Six Sunni political prisoners awaiting execution in Ghezel Hesar prison are suffering from serious injuries after being beaten by prison guards whilst being held in solitary confinement. The men have entered their sixth day of hunger strike in protest at being transferred from their cells in Section 4, Unit 3 of the prison. There were fears that the move was in preparation for their execution.
The prison authorities took the decision to transfer one prisoner, Syed Hadi Hosseini, who suffers from seizures, back to Unit 3 after his health deteriorated rapidly in solitary confinement. According to sources, he was harshly beaten, abused and harassed by prison guards whilst in the solitary cells.
The remaining five prisoners' had suffered serious injuries by prison guards when the guards violently removed them from their cells. Two of the men were suffering from bleeding from the stomach; Hamed Ahmadi, who already had a stomach illness, and Jahangir Dehghani, whose condition was being made worse by the hunger strike. The men were beaten by guards whilst in solitary confinement.
In a worrying development, the Ministry of Intelligence in Sanandaj confirmed that the death sentences for the six men had been upheld. "The Ministry of Intelligence in Sanandaj examined the cases of Sunni prisoners of conscience, especially those sentenced to death," a source told the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), "officials from the Ministry of Intelligence informed [the families] that the death sentences for the six men was binding, and would be implemented soon."
"As for the other 26 prisoners who are sentenced to death from Rajai Shahr prison, they said the death penalty will be carried out for some. The Expediency council will decide about the rest of them."
"The meeting took place last week. The Ministry of Intelligence named a few members of [the prisoners'] families, and said it was their fault that the death sentence would be carried out. They said it was because the families had spoken to foreign media and human rights organizations, and so the decision has been made regarding the execution of Sunni prisoners," he said.
Sources say that blackmailing the families of prisoners is a common tactic used by the Iranian regime to prevent them from alerting the media about the human rights abuses and torture that is rife within the prisons of Iran.
"This a common method used by the regime. They tell the families that if you talk to the media, the verdict will be more severe," said Mustafa Rahmani, a former political prisoner in Iran, "In fact, it's not a real promise. They do whatever they want, but they use this threat to get rid of pressure from the media and human rights organizations."
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 were students of knowledge and were active in preaching Sunni Islam within their communities. Actively spreading Sunni Islam can be dangerous in Iran, a Shia-ruled country, where ethnic and religious minorities face discrimination and persecution. Many Sunni scholars and students of knowledge have been imprisoned and even executed, after refusing to stop propagating Sunni Islam.
The men were severely tortured in pre-trial detention, and were forced to sign false confessions. They were physically abused and their families were threatened, in an attempt to make the men accept false charges. Despite the use of 'confessions' obtained through torture, the death sentence for the men has been upheld, and their executions appear to be imminent.