj. The families were threatened with arrest, and officials reportedly threatened to show 'no mercy to [even] the women and children' if they did not stop demonstrating. The families were then told they would receive information about the prisoners if they ended the protest.
Intelligence officials informed the families that the men had been transferred individually to various prisons around central Iran, including Arak prison in Markazi province and Kashan prison in the province of Isfahan.
However, suspicions grew as the families remained unable to contact the prisoners to confirm this information.
At one stage, the families were told by officials that the men had all been transferred to Evin prison in northwestern Tehran, conflicting with earlier statements. In a further contradiction, the authorities reportedly informed the families that the prisoners had in fact been moved to Sanandaj Intelligence prison in Sanandaj.
The families of the prisoners have been unable to confirm the accuracy of any of the information given to them by the authorities, and have still been unable to contact the prisoners. The welfare of all of the seven men remains unknown.
The seven men are amongst at least 30 other Sunni political prisoners facing execution in Iran. The men were all active in propogating Sunni Islam within their communities, and it is alleged they were arrested due to their open criticism of the Iranian regime.
Outspoken Sunnis face discrimination in Iran, particularly Sunnis from a Kurdish or Baloch background, who face a double burden of persecution due to being both religious and ethnic minorities. Numerous Sunni scholars and teachers have been imprisoned or executed under false charges. In 2011, the USCIRF stated that "Sunni Muslim leaders regularly are intimidated and harassed by intelligence and security services and report widespread official discrimination."