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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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Iran Confirms Death Sentence of Kurdish Journalist

Kurdish Human Rights Project is gravely concerned by news that the death sentence against Hiwa Butimar, a 29-year-old award-winning Kurdish journalist and environmental activist, has been confirmed. As KHRP reported last July, in 2007 Mr. Butimar received his first death sentence along with Adnan Hassanpour, also a Kurdish journalist, having spent 6 months in prison. With only 24 hours notice before the trial, neither was able to be represented by his own lawyer or be present for the trial. Mr. Butimar and Mr. Hassanpour protested their treatment in 2007 by going on hunger strike for over a month, but the sentences against both remain in place.

Mr. Butimar was arrested in 2006 for allegedly supporting a Kurdish armed group.  Legal documents relating the charges against Mr. Butimar and his trial have been kept from his family and the public, and KHRP has received reports that he has been tortured while in solitary confinement for the past year.  Mr. Butimar appealed the initial death sentence handed down by the Revolutionary Court in Mariwan, but the same judge who made the initial decision recently confirmed the sentence.  This is a clear violation of his right to fair trial and judicial review.

Mr. Hassanpour was arrested in January 2007 with no criminal record.  While the official reasons for his arrest have not been made public, KHRP believes he was targeted for writing about the origin, culture and politics of the Kurds and for being Kurdish himself.  Fellow prisoners report that he has been severely bruised, suggesting he has been tortured.

Iran’s treatment toward the two journalists is consistent with its repressive media policies which violate the right to freedom of expression. Reporters sans Frontières reported 18 April 2008 that 18 Iranian newspapers have been suspended since January for ‘obviously political reasons.’ Most recently, the Rouji Ha Lat newspaper of the Kurdish region of Iran was shut down on 11 April for selling copies in Iraq on the grounds that it is a crime for the media to accept foreign financial assistance.  Three of the newspaper’s journalists had been previously detained for a month and fined the equivalent of €300 for acting against ‘national security.’

KHRP reiterates its August 2007 appeal to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to act immediately to ensure that Iran respects the rights of Mr. Butimar and Mr. Hassanpour and upholds its obligations under international law. Kerim Yildiz, KHRP Executive Director, today stated: ‘’The arrest, continuing detention, torture, and pending executions of Mr. Butimar and Mr. Hassanpour  violate their basic rights to life, fair trial and freedom of expression, enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Additionally, the fact that these two journalists were targeted for and continue to be mistreated because of their ethnicity must not be tolerated.  KHRP calls for the immediate release of both individuals and for the international community to condemn the sentences against Mr. Butimar and Mr. Hassanpour.’’