Six Sunni political prisoners facing execution were taken to an unknown location on Wednesday morning, after being violently removed from their cells at Ghezel Hesar prison, Karaj.
According to reports, prison guards 'attacked and beat' the men as they removed them from their cells. There is no news about their condition or their whereabouts.
The men are said to be in danger of imminent execution. Their execution was originally scheduled to be carried out on the 26th of September, 2013, but was postponed for a month by the authorities. The decision was made to delay the execution following a wave of criticism from both the families of the men and the international community.
According to the organization 'Iran Human Rights' (IHR) there is increasing concern that four of the men may be executed 'in the coming days'.
The men had begun a hunger strike after being told on Monday by the prison authorities that they were due to be transferred to a new section of the prison. They were told they would face violence if they tried to resist. There were fears the move would be in preparation for their execution.
Concerns for the men's safety are growing, following a surge of executions in Iran. According to reports, at least 40 people have been executed in Iran in the last two weeks. At least 17 of the executed prisoners were Sunni Muslims.
The six men facing execution were severely tortured in pre-trial detention, with some suffering broken limbs as a result. The men reported that they were forced to sign false confessions.
Four of the men, Hamed Ahmadi, Kamal Molayee, Jahangir Dehghani and Jamshed Dehghani, were arrested and have been detained since June and July 2009. In December 2009, a Sunni cleric with ties to the Iranian regime was killed. The authorities blamed the four prisoners, along with six others, of being responsible. The accusations were added to their files, despite the fact that the men were in prison at the time of the incident, and it was physically impossible for them to have been involved.
The ten men were sentenced to death in 2011, in a court appearance lasting just ten minutes. The men were blindfolded, handcuffed and shackled throughout. They were convicted of 'enmity against God' and 'corruption on the Earth'.
Six of the men were executed in December 2012. There are serious concerns that the four remaining men will be executed soon.
“Four men risk being executed at any time when they say that their arrest and detention took place before the crime they have been convicted for and that they have been tortured," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
She continued, "the idea that men could be executed when so many doubts surround the case and the legal proceedings is deeply disturbing.”
Two more Sunni prisoners, Seddigh Mohammadi and Syed Hadi Hosseini, are also in danger of execution.
It is believed the six men were targeted by the Iranian regime because they were highly active in spreading Sunni teachings and in criticizing the regime.
There are numerous documented cases of Sunni Muslims being arrested purely due to spreading Sunni teachings. For example, in 2011, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said "there were reports that 19 Sunni clerics had been arrested for spreading Sunni teachings in several parts of the country, including Kurdistan, Kermanshah, Baluchistan, West Azerbaijan, Ahvaz, Tavalesh, and Khorassan provinces. Their whereabouts are unknown."