ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Relatives of Ramin Hossein Panahi, a Kurdish activist on death row in Iran, are worried his chances of imminent execution have increased after several Iranian security forces were killed in July, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said on Wednesday.
“The security situation in the Kurdistan region has been very tense because of the armed confrontation with PJAK and the deaths of border guardsmen,” a source close to the family told the CHRI on July 31.
On July 21, 2018, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) claimed responsibility for the killings of at least 10 soldiers belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the city of Marivan in Iran’s Kurdistan Province.
The PJAK statement said the attack was in response to the killing of four of its fighters in Mariwan and Paveh, as well as the assassination of Iranian Kurdish activist Iqbal Muradi in the Kurdistan Region's Penjwen last month.
Since then, a number of news outlets affiliated to the Iranian government have launched a propaganda campaign against Panahi, stating he deserves to be hanged for the alleged “terrorist” activities, the CHRI said.
“The Islamic Republic usually tries to impose calm by carrying out executions, and for the past few weeks, some sites run by the IRGC and the Intelligence Ministry have been publishing articles every day in order to justify Ramin’s death sentence,” an anonymous source told CHRI.
“It seems they are trying to prepare public opinion for his execution.”
In April 2018, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld Panahi’s death sentence for his membership in the outlawed Kurdish nationalist group, Komala, and for allegedly drawing a weapon in a clash with IRGC agents.
Panahi insists he did not participate in any armed action, nor did he reach for a weapon.
On July 23, two days after the deaths of the IRGC soldiers, the IRGC-affiliated Mashregh claimed Panahi had confessed to firing 30 bullets at IRGC agents before running out of ammunition and getting arrested in June 2017.
“These sites repeatedly mention his Komala membership and publish photos of him inside a Komala camp,” the source told CHRI. “No one has denied that he was a member of Komala but the issue is that he did not reach for a weapon. He was not armed.”
UN human rights experts have called for his death sentence to be annulled in light of legal concerns about the handling of his case, including reports that Panahi had been tortured, denied access to a lawyer and medical care, and that he had been held incommunicado.
Since his death sentence was upheld in April 2018, Panahi has been moved back and forth between solitary confinement and the public ward of the Central Prison in Sanandaj, creating the impression that his execution was imminent.
Kako Alyar, a senior member of Komala, argued Iran is repressing Kurds inside the country because “Kurdish political parties are the most organized among the Iranian opposition.”
“These along with many other facts scare the regime in Iran and make them threaten more, kill more, imprison more, and execute more, but clearly Kurds do not get scared,” he told Kurdistan 24. "On the contrary; [they are] motivated to fight even more to achieve their legitimate rights."
Editing by John J. Catherine