Monday, April 14, 2008

Iran upholds death sentence for Kurdish activist


13 April 2008

TEHERAN - Iran has upheld a death sentence for a Kurdish activist convicted of links to an outlawed separatist group after the supreme court quashed the original hanging verdict, his lawyer said on Sunday.

“A revolutionary court in the town of Marivan has sentenced Hiva Botimar to death for the second time after the supreme court quashed its first verdict and ordered a new trial,” lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told AFP.

He said the court in western Kordestan province had found 31-year-old environmental activist Botimar guilty of “moharebeh” (being an enemy of god) and having ties with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Nikbakht said the court cited as evidence of guilt hundreds of bullets found in Botimar’s possession which he had recovered from an abandoned army camp in a Kordestan village when he was 14.

“The court gave its ruling regardless of the army’s official explanations,” the lawyer said, adding that he had 20 days to appeal the verdict against his client who has been in jail since December 2006.

In a separate ruling, the supreme court has quashed a death sentence against another Kurdish man accused of espionage and imprisoned since January 2007, Nikbakht said.

Adnan Hassanpour, 26, who briefly worked as a journalist for a local publication in Kordestan province, “was approached by some political people to gather information about military sites,” the lawyer said.

“He has denied any systematic ties with outlawed political groups,” Nikbakht said, adding that he awaited a judiciary ruling for a retrial.

The death sentences were in July 2007 condemned in Europe and raised the concern of press and human rights watchdogs.

But Nikbakht said the charges against Hassanpour were unrelated to his journalistic work.

Iran has been battling separatist rebels of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), which is linked to the PKK, in its western Kurdish-populated areas.

Tehran has repeatedly accused the United States of seeking to stir up ethnic unrest by providing material support to PJAK, which has bases in northeastern neighbouring Iraq.

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