For Immediate Release


european foundation




EFD Expert Warns of New Wave of Oppression of Iranian Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders -

yaqob mehranhad

Europe needs to support and show solidarity with the Iranian people and innocent human rights defenders

 Brussels, 22 August 2008 – Human rights defender Ya'qub Mehrnahad, a 28 year-old father of three children was executed on 4 August 2008 by the Iranian regime. During his detention, he was tortured and denied access to a legal counsel. His trial was held behind closed doors. Ya'qub Mehrnahad was the president of the Youth Voice of Justice Association (YVJA), an Iranian legally-registered organisation focused on accountability, discrimination and civic responsibility.

Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, Senior Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels, warns: "This is only the tip of the iceberg. We should expect a new wave of oppression of Iranian civil society and human rights defenders."

The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, a non-governmental non-profit organisation monitoring human rights abuses in Iran, reports that Mehrnahad was arrested in May 2007 just after he led the YVJA's fifth annual "Question and Answer" session with local authorities, at which participants discussed local problems. He was arbitrarily accused of being a member of Jondollah, an armed group which engages in violent opposition to the Iranian regime. Mehrnahad continuously denied the charges during his imprisonment, where he was reportedly tortured during interrogations. Additionally, rejecting violence was one of the central themes of his campaign as a civil society activist.

The Boroumand Foundation reported that Mehrnahad presented the motivation for his activities on behalf of human rights and civil rights on his blog as: "God will bring no change in the conditions of any people unless they themselves set about to change their circumstances. I believe that by turning these divine words into action, people can change their own and their society's conditions and move from darkness to light, from injustice, inequality, poverty and tyranny to the ideals and legitimate demands of humankind."

EFD's Senior Fellow Wahied Wahdat-Hagh points out, "The Iranian regime views with hostility those who peacefully question its discriminatory laws and practices. The Iranian authorities detain and charge students, journalists and peaceful human rights advocates with what they call "crimes against National security." Wahdat-Hagh added that a new draft law on "apostasy" threatens the life of thousands of Iranians and could trigger a new wave of oppression and violence from the regime. "Under the proposed legislation Muslims who convert to Christianity, but also religious minorities, or secular Iranians can be arbitrarily defined as "apostates" for which the law mandates the death penalty. This will permit the government and the clergy to act at their discretion and with impunity against Iran's citizens on the sole basis of their religious affiliation," said Wahdat-Hagh.

"The lack of any strong international reaction to the rising numbers of politically-motivated execution in Iran will allow the Iranian regime to continue executing other human rights activists and civil society actors," said Roberta Bonazzi, Executive Director of the European Foundation for Democracy. Bonazzi continued by saying "The Iranian regime should have been confronted for arresting and sentencing to death Ya'qub Mehrnahad. History teaches us that "silence kills": Europe needs to support and show solidarity with the Iranian people and innocent human rights defenders. We call on the European Union and on its member states to condemn the systematic violation of human rights in Iran and to support those Iranian citizens who are being targeted by the regime for demanding the respect of universal human rights."

The European Foundation for Democracy is a Brussels-based policy institute founded in November 2005 as a centre of intellectual risk-taking. We act to support universal human rights, freedom of conscience and of expression, individual liberty, and pluralism of peaceful ideas by uniting organisations and individuals across Europe and around the world irrespective of their religious and ethnic backgrounds.

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