Six Sunni political prisoners on death-row have started a hunger strike in Ghezel Hesar prison yesterday, after being informed by prison authorities that they would be transferred to a new section of the prison. There are fears the transition is in preparation for the men's execution.
Hamed Ahmadi, Seddigh Mohammadi, Jamshed Dehghani, Jahangir Dehghani, Kamal Molayee and Syed Hadi Hosseini were informed on Monday that they will be transferred after the start of the Islamic (lunar) month of Muharram, which has officially started in most countries today (5th November 2013).
One of the prisoners, who can not be identified due to security reasons, spoke to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).
"What worries us is that one of us was executed in Muharram last year," the prisoner said, "It is possible that the transfer is in preparation for our execution."
He continued, "Today, the head of the unit called us. He threatened that if we are not ready to move tomorrow morning or if we resist, the guards will use violence and we will be taken to solitary confinement."
The execution date for the men was originally scheduled for the 26th of September, 2013, but was postponed at the last minute by the authorities. A court ordered that the executions be delayed for a month, following a wave of criticism from both the families of the men and the international community.
A month has now passed, leaving the men with no legal protection from execution. 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 are currently detained in section 4 of Unit 3, in Ghezel Hesar prison. Unit 3 is for maximum-security prisoners. The unit has 12 sections, and, according to sources, there are additional concerns that transferring the men to a new section will house them with dangerous or violent offenders.
"Section 4 [where the six men are currently detained] is for prisoners who have good behavior, but that does not mean it is safe. It is just safer than the other sections, which contain some of the most dangerous offenders in the country."
"The situation in the whole unit is something like hell. Sometimes there are bloody wars between prisoners, this salon against that salon," he said, "the men's life may be in danger if they are moved to other parts of that unit."
Two of the men were reportedly tortured in the prison last month. Hamed Ahmadi was subjected to electric shocks, causing bleeding from the stomach. Kamal Molayee was severely beaten and kicked by prison guards, who broke at least one of his teeth.
The four men were arrested and kept in detention since June and July 2009. They were among a group of ten men who were then sentenced to death in 2011. Their court appearance lasted just ten minutes, and the men were handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded throughout. They were convicted of ‘enmity against God’ and ‘causing corruption on the Earth’. Six of the men were executed in December 2012.
The men were accused of involvement in the assassination of a Sunni scholar with ties to the government, who was killed in October 2009. The men maintain that it was physically impossible for them to have been involved, as they had been in prison since June and July 2009.
The men were all tortured in detention, and many were forced to 'confess' to false charges. The men reported that they were severely physically and psychologically tortured, and their families were threatened. Some were forced to sign papers without being allowed to read them.
The men were all active in propagating Sunni Islam within their communities, and in criticizing the regime. Sunnis face widespread persecution in the Shia-dominated Iran, and many of those who openly propagate Sunni Islam have been imprisoned or executed under false charges. 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."