16 Sunni prisoners were executed in Zahedan prison on October 26, 2013, in 'revenge' for the deaths of border guards who had been killed in clashes the previous night, according to the public prosecutor, Mohammad Marzieh.
According to eyewitness reports, the men showed no fear and were hanged whilst shouting, "God is the greatest!" and "Down with dictatorship!"
The prisoners who were executed had no involvement in the clashes, and the cases against many of the men were marred by allegations of torture and judicial irregularities. The men said they were forced to make false 'confessions' under severe torture.
A leaked report from a Sunni prisoner who witnessed the execution of the sixteen men was published by 'Human Rights Activists for Democracy in Iran' (HRDAI). The prisoner was also taken to the gallows with the men, yet his execution was postponed at the last moment. The following is a translation of his eyewitness account:
"At around 12 o'clock midnight, in a secretive, deceptive and hurried fashion, the political prisoners were removed from their various cells and quarantined in solitary confinement. None of the prisoners knew the reason for their transfer.
Most prisoners were in their pyjamas. They [guards] did not let them wear their clothes in case their cellmates noticed that they were being transferred.
It was around 05:00 am when all the prisoners were removed from quarantine in solitary confinement and were taken to the execution ground.
All were astonished, they said, "This must be just a mock execution [as a form of torture]. If they [really] wanted to execute us, we would have had a last meeting with our families."
The people present were: The public prosecutor of Zahedan province, Mohammad Marzieh [and] head of branch 1 of the Revolutionary court; Babaee, head of the province's prisons; Khosravi, the head of the prison; Bahrami, the head of the Intelligence prison; and our interrogators who tortured us whilst we were in detention in the Intelligence agency were [also] standing there.
They took us to the place of execution and the public prosecutor of Zahedan, Mohammad Marzieh, put the ropes around our necks and went back to the rows of the officials.
Here we realized that the execution sentence was certain. All of us guys were in high morale, as if we were not afraid of death - a strange force was over us.
Mohammad Marzieh took a few steps forward, and he was speaking to one of the prisoners who had a noose around his neck and his hands and feet bound, like us all.
A very loud cry broke the silence of the night, began [to shout], "Allahu Akbar!" [God is great]. Another political prisoner began [to shout], "Death to dictatorship!"
Their screams were so loud that I think the whole prison learnt what was happening.
Mohammad Marzieh and the other officials there panicked for a moment, not knowing what to do. Then Mohammad Marzieh was very angry, and ordered to [pull] the stool of the first person who began shouting "Allahu Akbar" [to hang him]. Then all the stools were pulled [from underneath them and they were hanged].
To my surprise and disbelief, they [did not execute me]. Ever since I have returned to my ward, the scene of them and the sound of "Allahu Akbar" has not left my ears. My life has changed completely."
Despite the numerous allegations from the prisoners, documenting the shocking catalogue of abuse they were forced to endure, the Iranian regime still upheld the death sentence for the men.
The executions are the latest in a long list of Sunni Baluchi Muslims who have been executed in 'revenge' killings for events they were not involved in.
Mass revenge executions took place in 2006, following the deaths of Iranian guards in 2010 in Tasuki, south-eastern Iran. According to the October 2010 report by the International Federation for Human rights (FIDH), in response to the attacks, "scores of Baluchis were reportedly hanged, often after summary trials." The report further stated that "many were not perpetrators of the attacks but had family ties to those in the Jondollah"
The Baloch people, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, face a double burden of persecution due to being both a religious and an ethnic minority group. They report widespread political, cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
Numerous Sunni Muslims, especially those active in propogating Sunni Islam, have been imprisoned and executed under false charges in politically motivated trials.
In 2011, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stated that "Sunni Muslim leaders regularly are intimidated and harassed by intelligence and security services and report widespread official discrimination."
Serious concerns remain about the fate of countless other Sunni Muslims facing execution in Iran following forced confessions and unfair trials.