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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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URGENT: KHRP Concerned for Two Kurdish Activists Facing Death Sentence in Iran

KHRP is deeply concerned about the recent sentence handed down to two Kurdish activists by the Iranian courts in July. Journalist Adnan Hassanpur and social activist Hiwa Butimar were sentenced to death after nearly six months in prison where they have faced torture and degrading treatment. They were not represented by their own lawyers, as they were only informed of the trial 24 hours before it was due to begin. Nor did they have enough time to travel to Marivan where the hearing was held. Mr Butimar and Mr Hassanpour were represented instead by a duty solicitor; duty solicitors are widely considered to be agents of the state.


Hiwa Butimar

The family of Hiwa Butimar was only able to see him two months after the arrest and only in the presence of an intelligence officer. They observed that he had been exposed to physical and emotional torture and noticed clear bruises on his face and hands. We have also been informed that he has been kept in a 1 metre by 1 metre confined cell.

Speaking to KHRP, Mr Butimar’s family expressed their concern over the case. Mr Butimar’s brother Hadi Butimar, who has also experienced imprisonment and torture in Iran, stated that they are ‘imploring the international community to assist them as it is our only glimmer of hope’. He is also worried that his brother has been targeted due to his own experiences with the Iranian regime.

Hiwa Butimar, a journalist, environmental activist and co-founder of The Green Mountains of Kurdistan, an organisation focusing on the environmental issues affecting Iran’s Kordestan region, was arrested in Marivan by two plainclothes Iranian intelligence officers on 23 December 2006 with no information of the charges against him. Following the arrest, it transpired that Mr Butimar was accused of ‘acts against national security and spying for western countries’. In a statement, the Intelligence Department stated that Mr Butimar was a member of the political group PJAK and that he was involved with militia groups secretly acting against the government. The legal documents relating to the charges and trial were not made available to the public or to his family.


Adnan Hassanpur

Mr Hassanpour a writer and, like Mr Butimar, an enthusiastic journalist for newspapers such as Aso, for which he wrote articles on the plight of the Kurdish peoples. In 2002 Mr Hassanpour published a book about the origin of the Kurds, their history, culture and politics. To KHRP’s knowledge, Mr Hassanpour was not a member of any organisation.

Mr Hassanpour was arrested at his family home on 1 January 2007 by Iranian Intelligence officers. It is unknown how many officers were present. Mr Hassanpour’s mother only returned home in time to see her son being pushed into a car. She cried and shouted and asked to speak to her son, however the officers disregarded her pleas. On returning to the house, she discovered that his books, CDs and computer had been seized.

The family received no information as to where Mr Hassanpour was detained until two months after the arrest. The family were never given the opportunity to visit Mr Hassanpour in prison and therefore have had no direct contact with him since his arrest. The only information that they have received was through one of Mr Hassanpour’s fellow prisoners who told them on his release that Mr Hassanpour had severe bruising on his back and on his arms.

The authorities have provided no information as to the reasons for Mr Hassanpour’s arrest and detention nor the offence with which he has been charged. His family believe that the only explanation for the arrest is Mr Hassanpour’s activities as a journalist and writer on issues relating to the Kurdish peoples and, in particular, the situation of the Kurds in Iran. Mr Hassanpour has no criminal record. No legal documents pertaining to the charges or trial have been made available to the family or to Mr Hassanpour’s lawyers.

Since the death sentences were passed, both Mr Butimar and Mr Hassanpour have been held at an unknown location and neither the family nor the lawyers have been given any information in this regard. KHRP is concerned that the judgment will be implemented within 2-3 weeks if there is no international intervention.

It is of further concern to KHRP that it appears Mr Butimar and Mr Hassanpour were targeted not only for being journalists, but also for being Kurdish. Mr Butimar’s family and legal counsel believe that he has been found guilty by virtue of his ethnicity. Journalists from other groups/nations inside Iran accused of similar activities and harassed by the authorities are branded as ‘Reformists’ whereas if the person in question is Kurdish, they are automatically branded as ‘Separatists’. 

Today KHRP has sent an urgent communication to the United Nations on behalf of Mr Butimar and Mr Hassanpour, requesting immediate UN intervention in the matter.

In response to the news of the death sentences, KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz today stated: “the plight of Mr Butimar and Mr Hassanpur is the most recent example of the ongoing policy of kidnapping, torture and execution carried out by the Iranian regime against journalists, political activists and human rights defenders. KHRP condemns the practice of the death penalty under any circumstances. However the passing of a death sentence on the basis of ethnic discrimination, torture and scant evidence is in violation of the most basic principles of international law. KHRP calls on the Iranian authorities immediately to release Mr Butimar and Mr Hassanpur, and calls on international human rights organisations and the international community to join us in the condemnation of these sentences.”