English PEN joins PEN International in strongly condemning the recent execution of Ahwazi Arab poet Hashem Shaabani
The execution of Hashem Shaabani, a poet and teacher from Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority, shows the gap between Iran’s attempts to improve its international relations and the human rights situation within the country. PEN urges the Iranian authorities to halt all executions and to release all writers, poets, journalists and bloggers held solely in connection with their peaceful exertion of their right to freedom of expression.
Relatives of Hashem Shaabani, a 31-year-old father of one from Ramshir (known as Khalafabad by the Ahwazi Arab community), were reportedly told on 29 January 2014 that he had been executed ‘three or four days before’. He had been transferred on 7 December 2013 to an unknown location from Karoun Prison in Ahvaz city where he had previously been held.
‘We condemn this execution as the ultimate violation of the right to life of a fellow poet. In addition, there are serious concerns that Hashem Shaabani was tortured after his arrest to pressure him to make a televised “confession” which was subsequently shown on national television. His trial was thus grossly unfair,’ said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
‘While the releases last year of prominent writers such as lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and journalist Jila Bani Yaghoub were welcome, the authorities must show that they are truly committed to respecting freedom of expression and other fundamental rights.’
Shaabani was executed alongside fellow teacher Hadi Rashedi after being convicted on 7 July 2012 of ‘enmity against God’, ‘corruption on earth’, ‘gathering and colluding against state security’ and ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ by Branch Two of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court. The sentence had been upheld by the Supreme Court in January 2013.
Both men were arrested in early September 2011, along with three other men, Mohammad Ali Amouri, Sayed Jaber Alboshoka and Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka, who were tried alongside Shaabani and Rashedi, apparently in connection with cultural activities on behalf of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority. None of the five men had access to a lawyer or their families for the first nine months of their detention and all are reported to have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated before and after the verdict.