Saudi Arabia executed 37 men for terrorism-related crimes. Among those killed, 11 were accused of spying on behalf of Iran. Fourteen were convicted for offenses pertaining to anti-government protests. Most of the convicts were Shi’ite, and were predominantly from the country’s Shia-majority eastern province. One was arrested when he was 16 years old. Amnesty International harshly criticized the mass execution, charging that torture was used to secure forced confessions in some of the cases. Amnesty also said Saudi Arabia’s executing of those who were under the age of 18 at the time the offense was committed constitutes a violation of international human rights law. (Photo: Pixabay via Jurist)
The Center for Human Rights in Iran announced that rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh had been convicted in absentia by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh of Iran's Revolutionary Court, described as a "hardline" jurist. She refused to appear in court because she was denied the right to choose her own lawyer. Sotoudeh was charged with crimes including "collusion against national security," "propaganda against the state," "encouraging corruption and prostitution," "appearing before the judiciary without Islamic hijab," "disturbing public peace and order," and "publishing falsehoods with the intent to disturb public opinion." Prosecution cited her membership in the Center for Human Rights, the Legam group against capital punishment, and the anti-militarist National Peace Council. (Photo: Center for Human Rights in Iran)
The Iranian regime has reportedly hanged 22 Ahwazi Arabs in a 72-hour period, after arresting over 1,000 in mass sweeps across Khuzestan province. The executed are said to include a 58-year-old man, who was hanged along with his son aged 30. According to human rights activists in the region, the victims' families were summoned to local regime Intelligence Ministry headquarters to be informed of their loved ones' execution, and were warned against holding any funereal rites or ceremonies. The bodies had apparently been buried in unmarked graves. The victims were accused of "acting against national security," but the executions seemingly took place after summary trials with no legal representation, behind closed doors at Ahwaz Central Prison. At least 500 arrested in the sweeps remain detained, and there are fears that more summary executions could be imminent. (Photo: Iran Human Rights Monitor)
Eight environmental activists arbitrarily detained in Iran in January and February remain in detention eight months later without clear charges, Human Rights Watch said. The organization called upon Iranian authorities to either immediately release them or charge them with recognizable crimes and produce evidence to justify their continued detention. The detained are all members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation. The public prosecutor for Tehran told reporters after the arrests that the detained are accused of using environmental projects as a cover to collect classified strategic information. It is unclear what classified information they could potentially collect, as their organization says it only works to conserve and protect Iran's flora and fauna, including the Asiatic cheetah, an endangered species in Iran. Other sources indicated they have been accused of "sowing corruption on earth," a serious charge that carries the risk of execution. (Image via HRW)
Six UN Special Rapporteurs called on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to respond to a recent Egyptian court decision that condemned 75 protesters to death. The court sentenced another 47 protesters to life in prison. The protesters were charged with illegal gathering, involvement in violence, and incitement to break the law. The Special Rapporteurs state that those who have been sentenced did not receive a fair trial, as they were not given the right to present evidence in their defense. The UNHRC was called upon to "send a strong message to all States that they have a duty under international law to investigate arbitrary killings and prosecute those responsible as well as to apply due process and fair trial standards." The rapporteurs called the executions "arbitrary deprivations of life." (Photo: Egypt Daily News)
Iran's northern Kurdish region was effectively shut down by a civic strike, with most businesses and markets closed. The strike was called to protest the executions of six Kurdish militants and air-strikes on the headquarters of Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties across the border in Iraq. The missile strikes on the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) in Erbil left at least 15 dead and several wounded. The air-strikes were claimed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in a statement that called the parties "terrorist" groups. The civic strike was called by the Coordination Center of Rojhelat, an umbrella group of Iranian Kurdish opposition parties. "The criminal regime of the Islamic Republic added a new black page of its history of crimes and barbarism against the Kurdish nation," read the statement by the Coordination Center. Rojhelat (East) is the Kurdish word for Iranian Kurdistan. (Photo via PDKI)
Saudi rights advocates are warning of the possible imminent beheading of detained activist Israa al-Ghomgham, who has been provisionally sentenced to death by a Riyadh court. At a hearing before the Specialized Criminal Court in the capital, the Public Prosecutor recommended the death penalty for six defendants, including Ghomgham and her husband, Moussa al-Hashem, who have been held for nearly three years on charges related to anti-government protests in the Shi'ite-majority eastern region of Qatif. The charges include "participating in protests," "incitement to protest," "chanting slogans hostile to the regime," "attempting to inflame public opinion," "filming protests and publishing on social media," and "providing moral support to rioters." The prosecutor called for their execution based on the Islamic law principle of ta'zir, in which the judge has discretion over the definition of what constitutes a crime. A judge is expected to either confirm or reverse the death penalty recommendation at Ghomgham's next hearing in October. (Photo of Israa al-Ghomgham as a child, with her co-defendants, via Middle East Eye)
A Libyan appeals court sentenced 45 former pro-Qaddafi militiamen to death by firing squad for their involvement in murders that occurred during the 2011 uprising. The defendants were accused of opening fire on a crowd of demonstrators calling for the end of Moammar Qaddafi’s regime in the Abu Salim district of Tripoli. An additional 54 people were handed five-year prison sentences, and 22 of the militiamen were acquitted. The Abu Salim massacre was part of the wave of repression that tipped Libya into civil war in February 2011. (Photo: 2011 protests in Libya via WikiMedia Commons)
Amnesty International issued a statement protesting the execution of Mohammad Salas, a 51-year-old man from Iran’s largest Sufi order, the Gonabadi Dervishes, saying it "was carried out despite serious unfair trial concerns." Salas was arrested outside a police station where thousands of Gonabadi followers had gathered to protest persecution of the dervish community. He was convicted of killing two police officers during the protest—on the basis of a "confession" coerced through torture and threats, and despite the fact that he had already been detained when the killings took place. Witnesses in his defense were barred from testifying. Gonabadi dervishes consider themselves to be Shi'ite Muslims, but are rejected as heretical by Iran's orthodox establishment. (Photo: Amnesty International)
Human Rights Watch accused Egyptian authorities of escalating arbitrary arrests of political opponents as part of a government strategy to quell political protests ahead of presidential elections to be held in late March. A statement earlier this month by regional human rights organizations charges that "the Egyptian government has trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair elections."
Some rare good news is reported from Iran, where a reform of the country's drug laws may save the lives of thousands now on death row. Some 5,000 people are currently awaiting execution for drug offenses in the Islamic Republic, and all of them could now have their sentences reviewed. News accounts of the reform did not note that it is the fruit of protests within Iran, as well as pressure from international human rights groups. It won little coverage in the West, but following a wave of executions, some 1,800 prisoners at Qezel Hessar Prison outside Tehran went on hunger strike. Some courageous prisoners' families organized to support them, calling for reduced sentences for drug crimes—even holding vigils outside the Parliament building. (Image: Middle East Eye)
London's High Court of Justice ruled that the UK can continue to export arms to Saudi Arabia, rejecting a case asserting that the weapons have been used in the commission of war crimes in Yemen. A substantial portion of the court's reasoning is contained in a "closed judgment" document only available to the government's legal team and a security-cleared "special advocate" for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).